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

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 January 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: 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

For USG Official Use Only

Social Media Landscape: Spain

Spain at a glance

  • Social media is becoming an increasingly integral part of daily life in Spain
  • Spanish organizations are following the lead of global brands and digital engagement in the U.S. and U.K.
  • Madrid is Spain’s ‘Web 2.0 Centre’ in terms of advancements made in social media technology and communication
  • Ethical participation by organizations is expected by the Spanish blogosphere which can react negatively to dishonesty

I. Executive Summary

The social media landscape in Spain is relatively mature since reading blogs and engaging on social networks is now a regular part of daily life for many people, particularly teenagers and young professional people. As in most other European countries, social media participation is higher in large cities, especially Madrid which is seen as the center of the technology and Web 2.0 industry in Spain (64.3% of households have Internet access).

Social networking is the most popular social activity in Spain. Until recently the local platform Tuenti had the highest membership although the global platform Facebook has now usurped that with 100,000 more members (5.7 million total) and levels of traffic to rival Google.

Although there is no formal legislation pertaining to digital content and social media, ethical guidelines have developed and become reasonably steadfast in the Spanish blogosphere. Particularly important as social media engagement becomes more integrated into the marketing and communication strategies of organizations, these guidelines focus on issues regarding disclosure and transparency as well as language and style of communication.

Organizational use of social media is currently driven by large global brands and some of the more established Spanish companies. The Spanish government is also experimenting with the medium across a range of tools, although the approach is more tactical than strategic and sometimes fails to achieve significant public engagement as a result.

Local factors play a significant role in social media communication in Spain primarily the relationship between mainland Spain and the Catalan region. Social media engagement with the Catalonian blogosphere demands that the differences in language, culture and political/historical attitudes are respected in all communications.

II. Access

  • The Internet penetration rate in Spain is higher than the European average and is a fundamental part of daily life for many people
  • The ‘young professional’ demographic spends the most time online
  • Although most people still access the Internet from PCs and laptops, other devices, particularly video consoles are becoming increasingly popular

Social media is becoming increasingly integrated into Spain’s societal functioning. 70.9% of the population has access to the Internet, of this, 89.9% access the Internet daily, and 70% spend time on blogs and social networks.

According to the Survey on Information and Communication Technologies 2009, 54% of all Spanish households (8.3 million) have Internet access which is a 3% increase on last year. Where people access the Internet from is also changing. Although the majority of Internet users still access the Web from PCs (76.2%) and laptops (50.8%), 11.3% now access the Web from Internet–enabled cell phones and increasingly from electronic organizers, PDAs, television and video consoles. The use of video consoles is most notable, showing an increase from 3.9% in 2008 to 7.3% in 2009.

Of those households which did not have Internet access, 39.8% claimed they did not need it and 31.0% thought Internet service provision was too expensive.

Politics, Twitter and Transparency:

In the recent Basque Country elections in early 2009, influenced by the success of the Obama campaign, the UPyD a right-wing political party created by Rosa Díez (a former member of PSOE party), employed a diverse range of social media tools so as to provide information about aspects of the electoral campaign and to engage directly with voters. At first, these tactics received a positive response by people who believed this to be the first “real” effort by a political party to engage with social media. However, it then became clear that Rosa Díez was not responsible for updating her personal Twitter account, instead employing a ‘ghost-tweeter’. This was then reported by a group of bloggers who criticized the level of transparency and brought into question the honesty and credibility of the party. This online discussion was then picked up by the mainstream media and created a wider debate about the role of social media in politics, and resulted in the closure of the party’s Twitter account and blog.

In Spain, it appears that men are slightly more engaged with social media than women with 68% claiming to access digital content compared to 61% of women, although this divide did decrease in 2009. The 25-34 age groups are responsible for the majority of Internet access (28.1%), closely followed by the 35-44 age group who represent 22.5% of the total number of Internet users, indicating that it is the ‘young professional’ demographic, most likely accessing the Internet at work, who spend the most time online.

III. Activity

  • Sharing video content on sites such as YouTube is the most popular social activity in Spain and can be attributed to a relatively high level of mobile Internet
  • Facebook now has more members than local Spanish network Tuenti and rivals Google in terms of traffic
  • The social media scene is focused around Madrid and most offline social media meet-ups and networking events are held in Madrid

Interestingly, the most popular social activity online in Spain is video content sharing on sites such as YouTube. 87% of the total Internet users regularly view online video content and YouTube has 8 million registered Spanish users.

