Localisation means more than simply translating your website for foreign audiences – especially if you’re serious about tying your social media efforts in with your overseas sales strategy.
Ensuring that your message – and, by extension, your brand – is consistent across your foreign and domestic social media channels is essential to any serious localisation effort.
But marketers don’t always know how to make the most of social media, particularly in overseas markets. In fact, more than 90 percent of brand marketers consider it at least “somewhat challenging” to reach audiences in local markets with a unified brand message, according to a June 2010 survey conducted by Harris Interactive for social marketing platform Buddy Media.
Less than half of respondents used social media fan pages to reach local foreign markets, and less than one in three used paid social media advertising. Instead, their efforts were focused on infusing websites with local content (69 percent), using print ads (62 percent) and holding event promotions (59 percent).
Their reasons? Difficulty in managing information, engaging users and identifying social media ‘influencers’, and the challenge of keeping fresh local and regional content available.
Globally, the amount of time people are spending on social networking and blogging sites is growing at over three times the rate of overall internet growth, according to Nielsen’s 2009 ‘Global Faces and Networked Places’ report. As people spend more time on social media, they are spending less time on more conventional websites, a fact that makes social media essential to creating an effective overseas presence for your company.
Localisation: Understanding local markets
The first step to understanding social media is getting a sense of how social media is used in the country you are targeting.
For example, although a profile photo is often seen as a way to generate credibility on social sites in Western Europe and North America, in some Eastern countries a cartoon avatar would meet with more approval. Similarly, Westerners are more likely to be willing to ‘Friend’ you on Facebook than people from some Asian countries.
Meanwhile, in some countries it’s acceptable to strike up a friendly rapport with your customers instantly, whereas other cultures, like for example the Japanese, can be more formal and take more time to get friendly.
One useful resource for understanding how people in overseas markets use social media is McCann’s social media survey of 22,729 internet users in 38 countries, ‘Power To The People.’
The report includes a ’10 step programme’ for successful use of social media in local markets. Among the ten steps are:
- Listen to/observe what your target audience is doing with social media.
- Allow users to engage via their preferred platform of choice (e.g. Facebook, Twitter).
- Make it easy for people to share your content, particularly via newsfeeds and Twitter.
- Make sure you have the resources to maintain community management and to refresh the content.
The Nielsen report found that Facebook is the leading social networking site in Australia, Spain, Switzerland, France, the UK and Italy. In Brazil, however, the most popular social site is Orkut. In Japan, Mixi leads the way, while in Germany, Wer-kennt-wen is most popular.
So, research your target markets before developing your overseas social media strategy.
And remember that you can’t simply transfer your Facebook strategy to every country and expect it to work. Employing someone with knowledge of both the local language and customs is probably the best way to ensure that your dealings with overseas customers go smoothly.
Localisation: Search engine localisation
It’s important to combine your SEO and localisation efforts to maximise your chances of overseas success.
In essence, this means that you need to make sure that your localised content is turning up on the search engines that are most popular in your target market. This means looking beyond Google to target local search engines.
In the Czech Republic, for example, you will need to do some SEO for the Seznam search engine. Meanwhile, in Russia, Yandex and Google are neck and neck in the search engine popularity stakes. In China, Baidu outperforms Google as the search engine of choice.
One way you could improve your overseas search engine rankings is to create a specific domain name for that market, using the local language and the relevant country extension (.fr for France, for example). If you decide to do this, make sure to check:
- The meaning of the word you choose (to avoid potential embarrassment)
- Global trademark registrations (to avoid potential legal embarrassment)
Expanding your business into other countries can be an exhilarating experience, but it’s important that your localisation strategy is well thought out beforehand.
To avoid the pitfalls we’ve outlined in this and related articles on localisation, employ professional website translators, remember to learn as much as you can about the culture and customs of your target market and, when your overseas business has grown to a sufficient size, get native speakers on board to help you manage the process.
Localisation: Useful links:-
This article originally appeared in the eBusiness Live newsletter from Enterprise Ireland’s eMarketing Unit and was written by ENNclick.