global social media strategiesThere are 1.73 billion social media users worldwide. By 2017, this number is predicted to reach 2.55 billion, according to SocialMedia Today. Of these users, the fastest-growing and most engaged markets are Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Clearly, social media has great potential to grow your business and boost brand awareness worldwide—and it’s only gaining in popularity.

If you’re thinking—Sign me up!—you’ve got the right mindset. There’s no time like the present to start getting social with your international customers. They’re active and listening, after all.

But hold up just a minute. Global social media requires careful planning. So before you log on to the latest social craze, consider the answers to some important questions.

1.       Do we have enough time and capacity?

Social media is a 24/7 gig. Audiences want and expect information now, not later. While this is certainly challenging at any level, the difficulty of meeting real-time needs escalates with global social media. Various time zones come into the mix, and important news or uproars surrounding your company could break while you sleep.

Because of this, be sure you have enough support staff, ideally in each country you have a presence in, to help field customer inquiries or address issues at any time.

This commitment of time and teams to social media can mean the difference between an engaged audience who sings your praises and a disgruntled crowd who spreads complaints like wildfire.

2.       How does global social media fit into our overall business strategy?

Just like with all your international marketing initiatives, it is important to understand how global social media fits into the bigger business strategy. You don’t want to sign up for the latest social media platform—only to find later that all the time and energy you’ve put into it has produced little return. You can avoid this by doing your homework to lay the groundwork for your program.

Research where your target audiences hang out online and the type of content they prefer. For example, South Korean audiences’ primary social media use centers more on videos and blogging. This knowledge can help you understand which types of content to use to make your campaigns all the more effective in each region. Social channels range in popularity across cultures, too. While Twitter may make sense for engaging your South Korean audiences, VKontakte may be a better channel for reaching your Russian fans due to its wide use there.

Doing this region-specific research helps give you needed insight to ensure that global social media will fit within—and help you achieve— your overarching global business goals.

3.       Can we effectively engage with audiences in their native language?

Of course, if you want to talk with your international customers, you’ll need to speak in their native language. But just because you have someone on staff who claims to be fluent in the target language doesn’t mean that’s the right route to go. Why? You want native-speaking, in-country social media marketing experts who know your brand interacting with your customers on social channels. Not only do these professionals know what to say, but also how to say it to make the most impact.

Jumbled or poorly attempted translations can put your brand at risk—and we all know that public translation mistakes can travel fast. So before you tap multilingual employees for the job, be sure they’re qualified. Check out Spotlight on language quality: How in-country linguists shine to understand whether or not you have the right people set up to handle your global social media outreach.

4.       Do we have enough in-country expertise?

It’s not enough to simply know the language. In-country expertise can be the edge you need to make your tweets, blog posts, videos and more worth sharing. To truly connect with target audiences, your social managers should be immersed in the target culture so they can take cultural nuances and design custom, locale-specific social media campaigns that will resonate with locals.

5.       Is the budget there?

Whether you’re working with an outside partner or hiring additional staff members to manage your global social media efforts, you need to factor cost into your plan. Social media interactions can explode overnight, and you may find that you have more and more content to keep up with. If you don’t have the budget resources to help translate all this, you risk neglecting important concerns and losing credibility with your global customers.

If you work with a language service provider, like Sajan, they can help you understand the most cost-effective and productive way to manage your translation efforts. That starts with setting you up with strategies that help you handle any content fluctuations while keeping budget under control.

Global social media requires a lot of strategic planning to successfully execute it. But without a doubt, the extra time you spend upfront will pay off exponentially in the long run.

If you’re ready to get started, check out this best practice brief: 5 tips for kicking off your international social media program with machine translation.

Do you have a global social media strategy? How is your international strategy different from your social media programs in your home country?