French people are used to communicating on social networks. However recent evidence suggests that they are less comfortable about divulging information of a personal nature than network users in some other countries such as Mexico and China.

Social Networks: Some Nationalities More Open about Themselves than Others

When it comes to sharing information on social networks, French people seem rather more wary than Mexicans and Chinese. Edouard Leo, sales director at Respondi, a consumer market research organisation based in Germany, believes that this is probably due to the fact that “France has had access to social networks for a longer period of time than China and Mexico, and people have therefore had time to take a step back.” In order to try to understand why some online marketing strategies fail while others succeed, Respondi got together with Metis, an international market research agency, to carry out a study in these three countries. Each country has its own ways of doing things, and it is essential for any company wishing to do business there to understand the differences. The study appears to indicate that people may in fact become more mistrustful of social networks when usage reaches an extremely high level.

“Each country has its own development cycle,” points out Edouard Leo

The survey results show that there is some lack of trust in social networks in France: 68% of respondents there expressed wariness of them, while just 32% said they trusted social media. These figures are practically the reverse of those gathered in China and Mexico, where 77% and 67% respectively said they trusted these networks. Companies certainly need to take seriously this mistrustful attitude, which is rather typical of French behaviour. For example, a recent campaign run by Starbuck's Coffee gave customers the chance to obtain price reductions by posting pictures of themselves on the social networks with one of the company’s products. The campaign achieved real success in China, but has not had the same impact in France. The same goes for geolocation functionality. In China and Mexico people see no drawbacks in posting their current whereabouts on their network, but people in France are much more dubious about doing so. “However, we can’t rule out the possibility that in a few years’ time people in those two countries may well have developed the same attitude as in France,” stresses Edouard Leo.

Getting up close and personal with users

Another interesting aspect of the study is the methodology used. The market researchers polled a representative group of 500 people from each of the three countries, with a 50-50 male-female split, all of whom were smartphone owners. However, the agencies asked all respondents not only to answer a traditional questionnaire but also to take a more active part in proceedings by going on the social networks and providing certain information there. The participants were in fact requested to post details of their journey to work online and they could choose whether to snap photos of the journey, film it, or simply describe it in words. This methodology, without being overly intrusive, encouraged the respondents to show a slightly more intimate side of themselves than a mere Q&A session normally would. The researchers were able to make comparisons and combine these impressions with an analysis of the country’s political context, which helped them to understand what kind of relationship each of the three populations has today with social networks such as Facebook.

By Kathleen Comte