International Social Media Marketing – Remember Research Helps!

International-social-media-marketingToday, every brand is a global brand. Customers around the world can access your content, discover and interact with other customers, and add their voice to the conversation about your brand. As a marketer you need to be conscious of the different needs of your audiences. This creates some challenges. How do you meet the needs of an audience that speaks multiple languages? How do you appear responsive when your customers are in several time zones? How do you segment and prioritise your social media efforts?

There’s a definite shift going on in social media at the moment. It comes in the form of a major move from seeing social media as something ‘ad hoc’ and tactical to seeing it as something that needs a framework, a strategy and an overall plan in order to actually deliver on its promises. One element of this is the desire by businesses to make sure that their social media works not just locally, but in every market in which they have a presence.

Facebook has indeed become the most popular social network in many countries, but the overall social media landscape is – even in countries where Facebook is no. 1 – way more interesting than that and Facebook shouldn’t always be the first choice. However, it’s not only choosing the right network that matters. If you want to improve your turnover with the help of international social media marketing, as well as increase your brand’s popularity, you’ll have to get acquainted with the culture of your target audience and take a lot of other things into consideration.

When you take a closer look at the social media landscapes in different countries, it becomes obvious that there are still many important players that marketers haven’t discovered as useful platforms to promote their brand. Although Facebook has 1.155 billion monthly active users and an established leadership position in 127 out of 137 countries. Last months Zuckerberg’s Army lost Latvia to Draugiem, which has 2.6 million registered users. In Russian territories there is a long battle between two main local players V Kontakte and Odnoklassniki. In China QZone still dominates the Asian landscape with 611 million users, followed by Tencent Weibo, Sina Weibo and RenRen. In Iran, where it’s hard to access Facebook due to state censorship, the leader is Cloob.

So, if you want to target certain audiences in a foreign country via social media marketing, you must first decide on which networks you should be active. International social media studies such as Wave 6 from Universal McCann will then tell you how appropriate social media marketing is for your target audience. In the recent study 65.2% of the respondents worldwide stated that they have been active on a social media profile in the last six months. Countries above this average were Brazil 74.3%, Russia 77.1% and China 68.9%, indicating that social media strategies should therefore be effective in these countries.

In principle the same rules apply for foreign audiences, as well as the domestic market, when it comes to content creation. You have to offer your fans and followers something valuable – that is, informative or entertaining content that would connect potential customers with the company. In general, there are a few rules of content creation for global brands. Don’t rely on Google Translate to create local language content. Always use a professional translation service and have a native speaker to check it. If you can use images wherever possible – pictures and graphics are much easier to digest for international audiences and relevance is critical. Local teams are not just your boots on the ground, but they’re your eyes and ears too. Setup regular conference calls or try to make sure teams or representatives meet face to face as often as they can.

There is something that you must keep in mind though, when targeting a foreign language audience: “foreign language” often means that there are cultural differences to be taken into consideration.  With this in mind you should thoroughly research what kind of content is good and what might be problematic. Brands need to be proactive about this and manage it strategically, without stifling innovation or ignoring local needs and nuances.

The management and measurement of these social media channels should also be a consideration. A social media policy is a good opportunity to ensure everyone understands how the organisation uses social media and helps to establish the ground rules for social media marketing. It also helps to clarify the crises procedure, where you can define what constitutes an issue and describes the escalation process.  Measure a global social media programme in the same way you would measure any campaign. Be sure to establish outcomes that reflect your business goals, then Key Performance Indicators to show progress toward those outcomes.

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Transform your 2012 marketing plan into an engaging experience

Going beyond written communication allows your customers to foster a meaningful connection with you. Through, analytics, social, mobile and video, you can transform your 2012 marketing plan into an engaging experience for your customers and a profitable experience for yourself.

Video can truly bring your brand to life.

Forward-thinking companies are utilising video to better position themselves and give customers yet another reason to plug into their brand. Over 40% of consumers watch videos weekly. In addition, videos can significantly improve your SEO results based on Google’s new system. Overall, creating a unique presence through video that increases interaction and drives more conversions. Videos can:

  • Show off your company’s personality and brand identity.
  • Educate your customers on their purchase.
  • Build trust through product videos

Integrate mobile into your strategies.

Mobile presents marketers with a chance to cut through the clutter of other channels and communicate with consumers in a seemingly one-to-one communication. Adding mobile marketing to your mix allows you to develop a multichannel strategy to create long-term customer relationships and increase both retention and sales. Mobile is an untapped opportunity for many to easily capture email opt-ins, offer coupons and utilise QR codes.

Get Social – it’s not about the “hard sell” but a forum to build a brand’s personality.

Your social arm will enable you to monitor customer feedback in real-time as well as forge even stronger relationships with your customers. Through social media, you can easily move a customer into the loyalty stage and continue to consistently engage them in your brand. The goal shouldn’t be solely focused on growing your fans or followers; it should be a balance of growth, relevant engagement and quality interaction. Remember, you want to create advocates, not passive fans.

Invest In Analytics

Measuring the return on investment (ROI) gives insight on which strategies may need improvement or require further investment. You can use analytics as a way of uncovering what drives a customer to take or not to take action. Reporting, analysing and acting in real-time are the keys to propelling sales and seeing an uplift in revenue.

