Social media provides an unprecedented opportunity for businesses that want to expand across borders and build a brand with global reach.
The latest statistics provide an insight into just how pervasive the world’s biggest social networks have become. Facebook alone has 1.52 billion active users every single day, and 2.32 billion every month.
According to the Global Digital Report 2019 from We Are Social, more than half (4.4 billion) of the world’s 7.7 billion people are internet users, and 3.5 billion of these are on social media.
It follows, therefore, that if your business aspires to operate and build a presence in various regions around the world, you need to be well-represented on social media. This requires a thoroughly researched and carefully planned strategy that takes into account the unique characteristics and challenges of markets across the globe.
Here are some of the most important things to bear in mind when making your plans for international growth on social media:
1. Choose the right platform
There are various factors involved in selecting the right social media platform to grow your brand around the world, including regional use and preferences.
According to We Are Social’s findings, Facebook’s addressable advertising audience, as a proportion of the population aged 13 years and above, is more than 70% in many countries around the world. However, the overall worldwide figure is 35%, and in Russia it’s only 11%.
In China, Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube and Twitter are all blocked, so consumers there are much more reliant on networks such as WeChat.
Before entering a particular market, do some research on local social media trends to ensure you’re using the right platforms to get results.
2. Use relevant, appropriate language
A message that is effective and engages with consumers in one location won’t necessarily deliver the same results somewhere else.
As well as translating your social media messaging into the right language, it’s important to consider whether the content itself will make sense to the people reading it, taking into account things like cultural references and slang.
Consulting with local language experts can help to ensure you are communicating in the most appropriate way. This can also prove useful when it comes to technical considerations like grammar and sentence construction in foreign languages.
3. Keep an eye on current affairs
Social media is a dynamic, fast-moving space, where brands have to show their finger is on the pulse of what’s happening not only in their industry, but in the news and current affairs as well.
If, for example, one of the countries where you’re rolling out a new product has just been hit by an earthquake, it would be insensitive to publish a social media post describing your launch as ‘groundbreaking’, or claiming it will ‘shake up the market’.
As you expand into more markets, you need to be increasingly vigilant to what's happening in each location, taking care to ensure your social media output is always appropriate.
4. Choose your images carefully
Much like language, images need to be chosen carefully to ensure they will resonate with local audiences, but also to avoid causing any controversy or offence related to cultural, social or religious expectations in particular locations.
One of the clearest examples of this is fashion marketing in predominantly Muslim countries. Muslim women traditionally wear clothes that cover, at the very least, their arms and legs, so social media images of female models in more revealing attire will not be well received.
Images that show people drinking alcohol or having wild parties will also prove contentious in places where this sort of behavior is heavily frowned upon.
5. Get the timing right
One of the most basic facts to remember when you’re posting social media content around the world is that you’re operating in a number of different time zones.
You want your posts to be going live at the times when they’ll attract the most attention, so do your research on time differences and when your target audiences in different destinations are most likely to be online.
There are various tools and software packages that allow you to plan your social content in advance and create detailed schedules so every post has maximum impact.
6. Set realistic goals
There are countless brands vying for the attention of customers all over the world, so be realistic about your goals and what you expect to achieve in specific locations.
If you’re only just getting started in a large and particularly complex market, an achievable target might be to simply increase brand awareness, rather than bringing in new customers and sales straight away.
Set specific objectives for each destination and come up with related metrics that help you to make informed decisions about how your campaigns are performing.
There’s no doubt that building a global presence on social media is a big challenge, but effective research, awareness of local trends and a patient approach can carry your business a long way towards international success.