International Social Media: a Dutch Case Study

A parked bicycle looks over the canal in the capital of Amsterdam.

A parked bicycle looks over the canal in the capital of Amsterdam.

OVERVIEW ON THE NETHERLANDS

The Netherlands is roughly the size of ½ of South Carolina with a population of 16.6 million according to the U.S. State Department.  Its largest city and capital is Amsterdam, which has a population of over 750,000.  Their government includes a constitutional monarch, prime minister, and a parliament.  The country has multiple political parties, five of which are considered the most prominent.  In 2011, the Netherlands had the 17th highest GDP per capita in the world, just six places behind the United States. The Netherlands is known internationally for their liberal stance on many issues and has a long history of social tolerance.  Another interesting fact: the last three monarchs have all been women because of the rules of inheritance in place before the death of King William III in 1890.

According to information from the European Travel Commission, there are over 15 million Internet users in the Netherlands, making Internet penetration a whopping 89.5% of the population.  This same page shows they also have the highest international per capita use for both Twitter and LinkedIn (though it appears France has now overtaken the Netherlands on LinkedIn).  Social media is even said to have had notable impact on the Dutch political process during the 2010 national elections by academics and journalists alike.

ROLES OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media is generally used for connections to friends and family as well as professionals seeking networking opportunities (especially illustrated by the high per capita use of LinkedIn). News is another big commodity of social media, letting people keep up with their sports, entertainment and general news. Sharing is of course a staple: uploading photos, creating an expressive look for their profile (if allowed), and informing others of your activities (with mapped locations and tags similar to Facebook). Integration with other media includes toolbar and desktop shortcuts. Mobile Internet use is also huge,  it is said that 12.2 million people in the Netherlands accessed the Internet from a mobile phone last year. Playing games on social media has become an increasing trend in recent years. Some sites also now offer monetary exchanges, be it to friends or businesses.

As mentioned above, social media is also now having an impact on the political process in the Netherlands.  And not only did social media influence politics, but politics brought aboard a wealth of new users being engaged for the purpose of politics.  Twitter alone saw a 15% growth in June 2010 directly tied to political campaigns.

POPULAR SITES IN THE NETHERLANDS

In March 2011, the top five social media sites in the Netherlands were as follows:

1. Hyves
2. Facebook
3. Twitter
4. LinkedIn
5. Windows Live Profile

The U.S. based sites Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were making steady advances with 60-70% increases in use while Hyves mostly maintained it’s previous use.  Hyves does still remain the number one site in the Netherlands, but many expect that the local favorite will soon fall in favor of international platforms.

The Dutch government itself alludes to it’s own perceived order of importance in social media sites by the way its “share” links are arranged on its own website.

Order of "share" links on Dutch government site

Order of “share” links on Dutch government site

IF I WERE A DUTCH COLLEGE STUDENT I WOULD BE ON…

Because of the tenuous global economy and continuing budget crisis in a formerly stable economy, I would be all over networking through LinkedIn.  It is said that at least 20% of the online population of the Netherlands can be classified as active users of LinkedIn.  Total Dutch users currently are accounted at 3.1 million.

But then because people use social media much more for amusement and communication I would still have to say I would spend more time on Hyves than I would on any other site.  Though it is said that 87% of the population can speak English, you are always more at home in your mother tongue. But then Hyves is actually available for use in English as well as the standard Dutch.

EVALUATION OF HYVES

Key benefits of using Hyves over a different social media site I noticed were:

Media Content & Quality
as well as
Capitalization on Sports Fans though “Predict”

Just from the home page, you can see that the first page you hit with Hyves is a never-ending cascade of international pop culture news, complete with attractive pictures! In my opinion, this is much more visually pleasing than Facebook because of the way that news takes precedence in this case, not existing as the afterthought that news stories are on Facebook since it only has user-generated content (besides those new, pesky ads popping up everywhere!)

This feature alone has to keep users more actively engaged with the site, and therefore spending much more time reading up on the latest news.  Various media sources are used and many stories include polls and all allow user feedback.

I also wanted to talk about their embracement of sports fans.  It is not unusual for sports to have some kind of social media created for use by fans, but the thing about Hyves is that Predict was not created as a standalone application, but as an integrated part of the number one social media of its country.  It even has its own Twitter. It seems a bit precarious that Hyves chose to use one of its top competitors as an extra tool, seemingly validating the platform to its own users, but at the same time they began this Twitter account in September of 2011, (well after it would have been apparent Twitter was gaining) so my guess is that they embraced Twitter as a way to guarantee themselves further relevance.

BUSINESS USES OF HYVES

Hyves can be used by businesses in several different ways.

Firstoff, they can use Hyves to just advertise themselves to the 11 million total users.  Businesses can do this in one of two ways: Less expensively, they can design their own ads and then decide on the frequency and prominence that fits their budget. The second option is to hire an account manager through Hyves to handle campaign art creation and implementation as well as building a business profile and or network for themselves.

Another option would be to create a game to market to Hyves users, charging for extras purchased by users for the game itself as well as advertising space in your game application.

You could also promote your business through a partnership with Hyves through giveaways like donating tickets to sports events through Predict.

CONCLUSION

All in all I see a lot of innovative aspects about Hyves that I hope to see implemented into more mainstream social media platforms in the future.  But for now I commend and applaud their media efforts.

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