If you have a following on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve got international social media covered. After all, the social media giants are everywhere, and web translation tools let everyone join in. Right?
This is true to some extent, but it’s not the whole story. Building meaningful customer relationships on an international scale needs a better approach than just hoping the right people will just show up.
Give your international social media presence a boost with these guidelines.
Know Your International Audience
Forget the scatter-gun approach of randomly firing out your message. You need to know who you want to reach overseas before you start communicating with them. After all, you won’t necessarily be targeting people just like you.
Who is your intended audience? Which countries in particular do you want to build a network in? Once you identify this, you’ll be able to focus your multilingual marketing on specific languages and geographic regions. You will also be able to take cultural difference on board, rather than expecting your audience to adapt.
Be Serious About The Language
It’s easy to get side-tracked by tools that promise to translate your message into every known language. But when you are building a reputation, you can’t afford the comical results that can result. Here’s why it pays to get serious about translation:
First you need a message that makes sense to your readers in their own language. If there’s something ‘off’, it’s going to be hard to build trust. That something could be poor grammar, spelling mistakes, the wrong synonym or even being too formal. For the small cost involved, a professional translation service can be invaluable here.
Second, you need your message to actually reach your audience. Choose keywords that work in your foreign market – whether its popular hashtags for your tweets, or keywords that give your YouTube video visibility. In some cases they will need to be translated, making it important to find the best fit. In others, the English word might be commonly used in another country, (e.g. technical terms in Germany). Google Trends is your friend in pinpointing what keyword to use where. Enter a term in the search box and it will not only show you its popularity but also regional interest on a world map.
For instance below is the trend of the topic of this article, International Social Media:
Strike The Right Note
Remember that social media networks are typically places where colloquial language is appropriate. However, what’s acceptable varies from one country to another. For instance the friendly manner that works for your network in New Zealand could be considered disrespectful in some Asian cultures.
Even within a country, the language you would use for college-age Koreans might be completely wrong for a fifty-something business contact in the same city. Consult a native speaker to make sure you get it right.
Show Up In The Right Places
Social media spans a range of communication technologies. Once you know who your target audience is, consider what types of message is most likely to engage them. Video can still make an impact, and pairing your words with eye-catching images tempts people to learn more.
Your next choice is which platform will work best for your overseas markets, particularly non-English ones. The largest social networks promote themselves as international but they don’t rule everywhere. Show up where your audience hangs out, whether that’s Orkut, Renren, or Cyworld.
The social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter could still be your best choice for many countries. Where this is the case, resist the urge to target multiple audiences and languages from a single account. One account per language or country might seem like more work, but will cause less confusion – and you’ll come across as more professional.
Keep It Relevant
Now you can turn your attention to that all important question: how to grab your audience’s attention? Keep an eye on trending topics internationally and consider how you can add to the discussion in a way that promotes your brand. Services such as What The Trend and YouTube Trends let you see what people around the world are talking about right now.
Bear in mind that what people are searching for can differ from the ‘official’ term. Again, Google Trends can be help you not only to monitor what’s hot and where, but also which words people are actually using to describe the trend.
Take Time To Respond
Ever been cornered by a bore who speaks at you without giving you a chance to join in? I bet you made a quick exit. Even the most fascinating topic loses its appeal when it’s a one-way conversation.
Interaction drives social media. Engaging people in discussion in their own language is a great way to build relationships. Make a point of answering questions and be especially ready to respond to negative feedback.
Use social media to show your foreign-language markets that they matter. With time and effort, you can turn a loyal international following from a dream to reality.
[Image: Visible Earth, NASA]