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What Social Media Can't Do for International Marketing

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • Six best-practices for international social media marketing
  • How to maximize results when marketing to an international audience via social media

By using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, and other social media, organizations can engage prospects, promote deals, encourage brand loyalty, and feed traffic to their websites—increasing the likelihood of gaining conversions and boosting profits. Marketing professionals might therefore be hard-pressed to find the downside of social media interaction.

However, a marketer's social media play gets significantly more complicated when she engages on such platforms in multiple countries and in scores of languages.

That's not to say that internationally focused companies should neglect social media. Tweets, Facebook status updates, blogs, and YouTube videos can be valuable elements of strategic, integrated marketing campaigns.

Follow these six best-practices to ensure the greatest return on investment in localized social media.

1. Start with international search engine marketing (ISEM)


Keywords are everything. That is true domestically, and it is true internationally.

Before you build a blog for China, or produce YouTube videos in French, or start tweeting in Spanish, do your keyword homework. Assign adequate resources to researching target markets and building keyword lists that will resonate with customers and search engines in those regions.

That work requires an awareness not only of regional dialects and colloquial speech but also of the algorithms of locally preferred search engines.

2. Social media cannot save a poor marketing campaign

For all the hype surrounding social media marketing, it can't carry an otherwise-lackluster marketing effort.

International outreach should be a multipronged effort, including ISEM practices, targeted pay-per-click ads, relevant landing pages, multilingual rich media, adapted banner ads, out-of-home advertising, experiential marketing with people on the ground, philanthropic community involvement, and events, such as launch parties and networking functions.

To avoid disappointment in your social media effort, view it as one piece of many that comprise a whole campaign.

3. Social media requires local hires

Relying on machine translation might be a fast, cheap way to localize content from afar, but it fails to deliver in traditional marketing, and it can turn into a real mess in social media, which requires ongoing, authentic engagement.

Find a local translation expert who is aware of international messaging, cultural norms, local news, and search-engine parameters. Rely on that person to drive social media interaction in the targeted market.

4. Social media is not a one-and-done activity

The beauty of social media is that it enables a marketer to connect directly to a prospect. The challenge of social media is that such connections work best when cultivated over time and in an ongoing, conversational form, rather than a quick-hit broadcast.

Blogs need fresh, relevant content, preferably several times per week. Twitter streams must be fed multiple times per day, and customer tweets should be answered promptly. Facebook walls need to be monitored and updated.

Those are ongoing tasks that require seasoned translators who can devote time to content creation and social media management.

5. Recognize when social media works and when it doesn't

Some markets reap vast ROI from strategic investment in social media. Others do not. If your domestic audiences do not respond well to your efforts on social-media platforms, carefully consider whether your outcomes will be different internationally.

6. Best-practices in localization span platforms

The marketing community is excited about advances in social media campaigns, and for good reason. More than ever before, marketers can directly cultivate new customer bases and rapidly increase brand awareness.

Internationally, social media success hinges on the same sound strategies that support other campaigns. A foundation of ISEM and expert translation are both key to engagement on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.

With a comprehensive marketing operation to support it, a social media campaign can resonate in any language.

(Image courtesy of Bigstock, A Young Man.)


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Liz Elting is a co-founder and the CEO of TransPerfect/Translations, a family of companies providing global business services in over 100 languages.

LinkedIn: Liz Elting

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  • by Jennifer Kelly. Tue Nov 1, 2011 via web

    Liz, thanks for bringing up point number 3.
    Any further tips on how to convince a client that the cost of hiring translators is worth it for an effective and on-brand campaign?

    I often hear "we'll just use Google Translate" or "someone in the international offices who know the local language and know English will translate for us."

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