Approaching different cultures via social media The phenomenon of social media is constantly growing, and any digital marketer worth their salt knows that it’s a valuable medium for promoting brands, services, and products. Another well-established fact is that social media is now almost completely globalized — every country with internet access now has significant audiences on one social network or another.

A Global Social Strategy

So with these two facts in mind, what does that mean for companies who want to market across all borders? Well, it means that a global social strategy should be mapped out, with the onus being on tailoring different messages to different cultures on their preferred platforms.

Different approaches for different cultures

The most common marketing communications via social media are simply news updates or product information, for which Twitter is ideal. However, to stand out from the crowd, you really need to entice your target markets into an interactive online experience.

This is where a bit of research into what customers want from social media comes in handy. The British, for example, love a good freebie (or giveaway). In Japan, anything that shows off knowledge — especially technical knowledge — will get people talking about your brand, so competitions or quizzes would suit nicely. Anything creative is bound to reach out to mainland Europeans. Humour, caption competitions, or creative photography all subtly linked to and promoting your brand are just some ways to move a campaign forward in a truly inventive way.

The different platforms

While Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are the largest western social networks, in other countries there are different social networks which are dominant, and if you’re planning to establish a market presence in these countries, you’ll need to also establish a presence on their major social media platforms.

For instance, although Facebook is available in Japanese and Brazilian Portuguese (as well as more than 30 other languages, including ‘Pirate’ and ‘Upside Down English), it is not in fact the popular social networking platform in those countries. If you only establish a presence on Facebook in Japanese or Brazilian Portuguese to market to those countries, you’ll not find any followers — they’re all on Mixi and Orkut, respectively.

Similarly, Qzone and Renren are the most popular social networks in China and without a presence there, you are potentially missing out on hundreds of millions of target audience members.

Xing has around 10 million users, covering mostly Northern European countries. It operates as a business directory much like LinkedIn, and while not as large, is the best way to build business contacts in countries like Germany.

Viadeo is another professional and business networking site which is popular in Europe, particularly France, and also in China. The site can link and relay information, share documents and generally be a great platform on which to network and meet customers or clients.

This is just a selection – there are many more platforms out there, and while you don’t need to be present on all of them, if you spend a bit of time researching the main players and getting a feel for the characteristics of their respective communities, then you can adapt any future social media marketing campaigns accordingly.

The different languages

Just because English is one of the most widely spoken languages across social networking sites doesn’t mean that your message will automatically ‘speak to’ everyone who understands English as a first, second or third language. Different countries use English for different things, and in most instances you’ll need to engage with overseas customers in their native language.

For instance, in Russian and many Eastern European countries, English is used for business communications, while the native language is used more for personal communications.

So while you could well get away with English for many of your B2B social media marketing efforts, if you really want to engage on a personal level (especially for B2C marketing) then you need to have your content translated and localized, taking great care to ensure that your creative collateral and branding has an equivalent linguistic and cultural meaning when translated. Don’t forget the old tale about Pepsi’s ad campaign — ‘Come Alive With Pepsi’ — which was allegedly mistranslated into Chinese as ‘Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Dead’!