While Twitter gets the press, Germany is now a Facebook stronghold

twitter[Germany] Although its Twitter user numbers have grown by 2.500 per cent this year, Germany is now a Facebook country. Google research tool Ad Planner reveals that 10 million Germans visited Facebook in November. The second placed social network Wer-kennt-wen.de (6.2 million) is still growing, while the three websites of VZ-Netzwerke combined were down more than 9 per cent in the last month. Twitter’s numbers, however, remain stagnant since the summer.

While Twitter is the 9th biggest social network in Germany, with 2.4 million unique visitors in November, this figure is the same as in July. Twitter’s user numbers, which skyrocketed at the beginning of 2009, aren’t growing anymore. Facebook is now the big ascendant among social networks, its website has seen the number of German users go from 5 million to 10 million in only 8 months. New privacy controls will likely see this trend continue as more Facebook pages get indexed by Google and other search engines based on the latest default settings.

Admittedly, Google Ad Planner doesn’t measure the number of active members of a social network, but only the number of website visitor. Nevertheless it broadly mirrors a trend that Comscore is seeing in the US: Twitter is faring slightly better there, seeing some growth in November, but going from 19.2 million to 19.4 million unique visitors can hardly be called a huge win.

Twitter clearly isn’t gaining traction outside of the German tech crowd. While Facebook is appealing to a much wider demographic, I’ve even seen 60-somethings pop up in my friends’ social graph. Twitter’s latest rollout of a German version is unlikely to change that trend. The website consists of only a few words anyway and most Germans speak good English.

But Twitter is gaining traction among old school media lately, as newspapers open accounts and fill their dead tree pages with Tweets, especially Springer newspapers like Welt Kompakt. For CEO Matthias Döpfner, famous for his ramblings against “web communists” and content theft, Twitter is a great way to save on journalist wages. A half page of printed tweets doesn’t require any remuneration.

German politicians are discovering Twitter too. We had our first Twitter-related scandal in parliament this week. A debate in Lower Saxony had to be called off amid the chaos that a sole Tweet caused. A Greens MP tweeted that his conservative opponent was an “insufferable agitator” who was “shamelessly on the right-wing fringe”. When another assemblyman made his tweet known to the chamber, all hell broke loose. The allocation of the €25 billion state budget was immediately forgotten as an outraged conservative parliamentarian, Hans-Christian Biallas, sprang to his feet and gave the opposition the finger. As the Greens ruled out an apology, Lower Saxony premier Christian Wulff was forced to call off the debate.

That’s a nice story for newspapers, but Twitter was just the medium. Of course, the row likely wouldn’t have developed without the realtime web service. But even if all MPs and journalists turn to Twitter, its user numbers won’t necessarily grow any further in Germany.