Social media is becoming an essential part of most marketing plans. It helps brands connect directly with consumers, wherever they are.
The most successful international approach combines localization and social media. While the majority of marketers want to expand and develop their presence on social media, only a quarter plan to extend their campaigns to different countries, according to a survey by eConsultancy. Social media crosses borders and offers an opportunity for brands to expand. If wanting to embark on an international campaign, here are a few tips.
1. Understand the benefits, but be aware of the risks
Three major risks of social media are working ad hoc with no structure in place, being purely reactive rather than proactive, and not dealing with complaints effectively. Social media can damage a brand if it is not managed properly. The importance of management comes more sharply into focus when working with social media internationally. There will be different accounts to monitor, different languages to work in, and different ways of connecting with audiences. Therefore it is vital to put a strategy in place first. The plan makes it easier to coordinate activity and to understand what needs to be done and when.
2. Know who you are talking to
Expanding a brand internationally is not as simple as switching your Facebook settings to French and waiting for the ‘likes’ to roll in. To grow in a new marketplace the first step is research. You need to understand your target audience and know what the consumer wants.
Market research means understanding the area you are expanding into and the customers you are trying to reach. You need to learn how consumers are interacting with brands. Ask yourself how will social media fit in with your existing marketing activity, or will it stand alone? In a new market, your main focus will be raising your profile. How will social media play a role in this and how do consumers talk to your competitors? Understanding behaviour will help provide focus for interaction. Researching keywords is also a part of this. Understanding vernacular and the words shoppers put into search engines will help identify what to say and where to say it.
3. Choosing the right platform
Once you know who to talk to, the next step is choosing where to say it. There are major social networks that have an audience in most countries around the world, like Facebook and Twitter, but they are not the only platforms, nor do they have uniform influence in every country. Each year eBizMBA charts the Top 15 social networks in the world. In 2012 Facebook was at the top but both Orkut and Badoo make an appearance in the list. They have ranked with 17,500, 000 and 2,500,000 unique monthly visitors respectively. Orkut has its biggest market share in Brazil, followed by Indiaahead of competitors including Ning and Meetup. For Badoo its largest audiences are in Latin America, Spain, Italy and France.
Sometimes a smaller social network, like Orkut, might be the most effective way to reach your target audience. Understanding the most popular platforms in your target areas, and familiarizing yourself with them, will help you interact with your new consumers and impact how you promote yourself to them.
4. Speaking their language
You have to be able to talk to your target audience in a way they will understand. Most users prefer to browse the internet and use social media in their native tongue, even if they speak English as a second language. Machine translation might seem an easy, free option – you simply copy and paste the results from Google Translate into your social media account. But this is far from the most effective way to engage your audience. A bad translation will undermine your brand, and an inability to understand slang or cultural references will alienate potential customers.
A much more successful strategy is to employ a native speaking copywriter. They can help you engage with your target consumers in their own mother tongue. Language barriers might seem less important in the global marketplace, but on social media they still mean the difference between your consumer wanting to interact with you and not.
5. Set up a monitoring system
The benefit of social media is its malleability, its flexibility and the way in which you can easily change your strategy if it’s not working. But how do you define its success? When you are devising your strategy you should also include ideas on monitoring, as well as agreeing on what success looks like. Whether it is as simple as using Google Alerts to track mentions of your brand on social media, or a paid for service like Radian6, it is important to monitor what is being said. This helps you to react quickly if you need to, as well as changing your approach if it proves ineffective.
It isn’t as easy as setting up an account, programming a few updates and leaving your social media alone. It needs on-going attention and work to keep the strategy fresh and up to date. Interaction and monitoring are key to helping you develop a close relationship with your consumer. It helps make your brand seem approachable and friendly, and above all trustworthy.