Since the introduction of Facebook seven years ago, the phenomenal world of major social networking sites has attracted millions of people across the globe. Given the success of Facebook and Twitter, which has been in existence a mere five years, it’s somewhat surprising that there was ever a time when these platforms did not exist.
In a world where instant access to readily available information is an important component in our lives, the inexorable rise of social media has forever changed how we read information, and just as importantly, how we communicate it too.
Culturally, social media in this day and age, knows no bounds and with the recent launch of Google+ social is an area of digital media that is showing no sign of abating.
The Rapid Growth of Social Media
There are many benefits that social media sites can deliver to businesses that want to take advantage of them.
In a report conducted by U.S. market research company Ad-ology, an online panel of 752 business owners with fewer than 100 employees concluded that they would spend more on marketing strategies through online, video and mobile in 2011.
The respondents also said they’d be boosting their digital marketing spending by 46%, compared to 29% in 2010; it’s clear to see that an increasing number of companies are recognizing the advantages of generating business and communicating with customers using the web.
Naturally, a large part of this spend will be directed towards social media, both for advertising and for creating and disseminating engaging content. A recent report conducted by Gartner Inc showed that social media advertising is set to grow to a global total spend of $8.2 billion in 2012, at the same time as a report by IBM showed that while 82% of chief marketing officers said they plan to boost their use of social media for marketing during the next few years, more than half said they’re also unprepared to handle social media marketing strategies.
Clearly, there is an awareness that social media is going to be an increasingly critical way for businesses to meet and interact with customers worldwide, but few marketers yet know exactly how to wield it. And this question – ‘how do you successfully approach potential customers via social media?’ – takes on a whole new dimension when you’re a global company with a customer base in different countries and cultures around the world.
Stepping Outside the Realm
While the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are familiar in western countries, many foreign markets have their own dominant social networks.
For example, the most popular platforms in China are Qzone and Renren, with Qzone allegedly attracting over 600 million active users; an impressive number for a site many in the western world might not have heard of.
While in South Korea the market leader is Cyworld, in Japan it’s Mixi and in many Latin American countries, such as Brazil, the top social media site is Orkut.
While it may be true that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will continue to be important social media sites in the western world, if brands want to attract a larger international following to stay ahead of their competitors it’s worth researching the most widely visited sites worldwide, in order to establish a presence.
Talk the Talk
When it comes to talking your target audience’s language, this is easier said than done if the language is not your native tongue.
While English is one of the most widely spoken languages worldwide, that doesn’t mean businesses should automatically assume that their audience will accept English language content.
While English accounts for 33% of all online communications, only around 10% of the world’s population are native English speakers – and studies by the Common Sense Advisory have shown that 85% of online consumers require information in their native language before making a purchase decision online.
This means you will need to translate your social media content for foreign audiences – and this means taking into account more than just the language. Culture also plays a part in localization, from what is considered appropriate (liberal or socially conservative society?) right through to the tone of your message (casual or formal?) as well as currencies, weights and measurements.
There are also differences in what is de rigueur on different social networks. In Brazil, Orkut users are extremely resistant to advertising on social media, while in India many people use social networks as a self promotional tool. By doing a little research into your target markets, and ensuring you use a native speaking linguist to translate your content (rather than free but inaccurate machine translation) you can ensure you get your message across coherently and open up new doors to audiences worldwide.