Global Ambitions? Tips for Winning in Social Media Internationally

I sat in recently on a client’s annual convention and it was a blast. Lots of energy and fun for this company that does a large amount of its business in places like China, Korea and Mexico. Which got me thinking, how can we capture all this excitement in far-flung countries via the social web, as we do in the US?

Believe it or not, millions of people outside the US are using social media, and a large number of them aren’t using it the same way we are.

Facebook, with its 500+ million users is the big kahuna of social media and no doubt is the most popular site worldwide. However, it is not at all the only game in town, er, world. Ever hear of NetLog? The most popular social site in Europe. Yanja.com? Number one in the Middle East.

Clearly, one size does not fit all.

Preferences vary internationally, as social networking can be an intimate thing. Some social media platforms are more appealing in some cultures than others, some do not “feel right”, and some platforms are more intuitive in a particular context. This is why connecting with international audiences on social media takes time and resources to get it right.

What are global companies doing to reach and engage countries abroad other than hoping many of them login to their US-based Facebook page? It turns out not much when it comes to creating opportunities for savvy global-minded companies like yours to get in front of a phenomenon that is becoming as powerful a medium abroad as it is at home.

If your company is focused on new business in new countries, the opportunities for social media to help increase momentum are significant.

As you can imagine, there are issues of consistency, regulations, cultural sensitivity and most of all, cost. But the opportunity is there to engage with people where they spend a significant amount of their time networking with others.

While jumping in with both feet is likely not the most prudent way to start, there are ways to duplicate successful efforts at home to effective social marketing abroad.

Socialize locally. First, depending on the countries where you have distributors, you may need to adapt service in multiple languages, up to 14 for many truly global companies. Naturally this presents hurdles in the “immediacy” elements of social media. How does the CEO tweet in 14 languages? How does one parse what needs to be said in one country, refine for culture and language differences, post it all, and still keep wind in the sails?

Hire locally. Assuming a support infrastructure in the countries of focus, we recommend you hire a social media manager in the country who reports to the country manager or the lead corporate rep there. This person will be familiar with languages, customs, can “keep it fresh” and serve as a liaison for the company. Careful though, this could become a high-profile position in the field and in our opinion should be owned and managed by the corporate office.

Act locally, even when virtual. An alternative would be to hire a native-speaker for each country to work from the corporate office. Aside from time differences (important in social media), location should not matter so much. However, from HQ it is easy to get too narrowly focused on the home convention, events, field leaders etc.

In this case, the company should take care the “presence” is felt in the host country, not the home country. The manager should report to the country leader in any case. Though likely more expensive to hire at home, there are great advantages in being close to the executive team and being up to date on products, marketing and corporate news.

In either case, the social media manager of a country should absolutely be a native-speaker and native born, hopefully someone who lives at least part of their regular lives in that country.

The freshness and transparency of social media means no faking it; the person is an extension of the company and any half-heartedness will show through.

Cheers!  or ¡Salud! Sláinte! Prost! Kampai! 乾杯! [干杯! etc.

I sat in recently on a client’s annual convention and it was a blast. Lots of energy and fun for this company that does a large amount of its business in places like China, Korea and Mexico. Which got me thinking, how can we capture all this excitement in far-flung countries via the social web, as we do in the US?

Believe it or not, millions of people outside the US are using social media, and a large number of them aren’t using it the same way we are.

Facebook, with its 500+ million users is the big kahuna of social media and no doubt is the most popular site worldwide. However, it is not at all the only game in town, er, world. Ever hear of NetLog? The most popular social site in Europe. Yanja.com? Number one in the Middle East.

Clearly, one size does not fit all.

Preferences vary internationally, as social networking can be an intimate thing. Some social media platforms are more appealing in some cultures than others, some do not “feel right”, and some platforms are more intuitive in a particular context. This is why connecting with international audiences on social media takes time and resources to get it right.

What are global companies doing to reach and engage countries abroad other than hoping many of them login to their US-based Facebook page? It turns out not much when it comes to creating opportunities for savvy global-minded companies like yours to get in front of a phenomenon that is becoming as powerful a medium abroad as it is at home.

If your company is focused on new business in new countries, the opportunities for social media to help increase momentum are significant.

As you can imagine, there are issues of consistency, regulations, cultural sensitivity and most of all, cost. But the opportunity is there to engage with people where they spend a significant amount of their time networking with others.

While jumping in with both feet is likely not the most prudent way to start, there are ways to duplicate successful efforts at home to effective social marketing abroad.

Socialize locally. First, depending on the countries where you have distributors, you may need to adapt service in multiple languages, up to 14 for many truly global companies. Naturally this presents hurdles in the “immediacy” elements of social media. How does the CEO tweet in 14 languages? How does one parse what needs to be said in one country, refine for culture and language differences, post it all, and still keep wind in the sails?

Hire locally. Assuming a support infrastructure in the countries of focus, we recommend you hire a social media manager in the country who reports to the country manager or the lead corporate rep there. This person will be familiar with languages, customs, can “keep it fresh” and serve as a liaison for the company. Careful though, this could become a high-profile position in the field and in our opinion should be owned and managed by the corporate office.

Act locally, even when virtual. An alternative would be to hire a native-speaker for each country to work from the corporate office. Aside from time differences (important in social media), location should not matter so much. However, from HQ it is easy to get too narrowly focused on the home convention, events, field leaders etc.

In this case, the company should take care the “presence” is felt in the host country, not the home country. The manager should report to the country leader in any case. Though likely more expensive to hire at home, there are great advantages in being close to the executive team and being up to date on products, marketing and corporate news.

In either case, the social media manager of a country should absolutely be a native-speaker and native born, hopefully someone who lives at least part of their regular lives in that country.

The freshness and transparency of social media means no faking it; the person is an extension of the company and any half-heartedness will show through.

Cheers!  or ¡Salud! Sláinte! Prost! Kampai! 乾杯! [干杯! etc.

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