There's no doubt that building and keeping a good reputation in Asia has its challenges. However, the rewards can be great so it's well worth getting to grips with the different aspects of online reputation management for your Asian market.
If a market matters to you, the language of that market needs to matter too. Dealing with Asian customers means being ready to communicate in Asian languages. It's not going to be good enough to "get by," either. Your reputation is built on every exchange you have with a customer and every opinion of your business that is shared with others. Leave aside the temptation to take short-cuts and make those exchanges as professional as possible. There's simply too much at stake to risk the confusion or offence that can result from a poorly-translated sentence.
If you need to hire staff to manage your Asian-language communication, assess their skills carefully. Take the time to ensure any claims of written and spoken "fluency" measure up, or better still choose a native speaker to be sure nothing is lost in translation. Countries that have more than one linguistic identity (a common scenario across Asia) will need special consideration. Research your market well to make informed and up-to-date language-related choices.
You're not alone if you've ever had a laugh at the expense of a business that slipped up in cross-cultural product branding. It's the kind of thing that can get you noticed, true, but for all the wrong reasons. Those companies didn't do their homework and their reputation suffered. Researching your market shows respect for your customer, and respect is of course a key theme in Asian cultures.
A cultural faux-pas can do as much reputational damage as a linguistic one. Also, as a Westerner you may find that Asian clients and contacts won't draw attention to your cultural slips. Without feedback, you can end up thinking nothing's wrong. Meanwhile, your business reputation suffers. Native speakers can help you to negotiate this difficult cultural terrain with their instinctive knowledge.
If this sounds daunting and you are tempted to stick with doing what works in your home market, think again. It's a strategy that could leave you standing on the sidelines. Instead, take a tip from Pushkar Sane and aim to spend some time in Asia to familiarize yourself with the kind of people you want to target. Pay attention to differences between the behaviors and expectations of the younger generation as well as the older one. You may discover that you need to brand your product differently for the diverse Asian markets to gain customer loyalty. Knowing who you are dealing with and what they want from you will make marketing campaigns more effective. On the other hand, go into this blindly and you risk being seen as irrelevant, wasting your own time and effort.
Do you care about your customers? I'm sure everyone will answer yes to this one, but when those customers or business partners are separated from you by language and geography it can be difficult for them to know that they matter to you.
You can let them know you care about their opinions and experiences by being available to them. Local and real-time support are one place to start. Again, first do your research and find out how your customers want to communicate with you. Instant messaging is popular in China and South Korea (particularly for men), compared to our preference for emails in the West. According to Dr. Matt McDougall of SinoTech, 62 percent of Chinese internet users used instant messaging in 2010, compared to just 29 percent in the United States.
You can also meet your Asian customers on their online "home turf" by knowing where they prefer to interact. Keep up to date with social media marketing trends in Asia to find out whether you should be investing your time on Tencent rather than Twitter or on Mixi rather than Facebook. Social media is a powerful way to become part of the conversation, not only boosting a good reputation but minimizing damage by responding to negative feedback. This makes a presence in the right places essential. After all, nobody is going to recommend a company that appears to ignore concerns or leaves questions unanswered.
In short, good reputations begin with thorough research. Once built, they are maintained by staying connected and responding in the right way, at the right time, and via the right channels. Get this right and you could be on your way to becoming a trusted brand in Asia.
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Christian Arno is the founder of translation services provider Lingo24, Inc. Launched in 2001, Lingo24, Inc. now has more than 200 employees spanning four continents and clients in more than 60 countries. Follow Lingo24, Inc. on Twitter: @Lingo24.
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