This article has been contributed by Christian Arno.
Social media now connects people across the globe. Facebook has more than 1 billion worldwide users, with 2013 figures from checkfacebook listing Brazil as the second largest country on the network. Meanwhile, Mexico and Egypt took the top two spots as the fastest growing countries there.
Then there’s Asia, where social media is a way of life. For example, Singaporeans are the world’s most avid Pinterest users, with Experian revealing that they spend on average 23 minutes per session on the network. Indian web users have also embraced the social web. They spend a quarter of their time online on social networking, according to a comScore report.
Make the most of this worldwide enthusiasm for social networks to get your product or message in front of a global audience.
Be Guided by International Demographics
Time spent on market research is rarely wasted, above all when reaching out to social network users overseas. The insights you gain will allow you to target people effectively in your niche market, while avoiding needless efforts elsewhere. If you need any help with market research, get in touch with a company like Circle Research.
As you expand to other countries, resist the urge to default to Facebook or Twitter as a one-size-fits-all solution.
Instead, keep your focus firmly on your key demographic and the interests, hobbies or issues that can drive them to your content.
For instance, if you want to reach young Asian males, you should consider Orkut. Entrepreneur reveals that 81% of the social network’s users are between 18 and 34, and the user base as a whole is 64% male.
Want to reach European women aged 25 to 54 with an interest in fashion? Then you can’t afford to ignore Pinterest. The network, which has seen strong growth in Europe, still has an overwhelmingly female user base. According to an infographic from Tamba, fashion designers and collections are the top interests of users. The majority of users are aged 25 to 54, and 72% of all users are female.
Join the Local Scene
Social networks such as Google Plus, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest have joined the ranks of Facebook and Twitter as global social media giants. You will almost certainly be including some of these in your international strategy. However, don’t neglect less familiar networks that can help you reach your market.
In Japan, Mixi may be losing users to Facebook, but the competing network still had 14 million active users in late 2012. The site now targets more niche audiences, and is particularly popular among parents. Online video is another widely-used form of social media in Asia, with comScore‘s June 2012 figures giving China a huge lead at 266.2 million viewers. Don’t expect to reach them with YouTube; the top online video sites in China are Youku and Tudou.
Identify which social media your target audience prefers in each region or country, then establish an active presence on those sites. Most networks will let you sign up but you may need assistance or even to outsource account management for sites such as Mixi, which requires proof of residency in Japan.
Languages Open Doors
If you stay monolingual you will have a hard time cracking some of the most interesting new markets. Research shows that people prefer to search and interact in their native language even when they know some English.
Approach translation with care. While web translation tools are easy to use, they can be far from perfect. There are many pitfalls for the unwary, ranging from words that don’t mean what you think they do, to the way many foreign languages change depending on who you are speaking to and how polite you wish to be. It’s easy to see how you can offend on one hand, or seem stuffy and uninteresting to a youthful audience on the other.
Even with the best language skills at your command, it’s not a good idea to mix languages on one social media account.
Multiple accounts not only let you deliver the right language for each market, but you can also adapt your content to suit regional interests and trends.
Mobile is the Future
Far from being a nice-to-have accessory, smartphones are now an essential way to access the web in much of the world. The Motley Fool reports that Southeast Asia has seen a 61% growth in smartphone sales over the last year, and BGR puts growth in China is as high as 85%. Many users in developing economies opt for the convenience of mobile devices rather than playing catch-up with desktop PCs.
To survive on an international social media stage, make sure your website is mobile-friendly. As a minimum, keep bandwidth demands low, offer what a visitor needs with minimal navigation, and make tap targets large. Also consider whether an app can help boost your online image.
Interact with international social media users in their own language and their own online environments and you’ll be off to a flying start with building a global network.
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Christian Arno is the founder of translation company Lingo24, Inc. Launched in 2001, Lingo24, Inc. now has more than 180 employees spanning four continents and clients in more than 60 countries. Follow Lingo24, Inc. on Twitter: @Lingo24