Developing a social media strategy can be tricky enough, especially when there are many stakeholders involved, multiple departments that want to have their piece of the pie and challenging targets to hit. Those challenges step up a notch when those stakeholders speak different languages to you, are in different time zones, have their own agendas but, at the same time, want to ensure the brand has a consistent presence across all of its territories.
Here are our top five tips on how to tackle an international social media strategy.
1. Get your ducks in a row
Always start by appraising what you've got. This means taking each country, tracking the conversation around the brand and auditing the social accounts that currently exist. You might find that you end up uncovering hundreds of unauthorised Facebook pages with the brand logo, or a rogue ex-employee who refuses to give up the password to a corporate twitter account. Even though it is a hefty process, it is important to appraise the brand's social presence from top to bottom.
As it's unlikely that you'll speak each of the languages that the brand is present in, you may need help from native speakers to get an understanding of what people are talking about. Start tracking conversation around your brand with a simple Boolean query in a social listening tool (Topsy is a great free one, but paid platforms provide more data). Make this as query broad as possible to capture the biggest range of queries, for example:
"brand name" OR "twitter handle(s)" OR www.brand.com
Some listening tools, such as Brandwatch, will allow you to filter those mentions by territory. This is really helpful if you have a brand name that is consistent across your countries.
Once you have this data, it's useful to find out where discussion is happening on each platform, as well as the most common words associated with the brand in each country. This is where native translation support is incredibly helpful. If you don't have the resource or the budget to pay for it, Google Translate can give you the gist of how people are talking about the brand, but a native speaker is always going to give you the context i.e. "Oh yes, that's a metaphor we use for having a terrible day".
2. Understand your audience
You will soon realise that if you have multiple social networks being managed by multiple people in multiple countries, there will be major disparity in the content produced. Some of this content might work well, but some of it might not - and you'll have no real way of knowing whether this is sheer luck or whether people are truly engaged. You're also unlikely to know whether this content is actually resulting in any meaningful interaction with the brand i.e. leading to some kind of conversion.
The best way to figure out what people want, we find, is to just ask them. We use a mixture of surveying tools to ask thousands of people across multiple territories what they want from a brand like yours, and we also ask customers too. "What do you want from me" is never a bad question!
Start with Mosaic or audience profiles that you've had created in the past, apply this to your audiences in each country then find out what motivates them, where they live online and what type of content they want from you.
In consolidating all of this information into one place, you'll quickly be able to identify the nuances between your customers in each country. Perhaps your audiences in France are more price-conscious than those in Brazil? Perhaps your customers in Peru prefer short snappy videos and hate infographics?
3. Empower the local markets
Your wealth of information will make you feel like you have the master plan. The worst thing you could do would be to enforce said master plan without feedback from the local markets. It's always worth running the insights past these local teams and ask them how they interpret them. From then, you should work collaboratively to determine the best way to tackle social media for each region.
There is great value in centralising efforts to some degree. If there is content that can be localised to individual markets, or a campaign initiative that worked brilliantly in Norway and could benefit the UK, central sharing of this information is massively beneficial. This doesn't have to be complex, a shared spreadsheet with content dropped in by each country encourages the sharing of assets. As long as there's a style guide and tone of voice governing all content, your markets have just had a whole new world of content dropped on their laps - an exciting prospect when they may have been scratching their heads at 3pm on a Thursday, wondering what content to produce.
4. Don't go broad brush
It's easy to suggest focusing entirely on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube because in most countries, they're the biggest social networks. You should always consider the nuances of each territory and how that platform works. Whether it's leveraging Tuenti in Spain or VK in Eastern Europe, these channels are massively used. Brush up on how they can be best used by brands, work with the local markets to understand how to use them.
It's also vital to familiarise yourself with the regulatory nuances from territory to territory. Don't assume that laws around social media in one country are the same as another.
In many countries, specific social networks are very heavily regulated or even banned completely.
Turkey, China, Iran, Pakistan and Vietnam, for instance, all have strict guidelines on access to social networks and video content but many people within those countries have found loopholes to access them. Vietnam, for example has strictly censored the usage of Facebook but the block is an easy one to bypass and many residents of Vietnam are prolific users of the social network. If your marketing efforts are targeted in countries where these restrictions are in place, do your research on social network censorship and the level of access people have; it may be that your marketing budgets are better spent elsewhere.
5. Centralise reporting
Centralising your reporting efforts will help you to understand who is excelling and who is struggling. It means that you can see the countries where things are working, the challenges that regions are facing and the impact it is having with one overall view. Most social networks aren't set up for centralised reporting just yet, so pulling your data through a 3rd party tool such as Brandwatch is a good way to get a central view of all social accounts and how they're performing,
An expensive, but effective way to understand the value of activity in Facebook is the creation of a global Facebook presence. For a brand to qualify for this it has to be spending over a certain threshold with Facebook but for those brands already spending, you most likely should have a global page. Put simply, it means you can continue to have local pages, run by local managers but the group of pages is collected under a global brand or account. It means you can share fan counts (a nice vanity thing to have - particularly as it inflates how strong your presence is in a small country, solidifying your authority) but critically, it also gives you centralised Facebook Insights, with a top-level view of performance across all countries, that can be easily drilled into per-country, without the need to log into each of your territory pages.
It's by no means an easy feat to bring multiple countries together under one brand presence and to keep the messaging consistent. When it comes to overseeing global social, the very worst thing you could do is make sweeping assumptions about in-country nuances, languages and people. Work with those countries, trust their expertise and put in the hard yards to understand exactly how people feel about your brand in those countries and how they want you to communicate with them. Unless you speak every language and have an innate knowledge of the cultures you're targeting, hate to break it to you, but you can't do this alone.
I'd love to hear about your own experiences of building and managing a multi-territory social media strategy - comments always welcome in the box below.