  • Before you begin throwing numbers around, first plan what you want to measure, how often and through what method.
  • When combining social, email and mobile, focus on metrics such as conversions, referrals, time spent and associated revenue to get an accurate measurement
  • Look for subscriber interaction through behavioural targeting. Click-through analysis allows you to build relevant segments based on what content your customers are looking for.

Build brand loyalty and show you genuinely care about the customer!

The first and most critical step to build brand loyalty is making sure your intentions towards customers are actually worthy of their loyalty. By putting customer’s best interests ahead of your brand’s short-term gain, demonstrates you genuinely care about what’s best for customers and your brand shows that it can be trusted.

Put a human face on your brand

Customers now have an instinctive need to know about the true intentions and abilities of the people behind the products and services they buy. High profile business leaders like Steve Jobs and Richard Branson represented their brands in ways that told customers a great deal about what they could expect from their products and services. Real employees, human faces and true stories should be at the forefront of your brand’s interactions with customers. This will make it easier for them to recognise, understand and become loyal to it.

Develop your brand profile

Telling the story of your brand’s background and growth over time helps transform products and services into meaningful stories authored by the people producing them. Fascinating brand profiles are based on the stories of real people, the brand’s creators or employees, giving the brand a human touch that makes it easier for customers to identify with.

Facebook & Twitter

Social Media offers an efficient and accessible way to engage and build relationships directly with customers. Social network accounts can use real employee names and faces, putting an authentic human face on the brand, while also providing lots of opportunities for human interaction. What’s more, these interactions essentially happen in public. With the click of a button customers can share their brand experiences with all of their friends and followers – giving new meaning to building brand loyalty through word of mouth marketing.

Empower employees to foster the brand

Empower employees to simply “do the right thing” for customers whenever company policies seem clearly unfair or likely to destroy a customer relationship. Everything customers encounter related to your brand helps communicates what its intentions and capabilities are. Everything your company does and does not do, everything your company says and does not say – it all communicates something to your customers.

Brand new brand thinking

We live and work in a world overflowing with brands and selling messages. People expect all sorts of items to be presented to them in easily recognisable and identifiable packages. When you launch a new brand identity, you need to exploit every means of communication available to indicate to your community the change it represents, and to win their hearts and minds. Summing up everything that your business stands for in a consistent and recognisable brand is a valuable way of helping to achieve this.

When people think of brands, they often think of logos, jingles, or adverts

These are definitely all outward expressions of brands. But for branding to be successful, these components need to come from a consistent set of beliefs and values. These may be already imprinted on your mind but if not, think about what you want the business to achieve (vision). What beliefs and standards will guide all of your actions (values). What makes you different and special (key differentiators) and in what manner you are going to deliver them all (personality). By making a note of these thoughts, you are creating a plan that will help you, and/or a design and branding agency, to really understand how your business should be communicated through design and writing.

Building your brand’s identity

A brand is so much more than a logo; your logo will be just one part of the many aspects of the brand expression. The expression of your brand will be both visual and verbal, what it looks like, and the kind of words it uses. Visual expressions include the logo, photography, illustrations and fonts. Verbal expressions include your key messages, strapline and written communications (web, prospectus, leaflets). Either way all of these elements of your businesses language and design should work together to present a consistent, unified set of messages to your community about what you stand for. Your visual branding will need to be:

  • Consistent – the same colour palettes, typefaces and design elements should be applied across everything in the same way.
  • Flexible – your designs will have to work over objects of many different sizes, and made of many different materials. They will include everything from pens and mugs, through to badges and signage. They will also need to work well in black and white.
  • Maintained – going forward, you will need to think about who is going to act as your brand’s ambassadors, so that none of its messaging is diluted with the introduction, for example, of colours, designs, typefaces and imagery that are off-brand.

Involving stakeholders

Too many opinions delay the rebranding process and diffuse the focus needed to achieve ROI. Keep those with critical approval authority to an efficient shortlist, and assemble the smallest, most essential project team possible. Include a mix of levels – not just the directors. If however you wish to seek to involve members of the community and staff in the rebrand. There are many different ways to canvas opinion. You, or your design agency, could appoint an external research agency to hold focus groups. These can be helpful, as the views of specific sectors of the community can be sought all in a one-hour session. You could also set up a drop-in surgery. Or you could set up an online research tool, where people can log in and make their views known. Of course, the more people who are involved, the more potential there is for decisions to take longer to reach.

Live the brand

Every time you make contact with an organisation, you form an impression of them. If you get great customer service, you think highly of the business you got it from. Branding has been described as a set of behaviours, which means it’s more about the customer experience. It’s important that you map out your customer journey from the point of first contact to the last. A professionally designed logo and exquisite language will count for nothing if your behaviour and that of your staff is not also deeply rooted in the company’s vision and values. More than anything, it is the behaviour of staff that will impact on your reputation, and build perceptions of your brand. For a brand to be truly successful and undiluted, it needs to be applied consistently and policed for rogue pieces of design and formatting. Managing the consistency of application of the brand should become everyone’s responsibility, and anyone using parts of it should be well acquainted with the brand guidelines!

Market to employees like customers

  • Educate employees about the new brand, and its implications on the company and their work
  • Get leadership on board with key messages that inspire employees to embrace and own the new brand
  • Use engaging events to celebrate a launch
  • Appoint brand ambassadors that manage the application of the new brand within each department
  • View every communication with your employees as an opportunity to embed your brand values in everything employees read and hear.