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The rising trend of social media for international marketing

By Josian Phillips, 

Social media has been the hottest marketing channel for more than ten years now. Every brand worth its salt is on Facebook and Twitter these days – they can’t afford not be – but many marketers only focus their efforts on reaching a local audience rather than a global one.

Businesses are missing a massive trick here. As of May 2014, Statista revealed there were a whopping 70.5 million Brazilian users registered on Facebook, 60.3 million in Indonesia, 26.5 million in Japan, and 22 million in both France and Germany. In the same month, Forbes reported that the top 10 Twitter countries, per capita use, included Kuwait, the Netherlands, Chile and Sweden. That’s a whole lot of prospective customers around the world that could be targeted through international social media marketing.

These prospects aren’t just active on Facebook and Twitter, either – there’s LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, the list goes on.

And on and on and on – especially when you look internationally towards local social networks. You might have noticed that China, the country with the world’s fastest-growing economy, is absent from both of the aforementioned lists. This is because it has its own social networks, and so do many other countries. But while China has actually blocked citizens from accessing Facebook and Twitter, other countries use both the network giants and the local favourites. It hasn’t stopped Chinese businesses; Twitter has opened an office in Hong Kong despite the ban, solely to help Chinese businesses on the mainland market their products and services overseas.

Successful brands have tapped into the local popularity of social networks, boosting their brand and expanding their ecommerce business in the process. So why is international social media marketing so important? And where should brands begin?

Benefits of social media for international marketing

Any chance you have to talk to your audience and promote your website content should be grasped with open arms, especially when you’re trying to expand your business overseas. Social media provides an easily accessible platform for brands to communicate with massive global audiences, without the need for spending on television advertisements or local press. Social media profiles can increase your brand awareness abroad and gently nudge the global audience on that journey to becoming your customer.

As your business grows, so too could your social media activity. You could create localised social media accounts for different countries and target specific content and special offers towards them. Of course, to do this successfully you’ll need the assistance of a professional translation company who understands the local language and culture – helping you to create relevant content and not make an epic ‘lost in translation’ error.

What you’ll need to connect with international audiences

What works in one country probably won’t work in another, and what makes sense in one language could end up as complete gibberish in another if it isn’t translated properly. Google translate might be fine for the odd word, but trying to run all of your social media communications through it is sure to result in ridicule.

A translation agency is more than crucial for any successful international social media marketing campaign. Brands can avoid embarrassment by having their messages not only correctly translated, but also tailored for a particular country’s audience. This allows a brand to expand its ecommerce business globally, by establishing an audience of brand advocates in different countries.

What social networks should your brand target?

Aside from the big players mentioned in this article, there are plenty of other social networks around the world that still have bustling user bases. XING in Germany, for example, is a professional site similar to LinkedIn, where 90 per cent of its page views come from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Viadeo is a similar site for professionals in France. Founded in Paris back in May 2004, the social network still has more than 65 million members worldwide (21m of which are in Asia, 17m are in the Americas, 13m are across Europe, and 3m are in Africa). The Viadeo Group also owns ApnaCircle and Tianji – the latter of which has more than 17 million members and is China’s biggest professional network.

With over 20 million users, the largest social network in Latin America is Sonico and prides itself on having legitimate users, not spammy accounts. The original serves Spanish speaking regions, but its Portuguese version is the second biggest social network in Brazil.

In Russia, Vkontakte is more popular than (but is a copy of) Facebook and in China, with over 500 million users combined, Weibo and Renren are worth exploring – providing you can circumvent the government’s restrictions.

Then there’s Yonja, once the biggest social networking site in Turkey, Japan’s Mixi, Spain’s Tuenti, and Poland’s GoldenLine. Ultimately, a search for ‘social media network’ plus any country will probably yield a local site that could become your secret marketing weapon.

If you’re thinking of expanding your business overseas and want to use social media as a way to reach a wider global audience, there’s really nothing stopping you. Build your strategy, prepare your messaging and content with the help of a translation agency, and create accounts on the relevant social networks to attract international customers.

One thing’s for certain – the enormous potential associated with using social media isn’t likely to diminish anytime soon, so what are you waiting for?

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