The Dos and Don’ts of developing an international social media strategy.
Social media is a worldwide phenomenon, but the use of popular platforms such as Facebook and Twitter varies from country to country.
InGermany, Facebook currently has around 28 million users, while the image-sharing network Instagram has over 4 million and 12 million users check in to Twitter at least once a month. Social media has played a role in our day-to-day lives for quite a while now. However, the Germans seem less keen to jump on the social media bandwagon, with only around half the population owning a smartphone or being regularly ‘online’. When it comes to social networks, Germany is on about the same level as Pakistan according to a study by the PEW Research Center on the topic of international interest in social media. On average, 3 out of 4 internet users worldwide are active on social media, with users in Jordan and Indonesia spending the most time online.
If a company is to take advantage of the broad reach of social networks and use them to communicate with customers, applicants and business partners, they should not ignore the different user behaviours of each country.
Different user behaviours
The choice of social media platform is crucial when it comes to dialogue with the target group, as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are not the only ones out there. Facebook isn’t available in China, for example, but that doesn’t stop around 650 million people (more than double the population of the USA) from using social networks.
There, the most popular networks are Tencent QQ, an instant messenger with many extra-features, and QZone, a platform very similar to Facebook. And instead of using WhatsApp, the Chinese tend towards We Chat. A second example is Russia, where although plenty do have Facebook, the preferred portal is VKontakte, a virtual clone in both form and function.
And in the business world, too, communication experts should avoid making the mistake of trying to apply a blanket strategy to all countries. Those who have already established B2B communication in Germany using Xing should be ready to expand their portfolio if they want to make it abroad. For instance, LinkedIn is a widely-used business network, whereas Xing is limited to only German-speaking countries.
Social media localisation is important
Companies looking to pursue an international strategy should brush up on the facts of the target country and make sure that their activities fit with this. Because even in the world of social media, localisation is crucial ie. the adaptation and adjustment of content to fit in with the respective country’s customs.
In particular, this includes speaking the right language. The social media team should, without fail, communicate in the local language, taking care to also bear dialects in mind. At the same time, different cultural norms and societal values also have their impact on online communication. Subjects such as sex, religion, politics and even irony are often taken very differently depending on the country and culture. In order to avoid unnecessary social media uproar, it’s worth making note of taboo subjects in each country. Too much bare skin on a travel agency’s Facebook page, for example, will not go down well in Islamic countries. Even the use of emoticons can quickly go wrong. Though smileys and thumbs up are well loved, fingers in an ‘O’ shape understood by Germany and the UK to mean ‘OK’ can be interpreted as obscene and insulting in Asia and Australia.
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