As the worldwide social network community now totals more than 1.2 billion people, marketers are having a difficult time managing and engaging global audiences with their social media marketing efforts.
This task can be quite overwhelming. It not only includes the effort of building and maintaining multiple profiles, but also requires maintaining consistency in brand messaging, design, and the overall voice. Social content and communications must make sense to people in a particular region, but must also match your brand's true identity.
In some organizations, regional offices are responsible for setting up their social media profiles. Such an endeavor requires full-time management, monitoring, and the usual practice of any daily social media exercise. Marketers must take an organized approach, and ensure that efforts work toward an overarching global strategy.
Defining a Global Strategy
Remember, your brand is unique. What one company does globally, you will never be able to do the same successfully. While it's important to be unique, you must also be effective with your global positioning. An example: think about how your company operates outside of the U.S. For example, I work for an organization whose core audience is based in the U.S. However, we operate offices in more than six other countries. A global approach is needed to help the brand stand out and match up with overall marketing initiatives.
Our brand is unique, in a sense, where each region has particular content that is key to its territory. For example, the U.K. has specific content that may not matter as much or be as important to the U.S. audience. Or our Swedish region might have completely different content than what is being pushed out compared to any region. And sometimes, the brand might have global campaigns, so that might require all territories to be in sync and match up where necessary.
You can see my point: each territory requires nurturing. Our organization has nearly 30 social media profiles that are used for engagement with customers. They are divided among the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Sweden, France, and Germany. Each requires its own team to create content, engage with customers, and strategize monthly campaigns, both on a regional basis and global level. At the same time, the need always exists to create more evergreen global strategies that affect each region at times as well. You could see how this would spell the need for the social media manager in each territory, and one "leader" in the role "corralling all the horses," so to speak.
Understanding the Benefits of a Global Approach
The benefits of implementing a global strategy are numerous. Beyond just expanding your fans globally, you are able to tactfully engage given territories with content that suits their needs and serves them in a way that will make them want to convert in some manner with your brand.
In addition, you're creating multiple profiles that engage users globally and seeding more of your brand's content throughout the web, outside of just the United States. This draws on the benefit of global search engines, with content that could include editorial, videos, photos, or any other continuous social content you are creating globally.
Don't Worry, You're Not the Only One
You've read this far and now you are saying, "Sh#t, we need to fix this ASAP!" Or something maybe a little bit more tame. Either way, don't worry. You still have time; the majority of companies have yet to figure this out. The report, "2011 Variance In The Social Brand Experience" found that 34 percent of marketers surveyed said they have not developed fully integrated strategies for social media, while another 23 percent said they are developing social media strategies, but execution is a struggle.
If your brand needs to go through this exercise, just step back and start the progression forward. Think baby steps, and start with mapping out reasons why you need to expand globally in your strategy and then execute from there.
Ask yourself and your team these three questions:
1. Are we telling a bigger story?
2. Is there consistency to it?
3. Are we connecting the dots?
Try to focus less on products and campaigns and focus instead on creating dialogs with multiple communities globally. This should be a constant communication strategy, globally or locally.
Use a Global Platform
If you are ready for this step and start to push out multiple communities around the globe, make them accessible via a centralized point, or main site. Often for multiple Facebook pages, a brand will use the main brand page to extend links to other global sites off that page. You can use this same strategy on your home page or website as well when linking to key global properties. Some brands also use management systems that combine all their global fans onto one Facebook page, but serve up different content depending on the entry location, usually geographically. This can be a great tactic if your brand message is easily focused and doesn't require too much nurturing.
Create a team in multiple offices that communicates with each other and follows similar practices and brand themes. This include designs, messaging, campaigns, dialogs, measurement, monitoring, etc. Create a platform that can be easily used by multiple offices globally.
Think of it in this manner with a centralized team structure:
Having a unified team will create stronger collaboration and a better determiner for what works and what doesn't.
Use Country Specific Social Networks
The United States is not the center of the social media universe. It's important to know the numbers for your key markets. A good example is China, an emerging social media market in its own right, which has its own rules inside the country and often owns social networks that most people here would not ever think of. Russia, India, and Brazil are also emerging socially-enabled territories. Facebook is not the only property where people are engaging with each other. Understand other properties and plan out a proper plan of attack for each.
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Nick Cifuentes is the global social media director at Ancestry.com, the world's largest online resource for family history, with 2 million paying subscribers as of July 2012. An industry veteran, Nick has worked in digital media and marketing since 2004, functioning in strategy, copywriting, analytics, search, planning, online media, and social media. He is a frequent guest writer on various industry blogs, and publishes his own blogs as well, including one focusing on digital media, and another on his side passion, ultramarathon running.