The world is open for conversation. No matter where we’re located, we have the opportunity to connect with others and share information through social media. Trends in social media stretch from country to country and region to region, connecting people, ideas, brands and messages. It’s the communication medium that brings us all together, and it’s easily accessible. Every day, communicators are reaching audiences through these new tools, which are quickly becoming standard. But there are essential questions we should answer to make sure our social media messages are heard around the world. Are we reaching everyone and sharing the right message? How do we make social media work in all corners of the world and resonate with our global audiences?
If you’re using social media in a global organization or a company that crosses at least one national or regional boundary, how to get your message heard and understood by everyone can feel like a real mystery. You may not even know that there are certain elements and criteria that should be applied to your global communication plans. Before we tackle how to be social globally, it’s important to first share a few benefits of extending your reach.
Benefits of communicating globally in social media
Social media have a lot to offer. Here are a few of the things social media can do for your company globally.
- Dissolve boundaries.At its core, social media are about sharing information across boundaries. We can now find out what we want from whomever we want. Social media is breaking down hierarchical, regional, age and cultural boundaries, to name a few. Social media are the new World Wide Web.
- Allow global inclusion.By using social media in your communication with other regions throughout your business, employees and customers will perceive you as a truly global entity. Inclusion builds relevance and meaning for your messages, services and products. It changes an employee’s or customer’s view from thinking that these messages do not apply to them to realizing they apply to everyone.
- Recruit top talent, top everything.Everyone wants amazing employees, the best fans and loyal customers. If you only share your information and conversations in one place, then you’re limiting your pool of resources. Expanding the reach of social activities will bring in new ideas and people and, most important, new opportunities to grow.
Now that you’re ready to achieve the benefits, let’s take a look at how to get started.
Going social in other countries takes a lot more than just translating messages into other languages. There are a few basics to be aware of and prepare for, including the popularity of different social applications, cultural styles, and local laws and related rules. Making sure you know this information before you start your communication programs will elevate your conversations and take advantage of the inherit benefits of social media.
One size doesn’t fit all. Using a one-plan approach for every channel and region won’t get results. Just like in any communication plan, social media require knowing your audience and what’s in it for them.
Who’s using what
It would be easy to just limit our messages and conversations to Facebook and Twitter, since so many of us hear that these are the biggest social platforms around. While Facebook is dominant in the field and in many countries, there may be employees or customers who are not using it. For example, Facebook is not in China, nor is it the No. 1 social media resource in Russia. The point here: Make sure you know what platforms and tools your audience is using. If you’re having a conversation on Facebook hoping to break new ground in certain countries, you might find that the right people are not hearing you.
To help visualize the social landscape, here’s a random sampling of some of the most popular platforms in a few countries around the world.
- Brazil: orkut, Facebook, Blogger, Twitter
- China: com, Sina Weibo, Youku
- India: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, orkut
- Japan: Ameba, mixi, Facebook, Twitter
- Netherlands: Facebook, Hyves
- Russia: VK (formerly VKontakte), Facebook, Twitter
- South Korea:Cyworld, Facebook, Twitter, me
- U.K.: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
- U.S.: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
Cultural perceptions With each country or region, you’ll find cultural differences in communication styles and social interaction. Residents of some countries may share their opinions openly without much probing, or without a direct request. Others may find it inappropriate to share an opinion without substantial facts to back it up. It’s important to understand cultural perceptions before sharing broadly in the areas of the world you are not familiar with. Social media interactions can at times feel too personal or even invasive for some.
While social media is rapidly gaining in popularity in most regions of the world, remember that your approach is what matters most. Before creating messages, it’s a good idea to speak to a resident of the country you’re targeting who has experience in the local social media. This local resource will be able to educate you on acceptable practices, and the new information they provide will help you meet your communication goal of sharing your core message, no matter the location or style. It’s about shifting your approach to include a customized message that has a better chance of being heard.
Know the law and play by the rules
People love to share online. We share presentations, new products, satire, pictures of employees or customers attending an event—the list goes on. This is what makes the Internet, our brands, and our companies personal and relevant to us. But not all sharing is created equal in the law of some countries. For example, the privacy laws in some European countries differ from those in the U.S. Sharing behaviors that work in the U.S. may not be appropriate in Europe. Also, when using other social platforms, there may be specific rules that you need to adhere to. The message here: Understand the laws in the region you’re addressing and the rules of the products you choose to use. It’s better to know before you start a new program.
Sharing information and building conversations around the world will enrich the experience for you and your brand. As you start, remember to use common sense as you explore new areas. And of course be transparent, be personal and enjoy.