Social media channels are seeing ever increasing popularity in Italy. Facebook has dominated the market from the start with other social media channels such as Google+, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn lagging far behind. Unlike many other countries, Twitter is surprisingly not one of the top three. However, Instagram is seeing an increased number of sign ups.

A comparison of data on number of users versus time spent on social media shows that Facebook dominates the Italian market at 93%, with Instagram at 3.4%. Snapchat is a relatively new addition which, according to market researchers Nielsen, has grown by over 150%. Tumblr and Pinterest also recently experienced growth in Italy, although relatively moderate.

As data from We Are Social shows, Italians increasingly prefer using mobile devices to access social media, with a growth of 5% in 2016 against the previous year.

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Figure 1: Total users (http://www.webnews.it/2016/04/05/social-media-italia/)

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Figure 2: Minutes spent on each social media (http://www.webnews.it/2016/04/05/social-media-italia/)

Businesses and Social Media

Many Italian organisations still use only one social media channel, while in some sectors, such as publishing, the use of two or more is prevalent.

Figure 3: Companies using at least one social media (http://www.datamediahub.it/2016/02/16/imprese-social-in-italia/#axzz4VMmss4sA)

In Italy at present, social media is used almost exclusively for promotional activities, while opportunities for recruitment, brand building or exchange of opinions are still neglected. Therefore when investing in social media, there are some elements a company must take into consideration regarding the specific market and customers, as well as some rules of behaviour that could help in defining the social strategy.

Customer service

In Italy, it’s not as common for companies to reply to customer service queries on social media. In 2014 only 2.4% of companies replied to customers’ queries on Facebook, while on Twitter the percentage was much lower. The most active companies are typically from the Finance and Telecommunications sectors, and usually these interactions are via Facebook.

Tone of voice

The tone of voice companies use on social media depends on two factors:
• The company culture
• The social media channel
For example, on Facebook Italians feel they are on a more informal platform, where they can make jokes and use slang. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is considered much more formal where professional conversations take place. For a company on these platforms, it’s recommended to keep the tone consistent and not to alternate between styles excessively.

Humour

In Italy, many brands tend to differentiate themselves from competitors by using humour on social media; a strategy that has achieved resounding success but needs specific rules to work well. There is a fine line between courting controversy, and appealing to customers’ imagination by recommending products in a humorous way. In Italy, for example, the beer brand Ceres’ social media strategy successfully relies on a sense of fun and the concept of belonging to the tribe.

In these situations, it is important to take into consideration that what makes one audience laugh, can potentially be offensive to another. In general, Italian humour is thought of as being ‘softer’ than the British. For example, by and large, Italians are superstitious and do not care much for puns regarding death. Additionally, most of the population do not appreciate jokes concerning religion, something to be expected from the seat of the Catholic church. That said, the arenas of politics and football are frequently visited subjects for mockery and satire, so a carefully chosen subject can still be targeted.

Competitions

When organising giveaway competitions on Facebook, Italian legislation is often underestimated. This can lead to legal problems that could turn into huge fines for the companies or pages organising competitions without following regulations.

In Italy, the organisation of a giveaway or competition where entries are collected directly on the Facebook timeline is against the ‘server territoriality’ principle and therefore against the law. It states that for online contests, entries must be collected on an Italian server, although Facebook servers are commonly situated abroad. It is not possible to acquire entries or votes by means of Facebook features, for example ‘likes’, or to invite participants to post using a related hashtag. The same rules apply to all the other social media channels, since none of them possess servers in Italy.

If a company wants to organise a giveaway competition in Italy, an above-board procedure should be as follows:

  • State clearly the terms and conditions, such as the competition duration and prize value
  • Prepare a bank deposit as a guarantee for the prize
  • Submit a specific form to the Ministry of the Economic Development at least 15 days before the competition starts
  • Contact a notary or any other officer for the consumer’s safeguard, since they have to participate in the prize giving to verify it happens in a fair way
  • Submit a specific report to the Ministry

In summary, companies operating social media channels in Italy need to be aware of the administration and costs involved in launching a competition on social media.

If you would like to find out more about operating social media channels in Italy, please get in touch.