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What does Twitter want with Germany?

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It looks like Twitter’s going to set up shop in Berlin. A couple of months after Jack Dorsey said he was looking to hire in Germany, a market where Twitter is struggling to grow, a local magazine says the company has chosen the nation’s capital for its next location.

Jack Dorsey and Angela Merkel (courtesy of Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert)Focus magazine reported that Twitter has already found someone to head up its Berlin operation.

The company confirmed that its German chief will be Rowan Barnett, currently the head of community and social media at news site — but Focus also said it had spotted job ads, which have now reportedly been taken down, for a press spokesperson and a manager to deal with sports club relations.

The choice of location is in some ways surprising — international tech companies have tended to put roots in wealthier areas such as Hamburg and Munich. However, Berlin is rapidly becoming Germany’s web hub, as Amazon Web Services confirmed last November when it said it too would set up operations in the city.

And coincidentally, one of Twitter’s earliest employees, software engineer Florian Weber, is now CTO at one of the city’s most prominent local startups, Amen.

A European representative for Twitter declined to comment on the “speculation”, but here’s what we do know: despite Germany being the largest European economy, Twitter’s not doing brilliantly there.

The service has just under four million accounts in this country of 81 million people. Compare that with the UK (population: 62 million), which has around 24 million accounts. German takeup grew relatively slowly over 2011, and user engagement is low.

Working more closely with sports clubs in soccer-mad Germany may help. Dorsey also met with chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this month for a “great conversation”, although she is reportedly still resisting the idea of joining the network herself.

If the Berlin story pans out, it also means the company could start to gain a distinctly European flavor, with fully half of Twitter’s offices would be in Europe: apart from its operations in San Francisco, New York and Tokyo, the company also has addresses in London and Dublin.

8 Responses to “What does Twitter want with Germany?”

  1. In California, a new start up is one in hundreds (or perhaps thousands) each months. In Europe, traditionally a society that respects big names, fame and celebrity, one has the Chancellor of the country participating not even for a new start up, just a new office a famous brand name. Germany start ups have less risk tolerance, but they are meticulously prepared. Nothing bad happens if one fails.

  2. Nicole Simon

    I assume they will also strongly going for TV relations as they are doing in the States. While Berlin is an odd choice for a media / add related business – Berlin does not have those strong connections to traditional media like Hamburg, Munich or for Advertisement it is more Düsseldorf – if you want to work all over Germany, Berlin is as good choice as any.

    Also with the upcoming election next year politics may be a big driver for Twitter, historically they have been keen on getting onto the twitter train and given that the pirate party has gained significantly in Germany and is about to enter parliament, this makes even more sense.

    Third: I don’t know where Rowan lives, I assume Berlin – I would not want to relocate either to other areas of Germany.

    Not going into the traditional route also may be exactly what twitter needs; while many people have picked up on social for the first time around 2009/2010 with Twitter, it is now Facebook. Please don’t forget: What does not exist in German does not exist in the mindset.

    All these reports over the years about Twitter? They where predominantly english only. A UK person is able to read that, a typical German (or french / spanish / italian) person will not. Thus it has been out of the mindsets of people for some time. Anything real time like sports and TV could work well to get that aspect back.

    Are they done? By no means. There is a strong network of influencers also heavily connected on Twitter and many major stories going into mainstream media had their share on twitter buzz as well.

    • A typical German is usually able to speak and especially read English relatively well;
      and what doesn`t exist in German actually exists in the mindset especially if it`s from the US,, just like Youtube, Facebook, Amazon and so on gained some popularity here long before opening German offics

      • Nicole Simon

        BmS I have been training people in how to use the computer, then internet and now social media for roughly 20 years. ‘Normal people’ do not follow the english sphere nor do they prefer to take information out of that. Their information base is german. While they might be able to speak and read english, they absolutly prefer not to and normal english blogs / websites are not on their daily reading menue.

        Which in part explains why so many ‘successful’ german sites can still get away with just translating english news into german days later.

        As for your examples: Youtube is images, easy to surf there and Amazon has been a key player for over a decade with a very german approach. Facebook has been surfing under the radar until it finally go a german interface – what you see today as success does not come from facebook being facebook but it having a german interface.

        As with most companies, the german offices are not for R&D but for simple sales and administration if at all – as you also can see by the low number of people working there.