An introduction to social media in France

Since Branded3 is a UK-based agency, creating PR campaigns for British clients, there are few secrets for us – we know what we’re getting into.

When these clients want to export their campaigns to other countries, namely France, the campaign needs to be translated and localised so it’s relevant to the French public. As a French expat and PR Executive, this is my insight on digital and social differences.

Oh la la …

Before getting too enthusiastic with a campaign that performed well in the UK, thinking you could just send it to French publications as it is – think twice, my friend.

Firstly, just because a campaign worked well on British soil does not mean it would be as effective in France, even if the translation reads well.

Let’s pretend we’re doing a campaign on the tea culture in the UK. Now this campaign is translated into French and sent to French journalists.

Results? Zero.

Why? Because French people won’t be the centre of attention here. Now, what if we talk about the tea culture in France? This might be a bit more interesting, but the French do not drink as much tea as the Brits, so it’s less likely to make headlines.

But if we focus on gastronomy or the upcoming French elections, we might suddenly catch the editor’s attention. Hence the importance of choosing the right topic that will get talked about in the target country.

Another cultural example that I witnessed and found funny was when my grandmother visited me here and thought a yellow metal box hung on a wall in the street was a letterbox – when really, it was a bin. And this is just because the colour yellow in France is associated with our postal services, rather than red.

Secondly, the way the French press works is miles apart (or should I say kilometres?) from what the Brits are used to. Here are a few differences:


  • Tabloids in general

    We, the French, do not embrace them. Yes, they are fun to read but the information you find needs to be double-checked and is mostly just hearsay. French publications are usually quite serious, therefore not all kind of campaigns can be a good fit for them.


  • Language

    While French people may use “selfie”, “weekend”, and “podcast”, we still care about all the subtleties of our mother tongue. Although a good number of French people can speak and understand English, not all of them are translators. There is nothing more annoying for a journalist than having to take on extra work and translating the English press release you sent them.


  • Timings

    There’s only an hour’s difference between the UK and France’s time zones, but it’s still important to take notice. Also, one cultural change is that most industries have a break between 12 and 2 for lunch, and they generally go away from their desk around this time, so bear in mind that if you need to contact them, this time bracket might not be ideal.

Finally, and most importantly, the French people. Because we differentiate the ‘you’ formal (vous) and ‘you’ informal (tu), we usually have more of a strict barrier between two individuals on an unfamiliar, professional level.

Small talk in emails is to be avoided at all costs except if you’ve already formed a professional relationship with the recipient. The French want concise and typo-free emails – this adds to the seriousness and credibility of the exchange.

Although we give kisses on cheeks to greet people (and not everyone!), this does not mean that emails directed to any French individuals should end with Xs and Os.

France vs UK in numbers

France, like the rest of the world, did not escape the impact of social media. You can see below the numbers of active users both in France and the UK for the most popular platforms (figures from 2016).





When looking at this graph, we can see the social media outlets rank at the same place for both countries. However, it is worth noting YouTube has a huge number of active users, and therefore has a huge impact in the French online community. Instagram is a tiny bit less popular in France although numbers are on the rise, and finally, Pinterest comes last in the French favourites.

What’s next?

New ways of doing PR and marketing are undoubtfully linked to new technologies and online culture: Snapchat applications, 360 videos, and Virtual Reality have made their entrance in France and they are already being used by major brands such as Renault:

We see a bright future in terms of French campaigns with even more creativity and new methods to do PR. Stay tuned…

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