describe the imageThe ever-expanding global economy has probably affected your business in at least one way. Many businesses are seeing increased customer interactions from foreign countries, representing a huge opportunity to tap into a larger market.

The problem though, is how do you represent your brand via social media in a different country and possibly in a different language? It’s well documented that social media is a necessity for any brand, especially if you’re implementing Inbound Marketing; there would be a huge disconnect in your strategy if you employed Inbound Marketing but only reached out to a portion of your customer base via social media. An active international social media presence is a must, but you must go about it correctly in order to get results and not tarnish your brand with weak or ineffective attempts.

Know Where Your Targets Are – Physically and Virtually

Let’s start with the basics. You need to know where your target audience is located before you think about starting with an international social media strategy. If you have no idea where the majority of your international targets are located, start with your website analytics. Google Analytics, for instance, can tell you the country, city, language, and internet browser information that visitors to your site are using. You can also see what social network you’re getting the most traffic from by individual countries. For example, you may see a lot of users from the U.K. navigating to your site from Twitter while users from Mexico are almost exclusively going through Facebook.

Knowing where your customers are located physically is especially important in the case of China. China has certain restrictions on the internet uses of its citizens, in particular social media. Instead of Facebook and Twitter, the Chinese have Renren and Baidu. Facebook and Twitter restrictions have been lifted in parts of China, but much of the country is without those key social networks.

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Decide If You Need To Create Country-Specific Accounts

Here’s where you’re going to make the biggest decision regarding your international social media push. Do you want to have multiple social media accounts across the same network or just one main account? If you already see a large number of foreign visitors coming through and interacting with your native account, you’re probably fine just sticking with that account and posting in multiple languages.

However, if you’re not having much luck you’ll want to create a specific account for a different country/language. There are two main reasons to do this: First, customers in different countries might have a totally different set of questions and needs for your product than your customers in the U.S. And, secondly, the language barrier might be too much for many of your international countries, inhibiting your social media SEO and engagement.

You may already see traffic from other countries on your existing English-language social media accounts. If this is the case, you may not want to create a whole new account because it could segment your audience and possibly cause you to lose a few fans/followers along the way.

For instance, a manufacturing company I used to work for had a pretty good Spanish-speaking following on Facebook. We primarily had English language posts on the page, but the Spanish-speaking following was growing.  Instead of creating a new page aimed at our Spanish-speaking friends, we simply responded to their posts in Spanish. Some of the English-speaking crowd wasn’t too happy about this so we started translating those Spanish posts into English so everyone could join in on the conversation.

What’s Your Capacity And Budget?

It doesn’t make sense to create multiple social media accounts if you can’t maintain them all. Make sure your team has the capacity to keep an eye on all of the accounts. You’re much better off having a few targeted and active accounts than trying to please every market with social media accounts instead of delivering any value to users.

Your budget comes into play when it comes to language translations and posts. Do not use Google Translate for creating posts in a foreign language! You know how bad it looks when a brand does a terrible job translating something into English, so don’t make the same mistake with your foreign audience. It’s best to hire a native speaker to either write or translate your posts for targets in that country. Unless you have employees in that country, this won’t be free, but it’s well worth the effort and cost to avoid a social media catastrophe.

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Write Specific, Original Content

It’s easy to just blast the same posts across all your social media profiles, but that doesn’t provide much value to your target audience. Instead, tailor your posts to pain points and areas of interest specific to each location. If you have no idea where to start, look at profiles of other companies in your industry and see what they’re posting. Your sales team is another great resource, especially if they’ve sold your product/service overseas. If those two options aren’t available, my best advice is to post about what you’re most knowledgeable about and comfortable posting. Over time, you’ll find topics that users engage with more than others so you can better tailor your approach.

Visual content is great for international social media. As long as there isn’t text in your photos or spoken audio in your videos, it’s probably something anyone can understand. Visual content is also some of the most sought-after and most shared media across all social networks.

Don’t Give Up

Social media can be beyond frustrating. You’re going to want results overnight, but be patient. Your foreign presence will take time to grow but chances are far better if you’re consistent with your efforts. Penetrating a new market isn’t easy, but hard work through social media will pay off eventually if you offer the right type of content.

The Conclusion

If you’re thinking about an international social media presence, first find out who to target and where they are. This will stop you from shotgunning your efforts all over the place. A well-maintained and executed social media approach will get results, but you must go about it correctly and take the steps to avoid tarnishing your image.

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