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Back in 1962, when Marshall McLuhan came up with the buzzword “global village”, to describe how new technologies were influencing society as a whole, the internet was still just a bold vision shared by a couple of researchers from MIT. Fast forward 50 years and the whole world is wired (or should we say wireless), and social media plays a dominant role in our lives. The latest estimates say that 51% of the world’s population uses the internet, while approximately 40% of the global population has at least one social media account. This comparison illustrates how powerful social media is for marketers, although there are some challenges when it comes to managing it on a global level.
Think globally, act locally
When it comes to creating a global social media marketing strategy, it all boils down to localizing your social media presence in order to overcome cultural, ethnic, language, and political barriers. One of the most important rules of marketing is communicating in your customers’ language, which means dropping the industry jargon and catchphrases. If your customers don’t understand what you’re saying, they won’t buy. Just like using the pretentious, specialized lingo kills customer experience, international customers can be alienated and disappointed if a brand tries to communicate with them in English even though it’s the language of business. Big brands target their international audiences in their own languages. But this multilingual approach doesn’t mean simply translating the existing content and social media posts into other languages. New content, which addresses particular interests and problems of the audience it speaks to, has to be produced.
The same rule applies to keywords – it’s a very bad idea to directly translate them, which is why keyword research should be done in the target language. Let’s take Hong Kong as an example. This city has two official languages, Chinese and English, while most people speak Cantonese dialect, and this complexity can cause quite a conundrum, so it’s understandable why hiring a local Hong Kong SEO agency is a logical solution. It’s necessary to have a dedicated local team that will be able to create compelling content tailored to the needs of their own region, and convey cultural and linguistic nuances. Sometimes there are certain contextual peculiarities and sensitivities that have to be taken into consideration in order to avoid potential social media fails.
Pick the right platform
Facebook may have 2.13 billion monthly active users all around the world, but companies that want to do their global social media outreach properly need to go further and explore the uncharted territories of local social media platforms. Asia, for example, is a huge market, and in order to penetrate it and be able to compete with big local brands, a deep understanding of the preferred social media channels is a must. China has 597 million active social media users, but Western social media platforms can’t be accessed on the other side of the Great Wall.
WeChat is the most popular mobile chat client in China, and it’s very similar to WhatsApp. Instead of Twitter, there’s Weibo, while Meipai has been dubbed “Instagram for video”. It’s good to know that all communication across these channels is being monitored by the Chinese government, and this means that every single piece of content is carefully scrutinized. Facebook’s popularity has been steadily growing in Japan, but still, Mixi, Gree, and LINE dominate the Land of the Rising Sun. Brands that want to expand their reach can’t afford to ignore international social media platforms. But, it takes more than just posting localized content and ads to engage your audience. Responding to their comments and feedback is extremely important, and that’s why a social media team that speaks the language of the target audience, understands the sociocultural context, and knows the market well is not an option but a requirement. This is the only way to create a message that will resonate with your international customers.
Connect with your audience
As absurd as it may sound, some brands don’t quite seem to understand their potential and impact in terms of the international market (or the lack thereof). Big brands such as Coca-Cola, Nike, or Apple don’t have a problem to communicate their message on social media and be sure that different audiences will find it meaningful and relatable. Another important aspect concerns adjusting posting schedule to fit various time zones. Although social media management tools can be very useful, it’s essential to get in touch with your audience in real time. This isn’t just about improving the visibility of social media posts on their live feed, but also about showing international customers that you respect and care about them. For example, when there are live promotions, contests, and giveaways, customers from other time zones shouldn’t be denied the possibility to participate only because they’re in different time zones.
Navigating the field of social media marketing globally can be quite tricky, but all these efforts are worthwhile because they can expand your reach tremendously and open you the door to wider audiences.
Guest Post: Nate Vickery is a marketing consultant and author. He is mostly focused on startup and small business growth and visibility. Nate is also an author on industry leading publications like Marketing Insider Group and The Next Web.