Will Germany`s VZ-network group soon merge their main social networks – StudiVZ and MeinVZ? Maybe, yes. This is the idea I had in mind when I first saw their current poll on MeinVZ`s landing-page. Users are encouraged to give their vote for three possible names – the current name of the network as well as two other ones: simply “VZ” or “FreundeVZ”. Does it lead into a merger of StudiVZ and MeinVZ?
There is one more reason why this could not only be a simple poll for their users: all VZ-networks are loosing ground – traffic, UUs and reach are decreasing tremendously, according to Doubleclick`s AdPlanner-data. So the guys from VZ-networks have to find a way to break through the dominance of Facebook in Germany.
A third indication of the VZ-networks struggle for life on the German networking market is the common marketing of all VZ-networks together with MySpace. Since the 1st April 2011 iq digital is offering ad campaigns on MySpace and VZ-networks in a bundle.
First of all, some data for Germany (Doubleclick AdPlanner):
|Facebook.com||34 mio||50,5 %|
|Studivz.net||2,3 mio||3,5 %|
|Meinvz.net||3,8 mio||5,6 %|
|Schuelervz.net||3,5 mio||5,1 %|
So what are the reasons why Facebook is succeeding also in German social media?
StudiVZ is foscussed on students (university), instead SchuelerVZ is foscussed on pupils (school). Only MeinVZ has its focus on the general population. This split into three different VZ networks might be one reason why the VZ networks are in decline by now. But still SchuelerVZ is the strongest VZ network and on a high level in terms of Unique Users.
Another reason for StudiVZ`s decline is the international focus of students (going abroad, having friends abroad) and the “americanization” of social media in general. StudiVZ is only available in German, does not have subsidaries in other countries and therefore can`t compete with Facebook on a global level – but social media is already on a global scale.
Third is innovation: StudiVZ looks quite similar to Facebook and even Facebook in 2009 stated that StudiVZ used some of their layout and tags. Everytime Facebook had an innovation some weeks/ months later you could find the same feature on StudiVZ. They never were first-movers. And people on social media want to be first movers. So they will use the first-mover network – which is at the moment Facebook.
Fourth is that Facebook has been integrating much more of their Connect and Like Buttons into websites and provides better sharing possibilities than VZ networks. So Facebook is connecting the web. Global brands are integrating the global network in their marketing mix and simply won`t use several social networks in one country as a social media platform for their customers and fans. This is why VZ networks lost ground when it comes to brand pages on their MeinVZ or StudiVZ. “Everybody” has a Facebook Page but who has a VZ Edelprofil? Media budgets to be invested into Facebook Pages or Ads recently grew fast in Germany.
Fifth is that Facebook is by far more present in classic media channels like TV, radio or print. Everybody is talking about it and people want to be part of this discussion. So they will migrate to the network which is part of the discussion – and this is now Facebook.
But VZ networks will change their strategy to face the future. They know that they can`t compete with Facebook on a global level. So they will have to find their way – or die.