How to Grow Your Global Social Media Presence

Aug 06, 2014 12:05 PM  By

Retailers that have taken the dip into international waters should now begin thinking about the use of social media on the global scale.

But where do you begin? Where are your customers engaging with brands?  What challenges will you come across?  These are just some of the many questions as you begin engaging socially with cross-border customers.

Where Social Media Dominates

The most active social media users are not found in Europe or even the U.S.  They are located in Asia.


Greig Holbrook

Greig Holbrook, director of Oban Multilingual Search, said East Asia has 37% share of global internet users active on social media.  As a result it is dwarfing the North American and western European figures which sit at just 11% and 10%.

Holbrook said that South America is the fastest growing social media market, closely followed by India and Japan.

Communicating Internationally on Social Media

Communicating with brands socially on an international level varies from market-to-market, according to Holbrook.  This is largely due to the cultural background of the country in question.  For example, online users in Canada are less likely to engage with brands on social media, than the U.S.

“Canadians by and large are far more wary of advertising and social media marketing,” said Holbrook. “The key is to understand the local social media etiquette and ensure you are reaching out to customers in the appropriate way.”

Holbrook said even though an active social media presence inspires trust from consumers, 71% of users now expect some degree of customer service from brands through social media, using these channels for communication is no longer optional for most businesses.

Global Social Media Challenges

Holbrook said the biggest challenge with social media internationally is understanding local market nuances and how people in target markets use social media differently, can often be the biggest challenge but landscape research is essential.

“Each country has its own unique preferences, from platform and user behavior trends right through to phraseology and tone of voice expectations,” said Holbrook. “These individual characteristics need to be integrated into local strategy and international strategy tailored accordingly.”

Holbrook said many companies are afraid of getting social media wrong, and they don’t even invest in it properly. But insightful research, when undertaken to inform ongoing strategy, saves time and resources in the long run.

Internationally, some retailers do roll out the same social media practices across all regions; the most successful brands tailor their social practices for each market, Holbrook said.

International Social Media Practices

“Market leaders such as Starbucks embrace local channels and create campaigns specifically designed to resonate with their international audience,” said Holbrook. “Their latest campaign in China targeted young career minded people using WeChat using QR codes to send customers rich media snippets such as videos to their phones.”

Holbrook said being aware of and adhering to local laws and policies regarding what social media activity can be taken is also essential as different countries have different rules on everything from appropriate content through to advertising regulations.

An Active Social Media Presence

Holbrook said there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer to how retailers can have an active social media presence internationally.  He recommended that retailers conduct active research into target markets.  This could include understanding local trends and user behaviors to identifying key influencers and competitor activity.  Gaining landscape insight is invaluable, he added.

“This can be used to decipher what kinds of activity will gain most traction and this can be the focus for campaign planning,” said Holbrook. “Localization rather than translation is vital – never assume that a campaign will work in one market just because it was successful in another.

Holbrook said if resources are limited, marketers should focus efforts on its most important platforms, and concentrate on having an active presence on these rather than spreading yourself too thin and owning multiple accounts which are inactive or even dormant, as this does nothing for brand reputation.

“Create a solid strategy plan rather than posting ad-hoc updates in order to keep activity focused and cohesive and always have clear objectives and KPIs set out from the start,” said Holbrook.

Social Media and Mobile

Holbrook added that mobile is a vital vehicle for social media because many social media users don’t have access to a computer especially outside of Europe and America.

“Looking at Facebook alone, there are 189 million users which are ‘mobile only.’ “Even for users who do use computers; mobile still prevails – with over 60% of overall social usage coming from mobile devices,” said Holbrook.