Social networks are growing in popularity as 73% of over 15 year olds use social networks on a regular basis. Facebook is the most popular social network in Spain. At the end of 2008, Spanish traffic to Facebook increased by 80% taking its Spanish membership to 5.7 million and even challenging Google as most viewed website. Local Spanish network Tuenti is now just behind with 5.6 million members although the level of activity on Facebook is now believed to be greater. Fotolog, an English language site which encourages networking on a global level is also a very popular social network in Spain.

Crowd-sourcing content as part of an integrated campaign:

Páginas Amarillas, Spain’s main telephone directory partnered with popular TV show El Hormiguero which already had a well-established Facebook page and regularly updated blog. Paginas Amarillas created the website www.loquierolotengo.es and asked people to submit challenges for the presenter of the show which have to include the services of quirky companies found in the Páginas Amarillas. The writers of the show then selected the funniest ones to produce and air live on the program. The campaign worked because it recognized the power of word of mouth around a TV show that is popular with a very Internet-literate target audience. The campaign also drove traffic to Paginas Amarillas itself and boosted the company’s online presence.

In terms of blogs and social media Madrid has more activity than Barcelona. The main blogs, bloggers and “blog companies” in Spain which are Hipertextual and Weblogs SL, are both located in Madrid. The main social media companies such as Facebook, Tuenti and MySpace are also located in Madrid. Considered Spain’s ‘Web 2.0 Centre’, Madrid hosts regular offline social media networking events such as ‘Beers & blogs’ and ‘Social Media Seminar’.

IV. Organizational Use

  • Organizational use of social media in Spain is currently being driven by large global companies and some established Spanish firms
  • Investment in digital marketing appears to be increasing year-on-year in a move away from print and broadcast advertising
  • Issues surrounding disclosure and transparency in social media are prevalent in Spain as a result of some high profile cases which have brought the credibility of organizations into question

The Spanish advertising industry has been hard hit by the recent economic crisis as brands have cut budgets and traditional media outlets struggled to survive. For digital marketers however, this has meant a 10% increase in profits in 2009 with a projection of 18% for 2010, according to eMarketer, June 2009.

This, coupled with the growth and popularity of social networks and digital media forms amongst consumers, means that many organizations both private and public sector, are currently exploring how to use social media as a tool to engage with their customers and target audiences.

As a result, recommended guidelines for engagement have been developed to aid the relationship between organizations and social media. Transparency and disclosure when participating in social media on behalf of an organization is expected in Spain and those who are found not following these guidelines will be often persecuted by the community and can result in negative conversation and a damaged reputation for the organization or brand.

Chris Anderson published a post, which subsequently became famous in which he shared with his readers the list of PR people who were spamming him (http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2007/10/sorry-pr-people.html). Following this, two well-known and influential bloggers in Spain, Manu Contreras and Eduardo Arcos from Hipertextual, created a wiki of Spanish PR companies that were not following the guidelines for engagement. The wiki criticized the PR companies for avoiding full disclosure, not responding to bloggers when they asked for additional information, and for sending extensive, jargon-filled emails with large attachments.

Organizations are also advised to thoroughly read and research blogs or group pages or forums that they intend to engage with before contacting them so that their communication is relevant and appropriate to the blogger and their readership. It is also agreed that organizations should ask for the permission of the blogger or group/forum administrator before sending them information.

V. Legal & Ethical

  • There is currently no formal legislation regarding digital content and social media although ethical guidelines are highly developed and widely recognized in the online community
  • The Spanish government is in the process of reviewing data protection legislation in light of the growing popularity of social networking particularly amongst minors
  • In recent years, a number of lawsuits have been brought against blogs on which people have left comments that could be deemed offensive to third parties

At present, there is no formal legislation pertaining to digital content and social media in Spain although it is generally accepted that social media can be addressed under the same laws which cover non-digital media. With this in mind, there are two sets of laws that regulate social media: The first are laws and regulations created for traditional media and the second are laws created to regulate the Information Society.

However, the increased popularity of Tuenti and Facebook, particularly amongst minors, has forced the Spanish government to commission an in-depth analysis by the Government Data Protection Agency (GDPA) to examine social networks and subsequently review the law. The GDPA is attempting to make people aware of the lack of protection regarding the privacy of personal data within the sphere of social networks.

The GDPA have specified that in future all social media terms of use should be altered in order to protect the privacy of data uploaded in social networking profiles. Social media terms must also be changed to promote respect towards Spanish regulations and laws, including monitoring how social media networks use peoples’ personal data. The GDPA, in collaboration with the National Institute of Information Technology (INTECO) has identified a series of risks that can damage social media users’ fundamental right to data privacy. These risks include social spamming, unauthorized indexation of profiles and uncontrolled access to personal profiles.

