Becoming social in the Netherlands

Becoming social in the Netherlands

11th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Although a lot of the social media hype comes from the United States, Facebook and Twitter are common words in the Netherlands (and no, they’re not translated).

Remco Janssen, an independent PR consultant and social media strategist, says the biggest player in the Dutch market is still Hyves, a sort of Dutch Facebook/MySpace.

“You could say that the average Dutch person is on Hyves. If you have a specific target audience or target group [in the Netherlands], it IS on Hyves.”

Facts & Figures (2010)

More than 50% of the Dutch population have an account on Hyves

  •  Hyves has 9 million Dutch accounts
  •  Facebook has 3 million Dutch accounts
  •  Twitter has 300,000 Dutch accounts


Janssen calls Hyves first class in social marketing campaigning. Like Facebook, it allows you to make a game or quiz that’s fun and doubles as a highly focussed marketing campaign.

Even the Dutch government has used it. The Would you save your friend’s life? campaign posed that simple question and, depending on the answer, would either send the Hyves user to the official organ donor site where they could sign up or send them information about the importance of organ donation. Either way, their answer would be displayed on their profile, encouraging all their friends to answer the question too, and hopefully also become organ donors.

 “They’re not all silly games like Farmville or something. These games have high success rates for little money.”


Facebook numbers almost doubled in 2010, going from about 1.5 million to 3 million accounts in the Netherlands. But Janssen points out that it’s still not as big as Hyves. Perhaps if you really want to focus on reaching the top influencers, Facebook is better, but that’s still only a small group.”

With just 300 thousand Dutch accounts, Twitter is still the smallest of the big social media players in the Netherlands.

But Amsterdam’s local TV station AT5 has found an innovative way to use it to both generate content and increase viewer interaction. It’s simple: take a photo in Amsterdam and tweet it using the hashtag #AT5. The photo will be automatically uploaded to the ‘spotted’ (Gespot) website and might even feature on the evening news.

“If there’s an accident, somebody’s been shot, or maybe there’s a swan swimming along in the canal with its little babies, you can share that with AT5 and they can also use it in their TV programmes. It’s really a social way to get user-generated content on the spot, as the news is happening.”

Location-based social media

Dutch airline KLM is also branching out into social media. It’s using the location-based application Foursquare to allow people to check in to Schiphol airport via their mobile phone and get a gift – in real life, not just online.

“I think this is really a valuable way of looking at social media. I mean, social media isn’t only about the online life but also about meeting people offline and showing that you care about your customers.”

Will Hyves die?
According to Mr Janssen, anyone who says Hyves is dying is wrong.

Photo © Janssen

 Remco Janssen

“Just because others are getting more successful, why should Hyves become less successful? There’s always a place for a social network that’s really localized. And that’s what Hyves is doing really well, they localize everything.”

Mr Janssen points out that Facebook, being international, will likely have content – certainly advertising – that’s not relevant to every Dutch viewer. But with Hyves, everything is local, from partnerships to events to advertising.

Robert Lommers, online communications specialist for Rabobank agrees. “With 9.7-million users, you can’t just say, ‘no, we’ll move to Facebook’. We look to both platforms.”

Good products sell
But, as Mr Janssen notes, whether it’s Hyves, Twitter, Facebook, or another network, social media isn’t a cure-all for businesses.

“A crappy product is still a crappy product, even if you package it with social media.”

Follow Remco Janssen on Twitter at @RemcoJanssen.

Ashleigh Elson
Radio Netherlands


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