Key Considerations for International Social Media

Key Considerations for International Social Media

24th April 2014

Be Selective

This week, I’m speaking at BrightonSEO for the first time where I’ll be introducing a few lesser-known social networks, as well as sharing some tips for how to be successful with international international social media.

Now, if I’m honest – a lot of this is not ground-breaking, nor is it rocket science.  But it is important – and despite being in many cases common sense, it is surprising how often these basic rules are ignored or forgotten – the detriment of the brand doing the forgetting.

So whether you’re using one social platform in one language, or 25 in every country around the world, make sure you consider these areas when planning and implementing your activity.

Be Selective

Very few businesses will have the resources to actively participate on every social net
work, in every market they target. It is much more valuable to invest time and effort into a few profiles, and use them to build a real, engaged community than to be simple visible on them all.

Questions to ask when making this decision include:

  • Do we have the resources (internally or outsourced) for this language/country?
  •  Which are our key target markets? Where do we want to drive business growth?
  • Which networks are most compatible with our content? (If you don’t produce any video content, there is little point in focusing on Youku, YouTube and RuTube)
  • How complex is it to setup an account? (Some Chinese networks require a Chinese business licence to open an account)
  • What do we hope/expect to achieve through our social activity? What are our key goals?

Thinking about these areas and comparing the features/benefits of the different platforms will help you identify the networks that will give you the best ROI and the best chance of achieving your goals – and avoid wasting time on those that won’t.

Be RealBe Real

The platforms people use and the way they engage with social media varies around the world, however the desire for real conversations, genuine interaction and timely responses is universal. There is of course a place for automation in social media – but only when it’s complemented by reality.

This is when international social activity becomes extra challenging, as being real in many languages and cultural contexts requires planning, resourcing and understanding of the market your working in.  It goes beyond just recognising the words on the page; it’s about processing the real meaning, the cultural and local references, the tone of voice and sentiment of the interactions  – and this is something that can only really be done by a native of the language and country.

Having a social media intern sitting with Google Translate and Wikipedia isn’t going to cut it. Your audience will see straight through you and will as a result place less trust and value in your brand.

Be RelevantBe Relevant

Posting regular content and responding to comments, questions and ideas is all very well – as long as it is relevant. What is relevant and interesting to a Russian audience will not be the same as German, Chinese or Brazilian users, so developing content that will resonate with each audience is vital. It will help build trust and confidence in your brand, and reassure potential customers that you understand their challenges, issues and needs.

There are various ways to do this – it could be

  • Creating content around local festivals or celebrations
  • Reacting to a local news event or celebrity story
  • Providing information/solutions to a local problem or challenge

Nobody likes to feel second best, and if users feel like they are just getting regurgitated content originally intended for a different audience, it won’t do you brand any favours. Inspire your prospects to choose you over the other, potentially local, competition by connecting with them and addressing their interests and requirements.

Be AwareBe Aware

Along with the benefits of social media, come the risks. I’ve already spoken about the importance of being aware of cultural nuances – not only to engage, but also to ensure you don’t offend. Something that is acceptable to talk about in one country might have a different, even negative,  association in another .

But additionally, you need to be aware of legal rules and regulations to guarantee that you don’t go beyond appearing insensitive or ill-informed and actually break the law. Arianne wrote a great post about Facebook competitions, that explains how the rules on what you can and can’t do vary hugely by country and the same applies to which topics you can and can’t discuss. China is a prime example, as the strict censorship laws restrict free speech – don’t criticise the Chinese government or extol the delights of Tibet on your Weibo profile. In fact, there was a case just last week when a prominent Chinese blogger was arrested for publishing defamatory comments on the site.

Before embarking on any social activity in a new market, invest the time in finding out what is and isn’t acceptable and most importantly legal. It could save you a lot of money, time and embarrassment in the future.

Be ActiveBe Active

This is obvious but there is no point in setting up a multitude of social profiles for them to just sit there dormant. Best case simply nobody notices you, worst case you damage your brand’s reputation because users experience poor engagement, slow or non-existent responses and a lack of content. If you are going to present your brand in the social space, make sure you represent it well.

Is It Worth It?

There is no doubt that embarking on global social media activity represents a significant investment – both of time and money. But with 70% of all internet users worldwide active on at least one social platform and engagement levels on the sites rising, there are few better ways to get in front of so many potential customers and influence how they perceive and experience your brand.


Written By
Gemma Birch has been working in international search since 2007 and leads WebCertain’s marketing team. She is responsible for managing WebCertain’s online marketing activities around the world as well as organising and programming the International Search Summit.
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