Going global but not sure where to start? Social media is a great way to build visibility and engage customers in new markets. Here’s what to consider in building an effective global social media strategy.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that 37% of the global population finds 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 your brand visibility both at home and internationally. Throughout the world, the profile is consistent – 80% of Americans use social media, as do 64% of Germans, and 90% of the UAE’s internet users are active on Facebook. In China, 52% of the population uses social media to research potential purchases. They also expect to buy products and receive post-sales support directly on platforms like WeChat.

So wherever you’re taking your brand and content, you’ll need to be on social media. Keep in mind, though, every language and region has different tastes, trends and platforms. So just like your content, you’ll need to localize your social strategy to be heard above the noise. Start by considering these three questions.

1. WHO CREATES YOUR IN-LANGUAGE 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, localizing it yourself and then expecting each market to post the translations you provide.

But centrally translating your US social content for international audiences is ultimately a flawed approach. While adding both time and cost, this approach also gives you less flexibility to speak to your customers live – potentially robbing your brand of the connection these platforms uniquely offer.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you should give every market free reign to create their own social content – a research-based strategy that’s consistent with your global brand voice and growth goals is vital. In fact, you may not even need to localize your content for certain markets.

For example, it’s not uncommon for German consumers to follow a brand’s English account. Depending on the competitive landscape for your product, you could potentially communicate with your German and other English-proficient audiences directly in English as a first step. As your global social presence matures, however, you’ll need to localize your social content to build your community. And the best method is to take a global-local approach.

Brand-critical content, such as pre-planned ad campaigns or product announcements, can be created and localized by HQ. But this is only a small part of your localization strategy. To truly engage your local audience in an authentic way, you’ll also need in-market resources to create locally relevant content from scratch, as well as to localize any non-brand-critical content themselves. A key factor in doing that effectively and consistently is making sure your local community managers are familiar with your tone of voice, as well as your product and local market goals.

If you already have engagement guidelines, check they’re relevant for your international markets and adapt them if necessary. Include rules about how and when to respond (with approved terms), and when to escalate. Then, trust your local social management resources to create on-the-fly content in their language that’s relevant to the local conversation and engages customers.

Last, research whether it’s worth working with influencers in each market. In the UAE, for example, influencers are expensive but critical to social success. While this may sound difficult to execute, your localization partner can help you to resource your content needs at the local level and manage your social content strategy efficiently and cost effectively.

Overall, the global-local 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 consistently and on brand. It’s a win-win.

2. WHICH SOCIAL PLATFORMS SHOULD YOU TARGET?

Global social media 101: there’s more out there in the international space than Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You’re already aware of that in the US market, and maybe you’re also 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 B2B and 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 – typically YouTube or Naver.

Before you translate any of your social media content and localize your social strategy, research each market and identify the most popular platforms for your target audience. Your global social media strategy should also include a localized posting cadence for each platform. For example, French users prefer Facebook in the morning but switch to Twitter and Instagram around 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.

3. WHAT SOCIAL CONTENT WORKS BEST INTERNATIONALLY?

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 likely 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 differing cultural 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 preferred platforms. This may seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Work with an  in-market social media expert – or an experienced marketing localization partner who can provide resources across multiple regions – to get the insights you need. Then, let the data guide your global social media strategy.

FINAL THOUGHT

International social media gives your brand unparalleled access to your global customers and can be a low-risk and cost-friendly way to test your in-market opportunity. When it’s done well, social media is one of the best ways to embed your brand in each market with top-funnel consumers. It will also help build post-sales brand advocacy while you make the case for expanding your in-language presence across other channels.

The right partner will help you formulate a strategy that leverages the best of your social assets from your domestic content while building a locally relevant and authentic social presence. And by considering global social media as part of your marketing localization roadmap, you can drive engagement with your international customers and maximize the return on your budget.