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Going Global: Insights for International Social Media

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A couple of significant changes in social media and digital marketing have taken place this year: the number of requests for services coming from outside of the United States – in addition to the expressed interest of U.S.-based companies wanting to address social media internationally.

Believe it or not, some have attempted leveraging automated translation services as a potential solution to managing social media efforts. Please don’t even try this. As Zach Fishbain (interviewed later in this article) also says:

“Just because Luis from sales speaks Spanish doesn’t mean he’s qualified to manage your social media.”

This is a big topic – so to help shed some light in the area of global social media strategy and practices, a couple pros provide their helpful insights.

Approach to a Global Facebook Strategy

Stacey Kawakami is an agency pro who directs two global retail accounts with more than 18 million combined Facebook fans. Other than China and Russia, Facebook remains the top worldwide social media property. Kawakami has been at the forefront of helping to shape global Facebook strategies.

Jason Cormier: What’s a recent, bottom-line recommendation you’ve made when it comes to global strategy for Facebook?

Stacey Kawakami: It’s still about recognizing who your audience is. The challenge is striking a great balance between a company’s resources and their ability to effectively engage with a localized (even nationwide) community.

For that reason alone, I recommend a tiered approach that prioritizes audience segments according to which country matters most to the company. That can be defined simply by the number of Facebook fans for any given region or Country Facebook page – or it may be tied to other attributes such as the rate of sales or number of store openings in a certain region.

JC: What are the practical best practices that follow from this tiered approach?

SK: The goal is the intersection of global and local, or “Glocal.” You want to give fans the ability to interact with a local country page where they can engage in their native language. At the same time, you want to maintain a consistent, overall brand presence through a global page.

Starbucks does a great job of this, enabling a global brand page as their hub and associated country pages as the spokes. Alternatively, we see other global brands that have stuck with just one global page and no corresponding country pages. This typically limits their opportunities to cultivate relationships outside of one or two countries.

starbucks-facebook-around-the-world

Practically speaking, some companies need to make the tough calls about Facebook pages they have started but are poorly supporting. Companies should consider merging country pages into a single global page, and guidelines should be defined for scaling or spinning out new country pages.

JC: What kind of guidelines would determine if a new country page should be created?

SK: An example of this would be the company has identified local resources that can be dedicated to engaging a community within that particular country. One of my clients is a brand that has multiple PR contacts in multiple countries – and they are counting on those contacts to assist in producing relevant content for those regions.

Another guideline that would drive the creation of a new country page could also be related to country-segmented fan volume from the global page. For example, when the volume of fans from a particular country has reached 5 percent of the total fan following of the global page – that’s an indicator for spinning out a new country page.

JC: You’ve positioned the global page as the hub and associated country pages as the spokes. From a content perspective, in consideration of the local sources you mentioned, how does this work?

SK: Corporate is always responsible for the vision, brand elements and content calendar specific to that vision – but regional, country-specific teams should be carrying out their own engagement and messaging strategies.

The analyzed data is shared among all to ensure country-driven tactics remain effective and are not in conflict with the global vision. In terms of basic community response within this scenario, even people from non-priority countries can receive geo-targeted posts.

JC: As an international user, am I always going to be required to figure out where to go from a company’s global Facebook page?

SK: Facebook continues testing their new global functionality feature, which allows custom pages for different regions while maintaining a unified total like count across all pages.

You can see the functionality in Facebook’s marketing page by selecting “switch region” from the drop down menu to the right of the Like button. Many of us have expected this to be completely rolled out by now. Users can automatically land on the version specific to their region but can select any regional or global page from a drop-down menu.

Understanding Culture, Lifestyles & Linguistic Preferences

Zach Fishbain is founder of Los Angeles-based Chispa Digital. Zach initially reached out to me to discuss Hispanic social media solutions for my clients – and my eyes were soon opened to elements of language and culture I hadn’t really considered.

JC: Zach, I’ve already primed the pump with your statement about “Luis from sales.” What else should we know about the importance of culture, lifestyles, and linguistic preferences in social media?

Zach Fishbain: The key to successful engagement boils down to understanding that each country has a unique cultural and linguistic filter through which all engagement will be interpreted.

That’s why we have content developers in other countries, for the sole purpose of creating content that will be relevant for different nationalities.

JC: What are some relevant examples of cultural sensitivity, even for people who speak the same language?

ZF: With reference to speaking the same language, it’s still important to remember the way they are spoken can vary greatly. Spaniards, Cubans, and Mexicans are speaking very differently.

From a cultural and interest perspective, it’s also important to remember that food, sports, and politics are typically very different. Trying to spark conversations about soccer with Dominicans or salsa music with Mexicans can easily discredit a brand and compromise its authenticity among large and growing populations.

Another important factor is understanding the role that social media plays among a culture in general. From the social networks used to the cultural user habits. Even among the U.S. population, we know that social media check-ins are happening among the Hispanic population by a magnitude of 3x over Caucasians.

I’m watching the fastest growing population in America, that will have over $1.5 trillion in annual buying power within the next three years, not being effectively engaged with by brands on social.

JC: So is it fair to say you're not a big fan of Google Translate?

ZF: Google Translate is a great tool for learning how to say “preposterous thinking” in Spanish – but as you might expect, it will often ignore simple verb conjugation, syntax, and grammar rules.

Leveraging Search and Other Resources

One of the inherent benefits of social media, even internationally, is increased search engine visibility. We are often able to see that social can inform search engine strategies, and by the same token, search data can drive content strategy for social.

With this in mind, a global approach to social media may also benefit with accompanying search engine efforts. If this is resonating with you, definitely grab Anne Kennedy’s "Global Search Engine Marketing" book.

Another notable resource in this space is Christian Amo from Lingo 24, who has authored a number of articles on successful global PPC and SEO efforts.

To get a bigger-picture perspective, check out Erica Swallow’s 5 Tips for Marketing Online to an International Audience.


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