Congratulations! You have developed a really powerful social media strategy for the U.S. market. Your audience is very engaged, they love your brand and even your top management is very pleased with the results. In fact, they are so happy about your social media activities that they want you to go global with social media! How exciting!
But, where do you start? Intuitively, many people would do what some companies have done: start translating your posts, blogs and tweets into different languages and publish them. Unfortunately, that approach does not work and quite a few companies had to experience that the hard was. Culture, customs, and practices vary significantly from one country to another, see an earlier blog on this site. Even for countries who are thought to be similar to the U.S., like the U.K. for example, regional differences apply. You need to understand the differences; or at the very least you need to be aware that there are differences and find a way to overcome them.
Some companies, like IBM, Mercedes-Benz and Coca-Cola do a great job at taking social media globally. Their localized Facebook pages provide some examples of how they’re connecting with consumers in various countries.
Is it rocket science to go global with social media?
No, it certainly is not and there is no need to be afraid of using social media in a global context. Rather, think of social media as another means of communication – with its opportunities and challenges in an international environment. The basic principles (http://www.odi.org/publications/5186-communications-strategy-planning) of good communication also apply to social media.
First, develop your communication strategy, incorporating social media, and define the following:
- Tools and activities
When digging deeper into your social media strategy, take a “think global, act local” approach and stay on top of both cultural and technological trends. This can help avoid missteps and ensures that communication efforts are resonating with intended audiences. Every country really has to be thought of as its own market. Issues arise not just related to language.
Ideally, you hire someone in-house from the native culture. They will help you ensure both an understanding of the local communication nuances and an understanding of your organization overseas. If you cannot hire locally, make sure you discuss at least with colleagues in your target markets. While they might not be professional communicators or social media experts, they’re most likely social media users and will be able tell you what social media to use – and what not. If your budget permits, hire a local or culturyl-savvy consultant who will help with define your social media strategy.
Once you have defined a global communication and social media strategy and guideliens, define how you will execute the strategy on a local level. It is important that social media is executed locally. If not, your social media campaigns might not be engaging or even alienating.
Going global with social media is like going global with your overall communication – it presents both challenges and opportunities. Adapt a “think global, act local” approach. Reach out to your counterparts locally, discuss and engage them in the early stages of strategy development, give them guidelines and direction, let them execute locally. This will help you avoid potential cultural missteps and ensure an engaging social media activity.