l’Académie française: Has Micro-blogging Killed le Vouvoiement?

Disclaimer: this post is probably more for myself than anyone else. 🙂

Remember that terrible 80’s song by The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star”?

Well, if video killed the radio star, I’m pretty sure that the evolution of web 2.0 – with my figer pointing at micro-blogging in particular – has killed le vouvoiement.

French 101

For anyone that doesn’t know, vouvoiement refers to the French use of a formal “you” to address someone with respect. It is often the default “you” when meeting someone for the first time, in business relationships and when in doubt. Vouvoiement naturally creates a distance and establishes a hierarchy between two people – which isn’t found in English.

Micro-blogging: guilty as charged.

I don’t think web 2.0 as a whole is to blame. I highly doubt many people on Linkedin are going to dare to immidiately bypass vouvoiement when initiating contact, for example. Generally, the closer we get to an email-type format, the more traditional the language gets. But Twitter and the integration of micro-blogging on various platforms (Facebook, Linkedin…) has dramatically changed the hierarchical communications patterns.

@vous?

What I can’t seem to figure out is why. Is it because, with the 140 character restriction on Twitter, “vous” is simply illogical (4 letters versus 2)? Is it the combination of realtime web and the @whoever function, which creates a more chat-like and casual environment? What?

Yo, Monsieur le Président.

Part of reason may be a result of the current French demographic currently using social media and various micro-blogging platforms. At the end of the day there may be certain people – like, oh, Sarkozy – that will never shake off their protective layer of respect, even on Twitter. Or maybe they will, who knows (we’ll need to get him on Twitter to figure this one out, perhaps).

L’Académie franglaise.

In a way, I think it could be beneficial to shake off the hierarchical power structure. At the same time, we are talking about messing with a linguistic tradition. What’s funny to me is that the Académie française (which some jokingly call the “French language police”) sits around making up a French version for the word for “email” (“courriel”, which nobody uses) but has turned a blind eye to the lack of vouvoiement on micro-blogging platforms.

For any French companies that use Yammer, on the other hand, I’d be interested to know if the same phenomenon is observed.

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The Truth: French VCs ARE on Twitter

One of my first posts was called “France, Meet Twitter” where I happened to very slightly criticize French VCs for their absence on Twitter.

Well, I take it back.

I discovered some very high-profile French VCs on Twitter, namely Guillaume Lautour (@G_Lautour) of AGF Private Equity. Even though I haven’t come across the Twitter accounts of anyone from Partech International, Sofinnova or Innovacom, it’s nice to see that there are French VCs making the move. Still, after the Founder’s Club event I went to on January 26th, only 2 of the 7 VCs I met had Twitter accounts (either personal accounts or accounts for their firm).

But wait, there is another pleasant surprise: the young VC.

Now here is where I get really impressed. There seems to be a younger generation of VCs in France and this generation is definitely active on Twitter. I’ve stumbled on youngsters from 360 Capital Partners, Alven Capital and Ventech for the moment, and I’m sure there are more to come.

So we can trash 2 stereotypes.

First, of the French financial services sector being over hierarchical and second, of there being no French VCs on Twitter.

Check out my French VCs list on Twitter and feel free to make suggestions for VCs to include.

Facebook: Still Not the Leading Social Network in France?

01Net published an article on Friday based on a recent study by Ifop (The French Institut of Public Opinon) on the progression of various social media platforms in France.

Facebook is still not #1.

According to this study. Of the 1,002 people to participate in the study, 49% had an account on French social network site Copains d’Avant versus 37% with profiles on Facebook. Even Windows Live beat Facebook, making their 350-million person platform #3 in France. Weird. Then again, let’s remember that this info is only based on the limited group of participants in the study.

What about Twitter?

The same study found that only 5% of France was on Twitter, however, in November 2009 – the same month that Twitter became available in French – Ifop released a slightly different figure via a similar study on the status of Twitter and microblogging in France. 

60% of the 1,052 participants had heard of Twitter and only 9% had a Twitter account.

And get this: 79% of French Twitter users claimed that their main use for microblogging was to discover special offers and promotions.

RIP Yammer and Friendfeed.

Sadly only 4% had heard of Friendfeed and only 1% had heard of Yammer. I guess they may want to consider Tweeting in French.