Using social media across cultures

Today I’ve got a guest post from Christian Arno. Read below for more info.

Most businesses are now well aware of the benefits that using social media can bring, such as driving sales, getting customer feedback, building brand awareness and more. However, the majority are still only focusing on major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Whilst these channels are undoubtedly very useful, there are also extremely popular social networks in other countries which should not be overlooked.

A 2010 report from Econsultancy found that over 80% of marketers are planning to spend more on social media this year, but only a quarter will focus their campaigns in more than one country.

This is actually quite a surprising statistic given that a separate study from Common Sense Advisory found that companies typically see a return of $25 for every $1 they invest in localization.

In addition, English only accounts for 31% of language use online, so it’s easy to see how ignoring foreign markets in your social media campaigns  could mean dismissing a large number of potential customers.

Choosing your networks
The major networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are typically used by people of many countries, so it makes sense to have a presence there, segmenting your channels by country.

Figures from Facebook show that English is the most used language on the network, followed by Spanish, French, Turkish and Indonesian. Research like this is handy for localizing your company’s social media efforts.

However, the point is that you shouldn’t stop with these global networks, as there are other networks within individual countries which are extremely popular. You’ll need to do your research, and also consider asking local social media professionals about the best local platforms for your business.

Qzone, Renren, Mixi and Orkut
Qzone and Renren are massively popular in China and can’t realistically be ignored if you’re targeting customers there. These social media sites have as many as 380 million and 120 million customers respectively. Some have argued that many of the accounts are actually dormant, but it’s worth looking into and testing the waters, as this could be a massive potential audience.

Research shows that Mixi has the largest slice of the market in Japan, with an estimated 30 million users, whilst Orkut has a significant impact in both India and Brazil.

Xing has been dubbed by some as the “European LinkedIn” due to its popularity in countries such as Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Whilst the site may not be more popular than LinkedIn, it does have around 10 million users, which illustrates how it’s essential for business networking in Europe. Xing works in a similar way to LinkedIn in terms of networking, building contacts and gathering references. It costs around $8 per month for a premium membership, but free accounts are available too with fewer features.

Another significant professional networking site in Europe is Viadeo, which has around 30 million registered users, with members from all across Europe. Around one in ten registered users, for example, are thought to be from France. However, the network also attracts members from China.

As with LinkedIn and Xing, registered users can pull in other social media activity such as a Twitter feed, document and presentation-sharing software and more. The site has a fresh, modern look, but it can take a little while to get used to its functionality and interface.

It’s well worth spending the time to research the social networks outside the major players used in English-speaking countries. If you’re doing business internationally, the same rules apply for social media as they do for all other marketing – always localize!

About the author
Christian Arno is the founder of professional translation services provider Lingo24, experts in the foreign language internet. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 150 employees spanning three continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over forty million words for businesses in every industry sector, including the likes of MTV and World Bank. Follow Lingo24 on Twitter: @Lingo24.


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  • Updated August 12, 2011