As many of you know, I recommend incorporating a social media program into almost any business-to-business international marketing plan. Social media allows your staff to directly engage with current customers and targeted prospective clients, as well as intervene in a negative product or service feedback. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have a global reach to markets companies never thought they would so easily access. Social media (both paid and organic) also significantly boosts a company website’s search engine optimization – a key element to your potential clients finding your site online.
But unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably knew all of that.
Since social media rarely stops at the border, companies are able to engage with some potential business online. But that doesn’t mean that social media will necessarily help you reach your company’s goals. To do that, it takes a more targeted approach to social media in international markets. Here’s a start to reviewing your global social media strategy:
Make Sure You Have Social Media Goals
I am still amazed at how many companies do not have clearly defined goals for their social media program. Or if they do have a goal, it involves something warm and fuzzy like unmeasured brand awareness. Instead, consider both reactive functions like customer service response; as well as proactive goals related to new lead identification and lead nurturing. If you don’t have clear goals, you’ll never connect with your leads!
Cloning Domestic Social Media Plans Will Flop
Social media works effectively when your content and conversations resonate with new and current customers. To be truly effective instead of merely reactive, that means taking on a decentralized social media approach on all platforms. So Facebook company pages, Twitter accounts and Linkedin company profiles should all be written in your target markets’ local languages and localized to the market’s preferred marketing and selling styles. If you don’t decentralize, then you’re only seeing a fraction of the potential from overseas markets.
Know the Market’s Preferred Platforms
I recently worked with a company that decided to expand a U.S.-based Linkedin paid media into Australia and New Zealand. Those of us who focus on B2B markets know that despite Linkedin’s lower global usage rates to larger platforms like Facebook, Twitter & Google+ it can be affective in certain B2B markets. While somewhat stronger in the U.S., Linkedin has not expanded internationally at the same rate as other key platforms. In Australia, for instance, only 9% of the population has an active Linkedin account. That compares with 40% of Aussies using Facebook.
In early 2015, We Are Social released a Global Web Index report on global social media usage. Not only does Canada have almost twice as many Twitter users (23%) over Linkedin (12%), but almost half of Canadians used Facebook in the past month of their study. The French don’t use Twitter or Linkedin nearly as much as Google+ and of course the global giant, Facebook. Japan uses social media much less with top activity going to Twitter with 16%. The bottom line – your market before investing time and resources.
Identify Local Social Media Resources, Then Train on Company Policies
If you are targeting the German market, then it’s time to find a local point person for German social media content creation and online communications. Your company may already be established in Germany and so you have staff or outsourced resources who can perform these functions. BUT, if this is new then consider finding a local marketing firm with social media services. To keep costs low, provide centralized content to be translated and localized.
When several local resources are managing social media, it is critical to have a written set of social media policies that state the boundaries on what a representative of the company can communicate to customers and leads. This includes branding guides, professional conduct code, what constitutes company secrets, etc. I recommend video training to reinforce these policies. Too many companies miss this step and regret retracting and responding to an inappropriate post or tweet!
The Good Guys Win in the End
Developing quality content on company website blogs is one of the cornerstones of any global social media program. One high-quality weekly post always trumps daily gibberish. And engaging social media staff who speak in their own authentic voice will attract far more qualified leads than any silly made-up personas. People can always spot the knock-off brand.
In summary, global social media has great potential to help a B2B company expand into new and existing international markets. To do this, be clear about your program goals. Consider a decentralized approach to content and communication. Pick your platforms carefully based on each market. Choose the right in-country resources, then train them on your company social media policies. And finally, deliver consistent substance and sincere engagement. Then enjoy the fruits of your efforts!
If you company needs a review of your global social media program or help setting up a program, please contact me.
Best of success in your international expansion!
The International Entrepreneur