According to an eMarketer report issued in 2013, nearly one in four people use social media. That’s not just in developed countries – that’s worldwide. In developed countries (where everyone seems to have both a smartphone and a laptop), you can expect that number to be much, much higher.
The point is this: social media is ingrained in societies around the world – not just in the UK. If you don’t capitalise on this phenomenon, you’re leaving website traffic and potential customers on the table for your competition. If you do start to build an international presence, you can use social media as a powerful asset to grow your international business.
It’s not as simple as it sounds, though – it’s not like all of your potential customers are on the same social networks. And they probably won’t click on the same types of content. And they probably won’t even speak the same languages…
International social media management is a process of directly appealing to each international audience, and not just applying what you know from a UK perspective and translating into a different language. (Hint: this helps!)
We’re going to go over how to get started on creating an international social presence – and of course, if you need native-speaker translated marketing material for that social presence, speak to Bubbles Translation Services today.
The first step: getting on the right networks
If you asked five different people in the UK to name the first social network that popped into their heads, you’d probably hear Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
If you asked that same question to five different people in Russia, you’d probably only hear two names: Vkontakte and LiveJournal. (Yes, that LiveJournal. Russians love it for blogging!)
So as you can see, although one in four people are on social networks, they’re not necessarily on the same ones.
Below is a list of popular countries and the social networks that they use. Pinpoint which countries you’ll be targeting with your social efforts, then get on the networks that correspond to those countries.
USA – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest
Europe – Almost identical to USA’s preferences, including in the UK
China – Renren (the “Facebook of China”), Youku (video social network, similar to YouTube), Mixi (like Renren, but aimed towards the younger demographic), Sina Weibo (microblogging site similar to Twitter), and Qzone (an all-around network)
Russia – Vkontakte and LiveJournal
Finding this data is relatively straightforward as the social media platforms often publish this data themselves to compete for advertising!
You can also use this guide (created early 2014) to sort through the most popular ones in the world – some might stick out to you. For example, WhatsApp is bigger than Twitter worldwide, but in western countries, Twitter is far bigger than WhatsApp is.
The second step: determining the type of content to use
As you’re already well aware, your content has to match the type of network you’re using. What resonates on Facebook might not do so on Twitter (if the content is too long), and what works on LinkedIn is almost never going to hit the spot on Pinterest. It sounds obvious, but many companies still prefer to amplify one message to all mediums. It’s even more difficult when this has to be translated too!
It’s best to cast a wide net and try to interact with country-specific users on every single network that they use. This allows you to appeal to everyone in that country, no matter what type of content they prefer to interact with. For example, if you’re going after Chinese traffic, sign up to the five social networks listed above – not just one of them but don’t expect the same content to work across each.
Then, once you’re signed up, mimic the successful content that you see posted on that particular network. You can even head over to your competitors’ pages and see what they’re doing. Chances are, on each network, there will be very specific types of content that do well for your particular industry.
The third step: making your content relevant to the country’s audience
Once you’ve determined the type of content to use, you have to make sure that when you craft it, the content appeals to that specific country. Big brands do this in TV advertising all the time – you’ll rarely see a “global” TV commercial. Your social presence should be no different.
The obvious metric of an international social presence is that your communications translate (pun intended) into traffic.
Clearly, translating your content into the language of the particular country that you’re targeting is the first step, but in addition you need to make sure that the targeted country actually enjoys what you’re posting. Having them be able to read it is the minimum requirement and isn’t nearly enough to really make it work.
If you don’t have connections in the country you’re targeting, an easy fix is to look at what other international brands are doing for their social presences. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Obviously, don’t copy them word-for-word, but seeing which types of content they’re using, which phrases they’re using, which types of humour they’re using, etc. to get your foot in the door.
And from there – test, test, test. The name of the game in social is finding out what your audience enjoys, and then catering to that. If you can successfully do that, your audience will have a very positive view of you. This will lead to an enhanced brand image and more traffic/revenue as a result of that.
Bonus: country-specific pages and country-specific advertising
If your company is noticeably different in two different countries – maybe you offer completely different products in different countries – then you might benefit from creating country-specific social pages on the popular networks like Facebook and Twitter. You could just create product specific pages in certain regions – think Windows and Office, iTunes and App Store
Going too specific is overkill, but it’s very common to see companies with two separate pages for their US and European audiences.
If you choose to make just one page on each network, there’s nothing wrong with that. But you have to segment your content so that it’s still country-specific – as we’ve said over and over, what appeals to one country might not appeal to another. Translate not only the content, but the context. This is something only professional translators can achieve.
On most networks, you can control which countries see which posts. For example, Facebook does this exceptionally well with their targeting options. Facebook also gives you the option to “boost” your content for a particular country. So if you have a promotion that you think mainly UK users will be interested in, target the UK with the initial post, then also advertise to the UK by pushing the post up. Easy.
In some cases, you can even drill down to specific cities. But we’d only recommend doing this if you have a substantial presence in a particular city, or else you won’t get a lot of eyeballs on that particular post. And with social, we’re always going to measure visibility.
Creating an international social presence isn’t terribly difficult, but making it work well… is more so.
Once everything is in place, there’s a lot of work involved. Instead of creating content for just one account, you’re now spread out over a few (or even dozens) of different accounts.
But the reward is well worth the work.
You’re setting up an infrastructure to reach your global customers without paying an arm and a leg through traditional advertising or to %-heavy sales agents!
Use the steps above to create an international social presence. Before you know it, you’ll have everything set up, and you’ll be appealing to the one in four people worldwide who use social media – and not just the tiny percentage of that in your domestic market.