I spent most of last week in London at the Social Media World Forum talking about social video and Facebook as a platform for businesses and brands in Europe.
It was great fun actually sitting down with MPs, bank and music company executives, advertising and marketing consultants, writers and vbloggers from the Netherlands to Turkey.
After endless conversations and two auditorium-sized keynotes, my thoughts sum up below.
Europeans just get video and collaborative communications
They really do.
The very issues that make doing business in Europe challenging and interesting, make them very open to new means of communications. Many corporations, advertising agencies and start-ups have people working from different countries. Communications and collaborative work tools are necessary parts of a distributed workforce.
Most everyone uses Skype and video Skype. Video conferencing is not the exception but the standard here.
In the U.S. when I was demonstrating my client’s social video application Live Broadcaster on Facebook, it was a ‘wow’ of something new and unexpected, like a hybrid car before they were convinced that the car was both environmental green and fun to drive.
In London, using video as a communications medium seemed like the normal thing to do. At the conference, they grabbed the spotlight and jumped in the broadcast window, invited their friends and started a video conversation. It was the natural thing to do. They culturally just get video, distance communications and the need for video as a collaboration tool.
Skype set the groundwork for video as a conversation to move quickly up the adoption curve in Europe and into Asia. Skype made video conversations a natural form of communications. Vpype takes it one step further and integrates it into the social graph. The Europeans understood this at a glance.
The reaction was very similar across the spectrum of businesses, from MPs, bank executives, ad agencies and social TV GMs from all over Eastern Europe.
Europeans, especially in the UK, haven’t embraced Facebook yet as a business platform
Facebook user growth in the UK is falling behind in Facebook adoption from the rest of Europe and into Asia. The data proves this. An estimated 30 meetings and many emails and DMs on Twitter confirmed this to me at the event and around London.
And the adoption of Facebook fan pages as a business platform appears to be lagging behind this. I can’t find a reliable source of fan page adoption numbers so please share if you know where to get them.
The big but here is that European businesses are looking for solutions and are amazingly practical and ready to leap when the solution works. I found myself being the evangelist for Facebook first; the demonstrator of social video second. Video conversations were an easy step; Facebook as a business community was a bigger leap.
Facebook themselves is the issue here. Not the video conversation format. Certainly not the community but the lack of education and marketing about privacy and specifically around how businesses and brands can use fan pages.
Facebook is the Wild West with no roadmaps. But the the power, the cost effectiveness and fact that the people, the fans are there makes this a natural place for the brands to move to. European businesses are lurking and looking. They are sharp and will leap when comfortable.
Facebook simply needs to help and provide information. And to focus on the small and large businesses alike. The market is here and lack of information and communications is holding the brands and businesses in Europe back.
Niche and private communities have traction in Europe, but this will change over time
Privacy. Trust in the integrity of the network. The interweaving of fans and brands on Facebook. These were large topics of conversation in my meetings in London. There is simply not enough work being done to make the population and the businesses comfortable.
The first questions from corporations about the Vpype solution on Facebook was “How can I get it on my website?” or “How can I get a secure link between Facebook and my database?”
Geographical and language diversity seemed to drive individualized networks more than a move towards shared platforms. The closed umbrella of multinational corporations in Europe, at least from my exposure last week, was very niche oriented. Consequently, a lot of small community platforms were being created for specialty groups and companies. And considerable interest in my client in exporting functionality to private communities.
In the U.S. I see platforms like Involver and scores of agencies and consultants focused on Facebook fan pages. And new platforms for teens and specialty groups seem driven by new requirements not available on Facebook.
In the UK especially, I saw private and closed and specialized as the first thought. Creativity in using technology to communicate in new ways but rigidity in moving businesses and brands onto open platforms with a business component. I believe that this will change as the economic practicality of Facebook and the fact that the populations are moving there make it a given over time.
Europe poses an interesting dichotomy around social media and Facebook. On one side there is a hesitancy to embrace the Facebook platform across companies and brands and sticking to the old niche community paradigm. On the other there is incredible flexibility and creativity in embracing video especially as a new way to have conversations on the Internet.
This is my snapshot after a deep dive into the social media scene in London last week.
A personal thanks to all of my new friends in Europe for their time and input. The honestly and openness of the conversations were inspiring.