Going global? Use social media to build visibility and engage customers in new markets. And answer these three questions to build a global social media strategy that works.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that 37% of the global population find inspiration on social media for their purchases. Customers increasingly want to connect with brands – and they value other people’s opinions about them. This makes social networks essential for boosting visibility in your home market.

They’re vital too, if you’re expanding globally. In China, 52% of the population use social media for inspiration. They also expect to buy products and receive post-sales support directly on platforms like WeChat.

Throughout the world, the profile is the same. 90% of the UAE’s internet users have an active Facebook account. 80% of Americans use social media, as do 64% of Germans.

So wherever you’re taking your brand, you’ll need to be on social media.

But it’s a mistake to use only your home market’s social media strategy. Every language and region has different tastes, trends and platforms. So just like your content, you need to localize your strategy to be heard above the noise.

How? Start by building your brand on a strong, research-driven foundation. Then prepare your global social media strategy for local success by answering these three questions.

  1. WHO CREATES YOUR CONTENT?

Once you’ve invested time in defining your brand identity and voice, it’s tempting to keep tight control of your global assets. You might, therefore, prefer to take full ownership of creating all social content for all global markets, localize it yourself and then require each respective market to use your translations..

But this is a flawed approach. Localizing everything at HQ on your own adds time and cost. It also gives you less flexibility to speak to customers live – robbing your brand of immediacy.

But that doesn’t mean you should give every market free reign to create their own social content. Research is vital.

In fact, you may not even need to localize your content for certain markets. For example, it’s not uncommon for Germans to follow a brand’s UK English account, so you could potentially communicate with them directly in English.

Of course, in the majority of markets, you’ll need to localize your content. And the best method is to take a global-local approach.

While brand-critical content, such as pre-planned ad campaigns or product announcements, can be created and localized by HQ on a universal level, be sure to empower your in-market resources to create locally relevant content from scratch, or to localize any non-brand-critical content themselves. At the same time, encourage your local contacts to use your tone of voice.

If you already have engagement guidelines, check they’re relevant for the market and adapt if necessary. Include rules about how and when to respond (with approved terms), and when to escalate.

Then, allow your local social team to create on-the-fly content in their language that joins the local conversation and engages customers.

This approach lends greater authenticity to your social media content and more flexibility to your social strategy, allowing you to be more responsive to the needs of each market. As you comment on market-specific events, customers will feel closer to your brand. At the same time, you’ll get across your key messaging. It’s a win-win.

Lastly, research whether it’s worth working with influencers in each market. In the UAE, for example, they’re expensive but critical to social success.

  1. WHERE SHOULD YOU POST?

Social media 101: there’s more out there than Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Of course you know that in your home market. Maybe you’re already active on Snapchat or LinkedIn.

But even in Europe, it pays to research the best social networking sites for your brand. For example, XING (not LinkedIn) is Germany’s #1 social networking site for business – especially when it comes to recruitment.

VKontakte (VK) and Odnoklassniki (OK) are the most popular social media sites in Russia. Facebook is banned in China, where WeChat rules supreme. And in South Korea, 80% of internet users have used a live streaming site in the last year – usually either YouTube or Naver.

So before localizing any of your social media content, research each market and identify the most popular platforms for your target audience.

Your global social media strategy should also include when you post on each platform. For example, the French prefer to use Facebook in the morning, but switch to Twitter and Instagram midday. Incorporating these insights into your social media strategy will boost your visibility and give your content greater impact. Check out how Ricoré did just that.  

  1. WHAT SHOULD YOU SAY?

Customers have different tastes across markets. And your global social media strategy will need to take this into account.

Beautiful pictures are less likely to win over German customers than quotes, links and data. In Japan, YouTube is the most popular social media platform, so video content will be popular with your customers. Chinese social media users want personalized, immediate communication with brands. And in the UAE, content is regulated, so you’ll need to make sure you’re respectful of Islamic values.

All this means that simply localizing your English content may not work across all markets. Instead, you’ll often need to create content from scratch that appeals to your international customers and works on their platforms.

This may be daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Just speak to an in-market social media expert – or an experienced international marketing agency – to get the insights you need. Then, let the data guide your global social media strategy.

FINAL THOUGHT

Social media gives your brand unparalleled access to your customers. And when done right, it’s one of the best ways to embed your brand in each market. But success won’t arrive spontaneously. Speak to experts and carry out in-depth research to build a global social strategy that works for your brand cross-country and appeals to customers.