(U//FOUO) U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Finland

The following report is part of a series of Social Media Landscape guides produced by the U.S. Department of State for its U.S.- European Media Hub which is described as connecting “European audiences with U.S. policymakers and perspectives.” The Media Hub, which is located in Brussels, Belgium, is part of the International Media Engagement Office of the U.S. Department of State. The report was produced in March 2010. See also:

U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Hungary
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: France
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Latvia
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Spain
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Belarus
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Belgium
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Italy
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Romania
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Norway
U.S. State Department Social Media Landscape: Portugal

For USG Official Use Only

Social Media Landscape: Finland

Finland at a glance

  • Cell phone penetration is very high in Finland and the market is oversaturated
  • Both foreign and Finnish social networks are popular
  • Businesses are starting to appreciate the value of social media and many will increase their activity in 2010

I.             Executive Summary

Finland has a high level of Internet penetration and usage in comparison to other European nations. However, whilst the technology and capability exists to facilitate for a vibrant social media landscape, the conservative Finnish national character in conjunction with online security fears can be seen to be restricting this potential growth.

In line with most European nations it is the younger age groups, namely 15-24 year olds who are most active online in Finland, whilst people who live by themselves are also active online participants. Most people access the Internet at home, however educational establishments are also common locations and many schools, colleges and universities are well equipped with IT facilities and Internet access. Men typically use the Internet as an information resource, whilst women and younger people use it as a communication tool.

The corporate and political spheres recognize the potential of social media to harness large audiences online, however there is still potential to increase its usage. Many businesses do incorporate social media into their communications strategies with Facebook fan or group pages amongst the most common tactics. The Finnish media also engage with social media and many have blogs and a variety of social media accounts. Likewise, there are many politicians active across a range of social media platforms and most political parties have a blog along with Facebook and Twitter accounts. Whilst, this usage is similar to many European countries, there are, however real pockets of innovation, in particular the city of Tampere which recently incorporated Twitter into the consultation process for a schools building project.

Offline networking by social media users does take place in Finland, although it is mostly the preserve of people working in the marketing, advertising and education industries. Bloggers are open to being contacted by organizations, however the usual rules of engagement apply, such as content must be appropriate, a relationship should already be established and communication should be personal.

Overall, there are all the components to create an environment for social media to flourish in Finland, however due local and cultural factors social media is yet to be fully realized.

II.          Access

  • Internet access rates in Finland are high compared to the rest of Europe
  • Internet usage is highest amongst people living in densely populated areas

Internet penetration is high in Finland at 78%, which is considerably higher than the European average of 60%. Daily Internet usage is also high with 80% of Finns going online once a day, whilst 96% go online weekly. Internet usage is highest amongst the 15-24 year old age category at 96% and households with children are more likely to have access to the web (96%) as opposed to those without children (57%).

Cell phone ownership in Finland

1 phone                           79%
2 phones                          21%
3 phones                          5%
3 or more phones              1%

Cell phone penetration is also very high in Finland and in 2008 there were 6.3 million subscriptions which equates to 130 mobiles per 100 people. The level of cell phone ownership is high across most age ranges with 99% of Finns between the ages of 15-79 owning a cell phone.

In Finland, the home is the most common (94%) place to access the Internet, whilst the workplace or schools (51%) are also popular. All schools have good IT provision and many have dedicated computer rooms where students can access the Internet freely. In addition, many classes are also held in computer rooms and it is common for students to go online during lessons.

Virtually all (99%) people aged between 16-34 years access digital content on a weekly basis with people aged between 15-24 years the most likely to access digital content. There are distinct online behavior patterns amongst women and young people who are more likely to use the Internet for communicating, whilst men use it as a resource to search for information.

The 5 most popular social media destinations

  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Keskustelu Suomi24
  • Irc-Galleria
  • Twitter

20% of the population is based in the metropolitan area of Helsinki, which is home to many of the country’s creative industries. In line with many other European countries there is a trend for social media usage to be greatest within these creative hubs and Helsinki is no different. In addition, people living in densely populated cities within Finland are more likely to use social media in comparison to those living in rural areas.

High levels of social media adoption in Finland’s larger cities can also be attributed to the prevalence of universities in cities such as Tampere, Oulu, Vantaa, Espoo, Turku and Helsinki. These cities actively participate in the social media landscape and social media plays an important role in each council’s communications strategy. For example the cities of Tampere and Oulu have their own Twitter accounts through which they communicate and engage with citizens. Tampere has taken this a step further and actively encourages people to join in the consultation process and provide feedback which is then used to shape the city’s services.

III.       Recovering from a crisis

In August 2009 Audi’s sales manager Esko Kiesi gave an interview to women’s magazine Anna in which he compared women to cars. His comments were widely considered as degrading towards women and there was a lot of negative conversation around this story online.

People soon began expressing negative opinions on forums and social networks and groups quickly appeared on Facebook criticizing Kiesi. As Kiesi failed to apologize immediately for the comments, this story grew and although he eventually apologized, Kisei was sacked because of the uproar that social media created around his comments.

