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How to Localise Your Business’ Social Media Presence

in Blog, Retail and Ecommerce

It’s an inconvenient truth that social media is not a constant. International travel and immersion in different cultures quickly reveals that each nation has its own unique relationship with social channels. And sometimes, this relationship is a restrictive one. For instance, Twitter is banned in Iran, Skype is outlawed in the United Arab Emirates, and Telegram is prohibited in Russia – despite having been invented by Russian siblings.

Understand regional variation

In other countries, variations in the popularity or usage of social media platforms may simply be a matter of preference. For instance, the UK’s favourite messaging tool is currently WhatsApp, whereas the French are more likely to be found on Facebook Messenger. Ukrainians prefer Viber, whereas Ethiopians favour Telegram. The reasons for these differences are largely irrelevant. What matters, particularly when seeking to build brand awareness overseas, is an awareness and understanding of regional variations across social networks.

Because each platform has unique characteristics, a strategy or campaign designed for one won’t necessarily work for all. Twitter’s character limit precludes lengthy dialogue, just as Snapchat’s self-deleting messages can’t be archived or linked to. It’s therefore crucial to localise your social media presence on specific services, as well as acknowledging indigenous cultures and languages. And this generally requires outsourcing social media campaigns to local specialists, who understand the nuances of marketing products or services at regional or national levels.

Create a localisation checklist

These are our tips on how to localise your social media presence:

  • Do your research

Research which channels are popular in new territories you’re planning to target. As explained above, a German marketing campaign might revolve around Facebook, whereas campaigns in Russia are more likely to depend on VKontatke.

  • Adopt nation-specific terminology

Each platform has its own slang and abbreviations, but the same is also true of languages – even the same ones. Think of the differences between US and UK English in terms of cars – hood/bonnet, gas/petrol, stick/manual, etc. Americans wouldn’t understand a British engine tuning company using the phrase “put more power under your bonnet”.

  • Use localised marketing handles

Expanding on the previous point, an easy way to localise your social media presence is by creating multiple handles or hashtags for different audiences. The Myprotein brand, for instance, has a variety of Twitter accounts, each using different hashtags – the US account uses #healthandwellness, whereas ‘wellness’ isn’t a commonly-used word on this side of the Atlantic.

  • Be aware of cultural sensitivities

Certain colours, numbers and symbols have particular resonance in different countries or regions. Purple is indicative of royalty and wealth in Africa, yet it carries associations with mortality throughout South America. On a related note, the number 4 in China is pronounced similarly to the word for ‘death’, which is why many Chinese buildings go straight from the third to the fifth floors.

  • Localise your schedule

Schedule events around key dates in the overseas nation’s calendar. As an example, New Year in the UK is different to Rosh Hashanah in Israel. A social media campaign geared around “new year, new you” should obviously respect these variations. Certain cultural phenomena are unique to certain countries, like Singles Day in China. This is a supersized take on America’s Black Friday shopping events, which have slowly spread around the world (though they’re known as White Friday in the UAE).

Be part of  the conversation

Another important step when planning to localise your social media presence is to engage on each channel by actively taking customer comments on board. If a particular campaign is attracting a negative response, don’t just dismiss this as background noise. Instead, investigate each critical comment, reply to it respectfully, and consider whether there are lessons to be learned for future campaigns.

Perhaps a particular aspect of a social campaign has caused offence – encouraging Catalans to celebrate a Spanish sporting triumph, or failing to acknowledge that residents of Quebec tend to speak French instead of English. These mistakes may be forgiven once if they’re committed by a new market entrant, but the same leeway won’t be granted a second time if warnings are overtly ignored by an established brand.

If cultural variations seem daunting or confusing, speak to one of our experts today, to learn how to localise your social media presence in any country. We’re here to help.



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