Social media is undoubtedly one of the biggest factors of today’s marketing and global outreach plans. In the past decade, facebook has gone from a mere suggestion or social website meant for connecting with friends to an undeniable zeitgeist of a marketing tools. Today, especially for businesses looking to globally expand or connect with potential markets abroad, the value of social media is immense. However, that does not mean that all social media habits are valuable or even productive when branching beyond a domestic market with social media. In fact, there are many factors to consider that one perhaps would not have evaluated if the target market or client was situated ‘at home.’
Facebook, while a veritable titan in most countries, including the United States, isn’t necessarily the best option for all users. China and Russia, while they do have large populations of facebook users, are dominated in the social media race by their own domestic sites. While one could disregard this on account of the millions of facebook users worldwide, Russia and China have two of the highest populations of any country, and specifically reaching these markets on their own platforms can be the deciding factor between having an acceptable or exponential rate of social media impact.
Another thing to consider is that while a company using social media may be keyed in to the using habits of social media profiles in their own country, this means they could be lacking proper timing for markets abroad. While a post scheduled for 7 PM Eastern Standard Time could make a Splash in New York or Boston, it would be the middle of the night in Paris, Berlin and other major user hubs. In fact, post timing for abroad audiences is often counter intuitive to posts for a company’s home region.
Language barriers pose yet another challenge to the usage of social media for international growth. While English is a dominant and frequently-used language in business around the world, American companies should be careful to not neglect the idea of bilingual posts. From my own personal experience, I can say that tweeting, linking to articles and targeting facebook users from two language groups phenomenally increased the size of the impact and the company’s ability to target new interest. However, this is a difficult to navigate situation as well, as non-English posts must have the same level of engagement and attention to detail as posts in English, lest they come off as secondary or unprofessional.
In short, as with most international connections, the keys are to listen and observe differences as a way to engage, not as a barrier to growth.