In order to combat this negative feeling on social media, Audi launched a Facebook fan page which gave people the chance to win a new Audi A3, as well as other prizes. The group, although relatively new has 45,000 members and whilst there was a lot of negative conversation around Audi and Kiesi, sales of Audi cars have actually increased.

IV.      Activity

  • Finns actively share content online such as video, music and images
  • Whilst global platforms such as Facebook and YouTube are popular, there are also a number of domestic platforms with many users

Membership of social networks is popular in Finland and 26% of Finns have a profile on Suomi24, 20% on Facebook, whilst 10% use IRC-Galleria, an online community popular with younger people. Sharing content is also a popular activity with 22% of Finns regularly sharing video, music or images online.

Suomi24 has 1.3 million users and is especially popular amongst 25-44 year olds who use its discussion forum and dating facility. Facebook is rapidly growing in popularity with 1 million users and is used mainly by those under 25 as a way to keep in touch with friends and share photos. IRC-Galleria is another popular online community with 500,000 users, most of which are aged between 13-22 years. Significantly, this site encourages significant engagement with 1 million comments, 75,000 photos and 50,000 blog posts added daily. People typically use this community to keep in touch with friends, find new ones, add photos and video content, write blogs or discuss various topics.

V.        Organizational use

  • In Finland, social media usage is growing amongst businesses and it is increasingly being viewed as an important communication tool
  • All the main political parties fully engage with social media and there are a number of politicians active across a range of platforms
  • There are several instances of innovative use of social media including Tampere using Twitter as a consultation tool and the Finnish police having an active presence on Facebook, MSN Messenger and IRC-galleria


Due to the successful implementation of social media into communications strategies abroad, Finnish companies are starting to appreciate the potential benefits of social media and its use is subsequently increasing. However, it has not yet been fully utilized by Finnish companies and there remains scope for greater benefit. It is expected 65% of companies will use social media in their marketing activities in 2010 and 74% of companies will increase their use of social media in 2010.

Currently, microblogging is not popular in Finland and Twitter has approximately 4,000 Finnish users, 250 of which are business accounts. Typically, these companies work in the marketing, advertising or technology industries; however other industries are starting to embrace Twitter as well. When Finnish Twitter users are speaking to a fellow countryman they will write in Finnish, however there is a trend for people to Tweet in English also.

Facebook has enjoyed positive growth over the last 6 months and is increasingly featured in the mainstream news. In addition, Facebook is the platform that most Finnish companies have adopted and many use as an effective channel to promote products and services. Companies appreciate that with the increasing popularity of Facebook, a fan or group page can form an integral part of an organization’s social media strategy.

Social media in the travel industry

Aurinkomatkat is a travel agency which started an online service called Paikka auringossa that allowed users to share their travel experiences, give tips and discuss travel. Users could then create their own profiles and contact others traveling to the same locations. Using this network people could share photos and videos, write stories and make recommendations about their travels.

The service can easily be integrated with people’s Facebook accounts and it has proven immensely popular as users can access a wealth of relevant information.

The success has been attributed to the service’s ease of use, as customers can use Paikka auringossa without having to use e-mail or make phone calls. It has also reduced the questions asked from the travel agency.

Government & Political parties

Finnish political parties and party members have increasingly used social media after Barack Obama’s successful presidential campaign. For instance, during the 2009 European elections several candidates maintained blogs, as well as Twitter and Facebook accounts. Whilst, use of these platforms overall decreased after the election, many Finnish politicians still actively use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with the electorate.  In addition, almost all the political parties have a blog featured on their websites and many have a Twitter account and Facebook fan page.

Social media is being used by some members of the Finnish government and since 2009 the Minister of Foreign Trade has created a series of video blogs. Another example is the Minister for Foreign Affairs who writes a blogs and there are also a variety of Facebook groups where people can discuss different political issues.

In addition, the Ministry of Justice has a website which acts as a forum where citizens can comment on projects and a variety of topics are discussed from education to IT security concerns. The aim of the website is to get citizens involved with the consultation process and it is hoped that by giving them a channel to air their thoughts it will increase the dialogue and relationship between citizens and local government. In order to increase participation citizens can take part in these discussions anonymously.

News media

Finnish journalists and newspapers have started using social media and the mainstream newspapers typically publish articles online allowing readers to comment or share them through several different channels, such as Facebook, Twitter or e-mail. Most newspapers have discussion forums and blogs on their websites, whilst RSS feeds for different news categories are common. Most Finnish newspapers also maintain a Twitter account which typically posts links to their latest news stories. In addition, YLE, Finland’s national public service broadcasting company has expanded its social media presence and is active across a variety of platforms including Twitter and Facebook, as well as encouraging staff to use different social media channels. YLE also has its own YouTube channel and encourages people to join the conversation by commenting on YLE content or creating their own content.

The 5 most popular news websites

  • Iltalehti
  • Iltasanomat
  • Mtv3
  • YLE
  • Helsingin Sanomat

Offline networking

Offline networking by social media users does take place in Finland, however it is mostly people who work in the marketing, advertising and education industries who organize and attend these events. A recent example is Innovation Train which saw 47 people travel by train from Helsinki to Oulu and back in January 2010. The objective was to create a series of face-to-face meetings at a networking event for people interested in social media and then to test how well various social media tools and practices fit in to organizing events, problem solving and spreading information. The event was promoted via a Facebook group and Qaiku channel.

