Social Media Best Practices for Global & Multinational Business Footprints - Part One.

My online career began way back when Sony DiscMans still roamed the Earth – in 1994. One of many sermons we preached in those days is that by developing a website, you could reach a <shouts> "GLOBAL CUSTOMER BASE." </shouts>. At that time, the world was still very big conceptually. Digital communications was still in its infancy, and large businesses and brands that constructed a digital presence did so in a cautiously optimistic manner.

When my colleagues and I sat around talking shop and trying to figure out this new medium,  we understood the potential of marketing on a global level. But we were naïve to think we had a clue about the best way to actually engage and differentiate messaging within this planetary possibility.

The first timid adoption of this notion was typically in the form of tiny little flag icons integrated with the universal navigation. They were the gateway to a full-fledged website blown out in that particular given language. Some businesses would step up to the plate and do just that, while others would create obscenely large graphics that told you to call a toll-free number with a multilingual operator who is "standing by."

However that model went out the window with Monica Lewinsky's 15 minutes of fame. 

"It’s almost crucial to be multilingual in 2014. English is not the only language of business, and it is important to communicate with customers and potential customers in their native language. Having to hire people in each county is difficult and expensive, which is why we’ve built Transfluent, a service that provides access to over 50,000 translators in 100 languages around the world, 24/7.

Rather than having you to communicate with a translation agency, which tends to be slow and tedious, we’ve integrated the service directly to the tools businesses most commonly use. I honestly think the holy grail of conquering global business is being able to really connect with customers - not just through a static website, but through dialog that happens in social media and via email and chat."  ~ Jani Penttinen | CEO & founder, Transfluent

Even now, when our perception of the planet's size has shrunk to that of a basketball, the willingness for an actual global business methodology is often seen as an unnecessarily daunting task. Now more than ever, you should go back to the drawing board and assess where your brand should be positioned at a global level. I'm not insinuating that all business and brands need to have a global footprint. But what is necessary is to determine whether you should or should not construct the proper model.

Naturally, as it always does in business, it breaks down to the goals and objectives of your particular organization.

  • Do you have office outside the United States? Even if the vast majority of your clients are within the United States, what percentage of them are Hispanic or non-English speaking? If answering those questions reveals an emerging market external to the United States, have you crafted a mission,  services and products, and marketing message to meet and speak to that geographical audience?
  • Do you have specific goals (sales, customer service, etc.) that are specific to your unique region and globally? This is important because it can change the channels through which you speak to your audience in. Not all media, social and/or otherwise, is appropriate for all locations.

 Let's dig a little deeper with this thinking:

  • Have you done your due diligence against the demographic of that particular country or area? Has the female to male ratio changed? 
  • What cultural differentiations are there in your consumer?
  • If you're looking at a particular country as an emerging market, also look to see if there are any regionally specific social networks or trending online properties that would be appropriate platforms for your message.
  • PLEASE NOTE: Take time to research the proclivity for mobile usage in your expansion area, and the affinity for specific applications that might not be used as frequently in North America.
  • Take time to dive into your web traffic and analytics as best as possible with any country you don't currently serve. See when the largest amount of activity is occurring. You may find that the vast majority of your traffic prefers your standard "English" website and sees no defined need for regionally specific content. Such is often the case with industries that are based in the United States but serve location such as but not limited to:
    • Canada
    • United Kingdom
    • South Africa
    • Australia
    • New Zealand  as well as other countries where English is the first language or a high-ranking secondary language
  • Depending on the industry, many countries consider English as their primary business. Therefore, in some instances it might be better off to utilize one primary digital entity that is an English-speaking brand, and break out in emerging markets with in their applicable language. Do not be assumptive in this process, and make sure that you have 'buy-in' from all of your departments and markets as it pertains to a decision at this level.
  • See if your training, educational directives and campaign directives are uniquely in-line with one another globally, or are they unique to the geographical area. Often you will find that specific directives are being made in a country/language due to the ebb and flow of particular products and their level of need in that area.
  • Also look to see if there any unique pain points, industry trends or blossoming consumerization within a given country or language. Often these moments are short-lived, but they can be a grand opportunity to tap into in order to leapfrog interest.
  • Take time to vigorously research your brands to ensure that your approach is culturally sensitive. You may find that the voice of your brand is not conducive or well-received in a particular country due to its cultural mannerisms. Should you find this to be the case craft an addendum to your brand guidelines as a pertains to that specific country language and or region.
  • Lastly, it's incredibly important to understand the varying nature of languages as a whole. Take time to weigh the online popularity of the given language before you submit too much manpower to it. For instance, you may find that Portuguese would be better served than a standard Spanish dialect.

Part two of this series will take a look at mechanics and elements that make up content development for a global social media presence. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on the above list to see what I might have missed – as well as the addition of your expert input.