Facebook now has one billion active monthly users, after finally passing the milestone in October last year. To put that figure in some kind of perspective, around one in seven of the entire world’s population are now hooked up to Facebook. And that’s just one site. Yes it’s the biggest overall but throw in Twitter, LinkedIn and region-specific players like the Chinese Qzone and the Russian VK and you can understand why companies of all shapes and sizes have been desperate to establish a global social media presence.
Researching Target Markets
Social media does have a huge potential reach, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to strike out in every direction simultaneously. Localization demands time and resources, so it will usually be better to concentrate on one or two new markets at a time.
As well as the standard market research that should go into any new venture (Is there a demand for your product in the first place? What is the competition like? What are the current market trends?) it’s also worth looking into social media habits.
Lewis PR lists some typical traits by country in its white paper The Global Social Media Challenge. In Japan, for example, an emphasis on privacy means users are far more likely to be anonymous than in most other countries. In France, social networks and sharing sites are more popular than blogging while the Netherlands has a lot of widely read collaborative blogs. These are often open to new contributors, meaning you could potentially have a ready made platform with a wider reach than if you were to set up a brand new corporate blog.
Choosing the Right Platform
A vital part of your research will be deciding which platforms to use. Social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter both have global audiences and are unlikely to be far from your mind but, depending on the market, there may be important local alternatives.
China, where Facebook is still officially banned, is an obvious exception. There are estimated to be more than half a billion active social media users in the country and sites like Qzone and Tencent Weibo are the biggest players in the market. Elsewhere, VK remains the market leader in Russia and Orkut is hugely popular in the vast emerging markets of Brazil and India. If you have the resources, there’s nothing stopping you from maintaining a presence on multiple sites and linking your various profiles.
Global vs Local
If you look at a truly global brand like Coca Cola or McDonalds, you’ll see that they retain a core global identity but project themselves locally, with localized websites, advertising and social media campaigns. Many winners of the international social media marketing Bees Awards have been international companies focusing on individual markets. US giant Proctor & Gamble, for example, came up with an innovative campaign that used a robotic installation in Stockholm’s Central Station to promote their Ariel brand detergent in Sweden. Facebook users were invited to log in and remotely fire ‘stain guns’ at a thousand designer shirts in order to ‘Aim, stain and win a shirt’. The shirts were then cleaned with Ariel and sent to the winners.
A recent study found that more than half of Internet users in the EU regularly visited foreign language websites, but only 18% said they would regularly make purchases from a site that was not in their own native language. The most common reason for visiting foreign language sites was to find information that was not available in their own language.
Direct sales are rarely the object of social media marketing but the point stands that consumers place far more trust in websites that are in their own language. They are also far less likely to use social media sites that are not in their own language for fun.
Translation is key to reaching out to existing and potential customers in a language they understand. Automatic translation programs offer a quick and easy solution but they are also prone to errors and at best they can leave your content looking choppy and amateurish. Social media marketing is all about effective communication and native translators can help you get your message across, as well as bringing their own cultural knowledge to bear.