Another example of people coming together online in order to create an offline event is the popular #innovaatiojuna meet up. Taskubileet (which means pocket party) was created in order to establish a channel for Finnish people to talk about different topics they are interested in. Recently people have begun to organize #taskubileet lunches, where people are encouraged to tweet if they would like to attend a #taskubileet lunch. This activity is growing in popularity and is seen as a great way to network with new people.

The Finnish police force has a virtual police group allowing people to interact with officers in several different locations online including Facebook, MSN Messenger and IRC-galleria. The Facebook group was primarily established to increase the interaction between citizens and police. On IRC-Galleria police officers actively talk with teenagers and also maintain a blog in which they discuss current topics and news. These social media initiatives have been generally considered a success with teenagers giving positive feedback, as well high levels of membership to the Facebook group (30, 0000) and positive levels of engagement.

Local cities have begun to harness the potential of social media and Tampere uses Twitter to publish local news and job openings. In February 2010 the city hosted a twitter-discussion in which they gave people the opportunity to participate in a discussion about the planning of Tampere elementary and high schools. Using the #kouluverkko hashtag people were encouraged to send their messages to the city’s planning department before a decision was made. The discussion is considered to have worked well and it is expected the council will organize more of these Twitter consultation events in the future.


There are several examples of Finnish NGOs using social media including Unicef who effectively use Twitter and Facebook to inform and communicate with people. The Unicef website also enables people to participate in many of its fundraising activities including the Jano 2010 campaign, in which customers can donate money at local restaurants, which Unicef will then put towards providing clean water for people in poor countries. Similarly, Greenpeace Finland is actively engaging with social media by maintaining a blog, as well as having a presence on Flickr, Twitter, an e-newsletter and Greenpeace TV.

VI.      Legal & ethical

  • Finland has an online confidentiality law to ensure sure that private information and communication remains confidential
  • There have been defamation court cases brought against bloggers and people who have made comments online

Finland does not have an all encompassing information security law; instead there are individual laws for different media types. For instance, the E-communications Confidentiality Law which looks to ensure information and communications are handled securely is enforced by the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority, Viestintävirasto. If someone feels that an item of digital content is violating their privacy, for example a photo used without permission, people can contact the Finnish Confidentiality Commissioner for advice to resolve the issue.

When online, people are expected to behave in a sensible manner, which includes respecting copyright of photographic, video, text or voice content. This extends to not spreading pornographic, violent, racist or blasphemous content, respecting other users and not destroying or erasing content produced by others.

There have been instances of lawsuits against bloggers and people who have made comments online for defamation and privacy violations. There are also instances of people losing their job for online misdemeanors and recently, Nick Bradfordin who played basketball in Finland had his contract terminated after criticizing his coach and teammates on Twitter. There are also isolated cases of employees being fired for posting inappropriate comments on Facebook, as well as using the social networking site to bully colleagues.

VII.   Local factors affecting digital content

  • There is an active community of bloggers who are generally open to being approached by organizations
  • Online privacy and security are important issues for Finns and these two factors could slow the spread of social media in Finland
  • Finnish people are typically conservative in their behavior offline and this trend continues online with many people worried about embarrassing themselves online

Typically, people use Finnish when communicating online with fellow Finnish speakers; however there is a trend, particularly when using social media like Twitter to communicate in English, unless talking to someone from Finland.

In terms of email etiquette, it is important for the sender to have introduced themselves to the recipient, that the email is kept brief and that communication is personal, rather than part of a Carbon Copy list. It is then considered good practice to wait between 1-2 days for a reply before following up the initial email.

The etiquette for approaching bloggers and creating a dialogue with people on social media platforms is well established and in the case of bloggers, (who are generally open to being contacted) it is advisable to read their biography and recent posts, as well as making comments on their blog. When connecting with people on social networking sites it is best practice to send a personal message with a friend request and when using Twitter people are advised to send an @message to introduce themselves.

There are clear social rules for organizations that seek to communicate with people via phone or SMS and due to its widespread usage, messages need to be personal. Organizations should consider using these channels sparingly as they are often considered spam.

Google Street Map was launched in Finland in February 2010 and there has been a lot of discussion about the privacy implications of this service. Of particular concern was the fact that not all the faces of people were blurred out and some of the photos included a man sitting in a police car and people passed out on a bench. On 11 February 2010 a criminal investigation was launched against Google as Street Map included a picture of a man sitting on his porch who was not wearing any pants. Google had removed the picture from the service, but the man reported the matter to the police who are currently investigating the case as secret watching. There is also significant worry about privacy and security issues on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Linked In.

VIII. Primary data sources

–                    Tilastokeskus: http://www.tilastokeskus.fi

–                    Stat: http://www.stat.fi

–                    Mainostajat: http://www.mainostajat.fi

–                    Ministry of Justice: www.otakantaa.fi

–                    Finnish social media platforms (as listed)

For USG Official Use Only

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