International Social Media: Engaging with Local Audiences

One of the newest, yet toughest, challenges for global brands is handling their international social media presence effectively. And while being unsuccessful in engaging with potential customers around the world is annoying, failing to respond to their needs or complaints in a timely manner may seriously undermine a brand’s reputation.

But how to define a successful social media strategy for international audiences? In principle, there are two approaches to social media localisation, both with pros and cons. Let’s look at each approach in detail.

Defining a Global Social Media Plan for Your Brand

When dealing with international social media, many brands choose a centralised strategy, either by geo-targeting content from one single, global account, or by creating country-specific profiles that are managed at a corporate level. This approach allows strict control over messaging and tone of voice, as each single post or comment can be planned and adjusted according to the brand guidelines.

Having multiple layers of control is undoubtedly wise if you want to play it safe and avoid embarrassing social media fails. However, this solution will drastically reduce the brand’s response time to users’ interactions.

For this reason, some brands opt for a localised strategy, with as many independent account managers as the number of target countries. This kind of approach allows a prompt reaction to unexpected requests or complaints, as well as joining trending conversations to connect the brand with the local community.

Nevertheless, despite any time savings gained by handing over responsibilities to local social media agencies, you’ll risk speaking with dozens of different voices and thus missing out on the chance to develop a consistent brand identity worldwide.

So what is the best strategy to meet international social media challenges? To answer this question, it is necessary to understand the four basic rules of mastering social media marketing on a global scale.

1- Research: Getting the Platform Right

First things first. Before asking yourself how to manage your international social media accounts, you must know which platforms are most popular among your customers in each target market.

This means finding a reliable source, for example, and looking into current data and forecasts about the global social media landscape. This also includes platforms you probably won’t be familiar with – such as Tencent QQ, QZone and Tencent Weibo, the leading social networks in China, or the Russian platforms vKontakte and Odnoklassniki.

Only after researching the global digital market and customer behaviour can you start to develop a social media strategy for your brand.

2- Plan: Being Relevant and Consistent Worldwide

Social media isn’t all about real-time marketing. As with your domestic accounts, it’s worth creating editorial calendars for international social profiles, so that translators and copywriters can review the topics you are going to cover before translating the actual content.

Why is this necessary? Having the editorial calendar approved by in-market linguists ensures you craft pieces of content that are relevant to the target market and, above all, avoid humiliating mistakes due to cultural ignorance.

Native-speaker linguists will also make sure your tone is appropriate and on brand.  This helps you to establish a strong, consistent brand voice in any market, which is key to building relationships with your international audience on social media.

3- Listen: Scaling Social Listening and Moderation

When it comes to managing social media at scale, another critical point is social listening. Nowadays, there are plenty of social media monitoring tools that make it easier to track mentions and brand-related conversations, if these are in your language.

However, with global social media everything gets more complicated, since measuring the sentiment around your brand and replying to comments appropriately requires a strong command of your customers’ language.

Here again, getting some help from in-market linguists is instrumental, both to identify key terms to track locally, and to recognise any potential threats to your brand’s reputation.

4- Empower: The Importance of Being Nimble

According to Econsultancy, more than 50% of consumers expect to receive a response to a query on social media in less than two hours. Therefore, it is crucial for brands to have a lean workflow in place that allows a quick and effective response in any market.

Local country or language managers must be trained carefully and empowered to engage with customers directly using their local knowledge. Overlooking this aspect may result in slow reactions to complaints, or the inability to keep up with trending topics.


Going International with your Social Media Marketing

Take all these aspects into account and it will become clear that launching your international social media takes more than just simply choosing a centralised/decentralised approach.

According to the industry your brand operates in and the characteristics of your target markets, you should find the right balance between the need for an overall strategy that ensures consistency of messaging and tone of voice, and the sensitivity required towards customers’ requests and real-time developments around the world.

See also on this topic:

7 Steps to Localize Your Social Media Campaign – iMedia Connection

For further information on how we can help you with social media translation and localisation, please call us on +44 (0)207294 7710 or e-mail us at

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