The Nordic social media landscape

Social media in the Nordics, are we really that different? Naturally you know that your customers already use social media, but where to find them is another thing altogether. Did you know, for example, that Snapchat is huge in Norway, but heavily under-used in Finland? 

Let us be your guide to the world of Nordic social media.


That companies need to be active in social media is well known. However, there is often a surprising misunderstanding as to how much the use of social media differs from country to country. In the Nordic region alone, patterns of users’ behavior differ widely depending on which country we look at.

“Everyone talks about the Nordic, or the Scandinavian market,” says Sarah Wullf, brand manager at Retriever Denmark. Of course, there are similarities, but it is important to remember that the Nordic market is made up of different countries, each with their own local markets. Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland have completely different users, with completely different habits, which leads to huge differences in how people behave on social media


Geographic differences


Facebook and YouTube stand alone as the largest social media channels in the Nordic countries. Audience Project conducted an on-line study of more than 22 000 respondents. Results showed that 78 percent use Facebook, and 72 percent use YouTube. But break those statistics down between countries and there are big differences. Norway is home to the most dedicated Facebook users, with 84 percent claiming they use the channel. Whereas YouTube is more popular in Sweden, where 75 percent of those questioned are users.


“Different things trend in different places at different times,” says Mari Lagberg, marketing manager at Retriever in Sweden. Even so, it is important to remember that you can never see current trends as an absolute truth. Influences that affect trends in media and peoples’ consumption and usage of it change all the time and it is vital to be able to quickly change with them.

If we look at other social media, the differences are even greater. In Sweden, for example, every second person uses Instagram, according to the study from Audience Project, double the number of users compared with Denmark. WhatsApp is hugely popular in Finland, and is used by 61 percent of the population. Compare this to barely one in ten of the Danish population. Conversely, the newly listed Snapchat has barely broken through in Finland, compared with the 52 percent of Norwegians that use the same app.


The Young abandon Facebook


Major differences in social media use can also be seen between the sexes, as well as different generations. 21 percent of women that took part in the survey use Pinterest, compared to just seven percent of men. Snapchat stood out as a channel that was used by an extremely low number of over 55’s, whereas 68 percent of respondents between the ages of 15 and 25 identified as regular users; that younger target group also showed a clear trend towards choosing other social media channels over Facebook. Their use of Facebook dropped dramatically between 2015 and 2016, whilst showing a corresponding rise in the use of Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp and LinkedIn.


“It is clear that it has become more and more important to know your customers and know exactly which users can be found where,” says Sara Sørlie, Nordic Brand Manager at Retriever. “Some push out everything in all channels, but I still think that the recipe for success is to alter your message to match the purpose of each different channel.”


Catch the differences


The range of differences in the Nordic region means that companies and organizations with pan-Nordic marketing departments face even greater challenges. How can you succeed in social media when your target group exhibit such diverse behavior?

“You have to be flexible and open to differences,” says Sara Sørlie. “Most importantly is to decide what your main messages are on a Nordic level. When you know what you want to say, you can then set a strategy to decide where and how you communicate in the local markets.”


Learn from each other


The difference between user behavior in different markets can be huge, but this should not be a reason to separate markets. On the contrary, these differences should be seen as something positive, and your marketing departments should be one entity, with different skills and knowledge sets.

This should also be kept in mind when putting together a Nordic marketing team: skills and backgrounds should complement each other.

“Embrace the differences rather than view them as challenges. There is much to be learnt by looking at your neighbors. That which Norway are perhaps experts in, is something in which we may lag behind. Whereas something the Swedes may be at the forefront of, Norway may have a long way to go. That way we create unbelievable chances to learn from each other,” says Mari Lagberg.


“If you can create chances to be able to deal with fast-developing changes and are open-minded, there is every chance that you will succeed as a Nordic marketing department,” she continues.


Top Tip: Your employees are your ambassadors

A good way to reach out in different channels is to use you own employees, who are often your most effective marketers. Today, most people have a presence in social media. This creates a whole new reason to educate your organization in how to communicate, creating conditions in which they will want to communicate around your area of expertise. If you succeed in turning your own colleagues into expert marketers, you can win hearts and minds in social media in a genuine and transparent way, difficult to find by any other method.


Did you know…


…willingness to test new social media differs considerably between the Nordic countries. For example, the average in Finland uses 2.3 social media channels, compared to 3.4 in Norway. There are major differences even in terms of age. In the 15-25-year-old demographic the figure is 4.2, compared with that of 2.1 amongst those older than 56 years-of-age.


Source: The study ”Social media across the Nordics”, Audience Project 2016.