INTECO has also made some recommendations for transparency and limited access to user’s data to regulate the online content industry. This initiative will guarantee users control of their data and personal information that is published or uploaded. The INTECO has also recommended that organizations respect cancellation rights and inform and educate users about privacy regulations and all the aspects of personal data protection, this proposal will be used principally to protect children and young people online.

Law of precedent regarding offensive comments in blogs

In recent years a significant number of lawsuits have been brought against offensive comments in blogs in Spain. It must be noted that in most cases it is the owner of the blog who tends to be prosecuted rather than the person who has left the comment themselves.

To avoid this, some experts in digital regulation recommend that bloggers clearly disclose their comments policy and moderate all comments, especially when content could be deemed offensive to third parties as they will be the ones who are ultimately held responsible.

In spite of this, online communities and bloggers tend to reject the moderation of comments, seeing it as an unfair regulation of conversation. Well known bloggers such as Enrique Dans or GinaTonic have been forced to moderate comments due to offensive content. Famous writer Lucía Etxebarria closed the comments section in her blog for this reason.

VI. Local factors affecting social media

  • The Catalonian blogosphere demands that the difference in language and cultural sensibilities be recognized in all communications
  • Several of Spain’s largest bloggers are not in fact based in the country so this may affect the organization of face-to-face events
  • The Spanish blogosphere is keen to maintain a code of conduct which holds principles of transparency and authenticity very highly

Different sensibilities, cultures and language across diverse regions of Spain mean that successful social media engagement is adapted to be appropriate to the specific market. Particularly prevalent is tailoring communications to be specific to Catalonian blogs and networks. The Catalonian community expects engagement from organizations to be in the local language and to observe local nuances.

The regional variety in Spain can also affect the organization of events for bloggers particularly from a geographic perspective. For example, the author of one of the main tech blogs in Spain, Gadgetoblog in El Mundo newspaper, lives in New York.

Politically, social media is often glorified as the most effective form of communication, especially in terms of campaigning. During the last general election, in March 2008, and the recent Basque Country elections, political parties used a range of tools including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr or Tuenti to interact with constituents and share information with journalists. Not all examples of this were successful however, as a lack of understanding about the tools became apparent in some cases.

Guidelines for engaging with social media

Self regulation has become a prominent feature of the Spanish social media landscape and guidelines for online behavior are becoming more widely recognized and upheld.

These guidelines include: transparency and honesty when communicating with bloggers, disclosing your identity and that of the organization you are representing, and to never hide the real purpose of your communication. Spanish organizations must also give bloggers the freedom to do whatever they want with the information that the organization has shared with them. Organizations should never pressurize bloggers into publishing information and should see the process of blogger engagement more as sharing something of interest rather than trying to get coverage.

Communication with bloggers or group administrators should also be brief and concise, avoiding overly long emails with large attachments. The communication should be personal, relevant and tailored to the individual otherwise you may be accused of spamming.

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s three-point code of conduct also provides a sound basis for online behavior:

Commitment to Integrity: Honesty, Disclosure & Identity

Always declare who you say you are. Although you may find social media participants can sometimes be hostile towards organizations, you should never try to conceal your identity in order to build a better relationship. Social media is highly attuned to seek out deception and is fundamentally against this on all levels.

Commitment to Community: Responsiveness, Generosity, Helpfulness & Collaboration

Remember to take part but also give back. In order to influence social media you must become a respected member of the community. This involves listening and responding as well as talking.

Commitment to opinion: Respectfulness, Equality & Freedom of speech

Respect the views of others even if they don’t agree with yours or those of your organization. Social media provide forums in which groups can convene to hold open conversations. Organizations should be careful to avoid destabilizing or alienating communities by attempting to impose views, or limiting the scope of conversation. Aim to assert influence rather than control and take advantage of the open nature of conversation to learn more about your audiences and how to engage them.

VII. Principle data sources

– Internet World Stats: http://www.internetworldstats.com/

– Asociacion para la Investigacion de Medios de Comunicación (AIMC): http://download.aimc.es/aimc/03internet/internet209.pdf

– New Media Trend Watch: http://www.newmediatrendwatch.com/markets-by-country/10-europe/84-spain

– Spanish Instituto Nacional de Estadistica: http://www.ine.es/en/prensa/np570_en.pdf

– EMarketer: http://www.emarketer.com/

– Eurostat: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/eurostat/home/

– Word of Mouth Marketing Association: http://womma.org/main/

For USG Official Use Only

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