Many leading brands that are eager to get
closer to customers have come to embrace
Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other similar
platforms as their primary vehicles for
customer engagement and lead generation.
In many cases, domestic social media efforts
have paid off in measurable, impressive
returns on investment (ROI).
However, social media strategy becomes significantly more
complicated when companies expand it to include multiple international
markets. For all of its allure, social media is not a
panacea for globalization needs. It can be a useful tool, but website
owners who include social media as one aspect of a more
complete, integrated campaign often see better results abroad
than those who put all their localization efforts into tweets and
Below are five facts that all Web businesses should know about
international social media:
1. Social media is not effective in every market
There are some industries in which social media lives up to its
promise for better business. In these markets, customers respond
in droves to carefully crafted tweets, and they like and
share Facebook posts, leading directly to increased conversion
rates. In other spaces, however, the impact of social media is
nominal. In such cases, website owners must carefully consider
the value of translating social media content for international
For internationally focused companies, social
media activities can be time- and resource-intensive,
since multilingual social media cannot be managed
by machines alone. One hundred and forty characters
in English, for example, do not neatly translate
into Russian or German tweets. Human experts are
required to oversee that process, as well as other
social media tasks, such as responding to wall posts
on Facebook or answering messages on a blog.
Before retailers invest in these activities, they
should consider its potential value and examine
the predominant sources of their website traffic
in various regions. They should look at the
way they define conversion and find out
what their conversion rates are. They must
look at the effect of social media on their
home market and seek out evidence that
might predict its impact abroad. Finally,
businesses on the Web should determine
whether they have the resources in place
to manage localized social media on a
2. It can be easy and difficult at the same time
It seems so simple: Write a short blog post, send a pithy tweet,
craft an irresistible Facebook missive, create a video for YouTube.
These activities seem straightforward enough, and valuable, too,
since the company retains control over a message that could go
viral. Globalization, however, complicates matters.
Effective localization for international prospects requires
more than plugging words into a machine that returns literal
translations. This is certainly true for global websites, but the
importance of connotation intensifies as communication gets
Twitter’s strict length parameters, for example, make every
character choice a critical one. Translating for this kind of platform
requires not only timesaving software solutions but seasoned
human translators, as well. These experts are needed to
choose the right words, as well as understand the cultural implications
and potential reactions of the target markets.
Additionally, creating short, frequent content requires ongoing
local support, since the expectation of social media is not
a one-sided broadcast but an interactive conversation. For business
owners that want a one-time investment in international
marketing that requires little follow-up effort, social media is
not the best option.
3. If you want to go social abroad, hire locally
There is, of course, a reason for all of the hype around social
media. When it is done well and prospects embrace it, social
media marketing can pay off. This is not only true locally but
also with international campaigns.
Online businesses that succeed in international social media
marketing do so because they factor translation, international
messaging, cultural norms, local news and localized search engine
parameters into their strategies. They recognize that social
media itself is not a marketing campaign; rather, they view it as
an element of an integrated approach. When websites look at
the way all available media and mediums can function together
to reach a goal, they capture a greater return on their efforts.
Those who succeed also recognize that social media outreach
makes numerous demands, including the following:
• Writing fresh, relevant content on a frequent basis
• Monitoring other blogs, tweets and posts in the market, and
• Calling on a local voice to manage these tasks to ensure that
language nuances and cultural practices ring true
• Investing in a local marketing professional who can devote
time to content creation and social media management
4. Social media marketing works best when
it is part of a complete campaign
When it comes to international outreach and localization, the real
return on investment comes from a well-integrated campaign that
potentially includes social media as one element. Other common
elements include targeted pay-per-click ads tied to a comprehensive
international search engine marketing (ISEM) campaign, culturally
relevant landing pages for fast conversions, multilingual rich media, adapted banner ads and marketing, out-of-home advertising,
experiential marketing with people on the ground, philanthropic
community involvement and events like launch parties
and networking functions.
Unfortunately, too many companies see that their website
traffic is low and respond hastily with carelessly translated ads
or machine translation that replicates their domestic blogs and
churns them out in international markets. Both of these activities
fail to achieve their overall marketing goals — building
business globally, generating new leads and spreading awareness
about products and services.
5. ISEM is the best foundation for effective
Before companies take on social media, they need to build a
foundation to support their outreach to international markets.
That foundation is not as flashy as Facebook, but it can be far
more effective. Furthermore, ISEM enables every effort that
comes after it, increasing penetration in new markets.
ISEM starts with the careful creation of keywords. Literal
translation does not work for keyword creation, as slang and
local vernacular play a significant role in regional search practices.
The next step involves research into local search engine
In most of the world, the results will all point to one engine:
Google. However, in some countries such as China, a local
search engine will dominate. In these cases, businesses must
learn the algorithms of the local favorite and create the keywords,
ad placements, website content and tags most likely to
Putting them all together
It’s unlikely that any business can drive international prospects to its
landing pages without an integrated marketing campaign. Social
media alone cannot build business abroad.
For example, a retailer who leads prospects to a landing page that
is irrelevant to the ad they viewed sees the impact in lower conversion
rates. If a website fails to use high-quality translation, its search
engine results — as well as conversion rates — will fall.
These problems are solved first by ISEM, and then by an integrated
group of marketing efforts. While there is a lot of international
excitement around social media, the business reality is that these
mediums require resources and effort; they are not quick fixes or replacements
for a missing strategy.
However, when international social media outreach is incorporated
into a larger, more complete marketing campaign, it can be an
effective method for reaching new prospects around the world.
About the Author: Liz Elting is the co-founder and co-CEO of TransPerfect, a family of
companies providing global business services in over 100 languages.