A Social Culture: The Strategic Importance of Bollywood Gossip

Shah Rukh Khan is one of Bollywood’s most revered megastars. He also represents a strange cultural dichotomy — despite the fact that he’s relatively unknown to Western audiences, Khan has more than 6 million followers on Twitter and Facebook combined.

These staggering numbers got the marketing team at DISH thinking. The satellite TV provider’s Bollywood programming had earned it a significant portion of the South Asian market. But the South Asian demographic was just one element of its global customer base, which encompassed more than 60 distinct cultural groups worldwide.

In the face of such diversity, how could a singular social media presence possibly allow for personalized consumer relationships?

The DISH marketing team realized that a segmented social media strategy would enable them to engage their customers on a deeper level. They launched a Facebook page called “DISH Hindi TV” and packed it with Hindi-language content about DISH’s South Asian programming. Going a step further, the page offers its followers some of Bollywood’s juiciest celebrity news — including the latest on Shah Rukh Khan.

It took less than a month for DISH Hindi TV to reach 22,000 “likes” on Facebook. The number continues to rise every day.

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Social media is an endlessly customizable platform for engaging your customers. The DISH story proves that, when brands segment their social media strategies based on specific cultural context, the payoff can be tremendous.

The Benefits of Culturally-Specific Social Media

Social media humanizes branding. It enables a company to communicate directly with new and potential customers, building the relationships that are so critical for success. However, when a company pushes irrelevant content, it runs the risk of alienating consumers. This is particularly true when your customer base is comprised of diverse cultural groups.

When you create a unique social media strategy for a specific cultural group, you’re doing three important things:

  • Speaking your customer’s native language.
  • Leveraging cultural knowledge (e.g., holidays or Bollywood gossip) to build relationships.
  • Delivering relevant messages that will resonate with your target audience.

Consider Pepsi. In the Middle East and parts of Africa, the company brands itself as Pepsi Arabia. When Pepsi Arabia creates social media content around Eid al-Fitr, a holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, it’s communicating directly with a specific target market in a relevant and respectful way. In doing so, Pepsi bolsters its customer relationships throughout the Arab world.

The strength of a global brand is based on its strength in local markets. Culturally relevant social media is a powerful way to build meaningful relationships across the globe.

Four Rules for Targeted Social Media

Creating a culture-specific social media strategy takes work. Before you devote your resources, analyze your customer base. Take time to understand the various cultural groups who consume your product. Customized social media strategies are most effective for target demographics that are language-dependent and have a strong cultural identity.

Once you’ve decided to move forward, follow these guidelines:

Rule #1: Be authentic and personable to build credibility.

Social media is about creating personal relationships, and the cornerstone of any relationship is authenticity. Look to the U.S. Army as an example. The Army has been purposeful in building authentic relationships across Hispanic, African-American, Asian, and Middle Eastern communities throughout the U.S. In addition to providing information on military careers and benefits tailored to each specific community, the Army sponsors initiatives like the 100 Black Men of America service club and promotes them via targeted social media channels. Doing so helps the Army scale credibility.

Rule #2: Respect cultural traditions and holidays.

Consider Pepsi Arabia and its content around Eid al-Fitr. There is a caveat to creating along these lines: If you pretend to know more than you actually do about a specific culture, you risk your brand equity. Be respectful of cultural traditions, languages, and ways of life. Customers can easily spot a brand that’s trying too hard, so do your research before taking that first step.

Rule #3: Balance brand identity and cultural relevance.

If your brand identity is linked to a specific culture, segmenting your social media strategy may actually be a step backward. Take Louis Vuitton, for example. The company is so deeply associated with French culture that creating a customized Chinese account could dilute the company’s brand equity. Because the majority of Louis Vuitton’s customer base speaks English (either as a primary or secondary language), its choice to maintain a singular voice through social media actually strengthens its brand identity.

Rule #4: Be able to respond to customer inquiries in their language.

You wouldn’t follow a company that tweets in a language you don’t know, and neither would your customers. Keep this simple fact in mind: the NBA Nation tour partners with local Mexico Day celebrations to expand its reach into the Hispanic market. The league uses bilingual marketing professionals to craft messages in Spanish and English. Communicating in the language of your customers is one of the most powerful ways to establish a connection.

Global Potential

The world is getting smaller, and social media allows companies to create relationships with customers in ways that were never before possible. Any real relationship — whether it’s inside or outside the business world — is based on mutual understanding.

Therefore, to truly leverage the power of social media, a company must understand the people who make up its customer base. A cultural understanding of your customer empowers you to deliver meaningful content. When your content is relevant, your brand is relevant — and a brand that’s relevant across cultures has global potential.

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