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Cross-border connections

Stephen Maher, CEO of independent marketing agency MBA and Chair of the joint industry IPA/Marketing Society Social Media Measurement Group, provides his insight on an international approach to social media.

Stephen Maher, CEO of independent marketing agency MBA and Chair of the joint industry IPA/Marketing Society Social Media Measurement Group, provides his insight on an international approach to social media.

Social media is spearheading the charge for many companies in terms of marketing priorities, with a recent US survey showing that over half of companies see social as an area for significant marketing investment this year. However, use is typically handled on a region-by-region basis, which is not enough for companies looking to manage cross-border social campaigns co-ordinated from a single hub. For those looking to unify a social approach managed from a single head office, there are a number of points which should be kept in mind when planning an international social media strategy.

Know your audience

While Facebook and Twitter are behemoths of social in the UK and US, they are far from the only social channels. International social campaigns should be guided by target audience and campaign objectives. In Brazil, for example, social media sites Orkut and Badoo hold significant market share; in China, Sina Weibo, Renren, Kaisin001 and 51.com lead the pack. In South Africa, social networking is driven by mobile use. When looking to engage in another country, it is imperative to understand different regional preferences. It is also worth considering internet infrastructure development and access to high speed services in your target region. In Brazil, access to mobile internet devices and high speed connections has doubled in the last five years. Marketers relying on a social approach to engage with consumers overseas should ensure mobile optimisation to avoid excluding potential audiences who may not otherwise have internet access.

Overcoming language barriers

Ideally, cross-border campaigns should be handled in native languages to engage most strongly and be accessible to as many target audiences as possible. While the de facto language of the internet is English, it would be short-sighted to think that it will be successful to use English everywhere. Visually-led social platforms like Flickr and Pinterest may provide a simple way to overcome a language barrier. And it is worth remembering that international barriers can run deeper than language and on-the-ground advice should be taken to ensure any international campaigning doesn’t encounter cultural or social differences. A ‘one size fits all’ campaign approach is unlikely to really work internationally.

Be true to the brand

Countries and languages may change, but why people choose one brand over another typically remains the same. This holds equally true whether marketing a small niche food product or a large multinational technology company – social activity needs to stem from a specific brand purpose, creating a coherent brand experience for the customer. This should form the core of any cross-border social marketing, whether videos on YouTube or a central Twitter feed managed from head office. Examples of unsuccessful uses of social which don’t mesh with the brand are legion. Successful social marketing, however, is seamless.

Measure, analyse, test and learn

No campaign will be absolutely right first time and using social media on a potentially global scale increases the likelihood of getting things wrong along the way. Since one of digital and social marketing’s core strengths is responsiveness – measurement and ongoing evaluation is vital to ensure customers around the world are being listened to and engaged with appropriately. Central to this is agreeing the objectives for a social campaign and referring to them regularly so nothing veers off track. For all the power and reach of social, an effective strategy can be to light many small fires, adding fuel to those that burn brightest. Lastly, always judge success as you would any campaign – not with intermediary measures such as likes or retweets, but in terms of ROI.

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