The Secret of Social Media Success on the Global Scene :The Cross-cultural Connector
Social Media Goes Global
Social Media is now everywhere on the global scene and, as Ford’s Scott Monty puts it in Social Media Goes Global “… major brands now have little choice but to meet their target consumer where they increasingly live online — social media.”
Of course a company’s brand message should not vary from market to market and it is supposed to be the same message on a global level. But, “you can’t simply translate the same conversation and send it around the world”, says Bob Pearson, VP of communities and conversations at Dell.
Adapt, Adapt, Adapt!
You must literally “get inside” your target market’s culture and language, adapt to their user behavior and business practices, and use their preferred platforms. Bear in mind that those social interaction platforms are not necessarily those you are used to in the U.S., for example in Brazil, ORKUT is more popular than Facebook, Bebo and Ecademy are powerful in the UK, Skyrock and Viadeo in France, VZGruppe in Germany, MxIT has 5.2 million users in South Africa. Hi5 is still leading in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Portugal, Mongolia, Romania, while V Kontakte is the most popular in Russia and many former Soviet Republics, Hyves in Netherlands, Mixi in Japan, Zing in Vietnam. Friendster still rules in Philippines and Malaysia, though it seems to be slowly but surely losing ground to Facebook. Maktoob is the most important Arab community/portal. And have you ever heard of Indian start-ups such as Ibibo and BigAdda? For more on this, see Vincos’s World Map of Social Network
What about China? Writes Wei Wang in ReadWriteWeb’s Don’t Assume China Mimics US-Style Social Media: “Simply flinging an American product into the Chinese market won’t succeed, because every social media category has a Chinese equivalent that is tuned to the particular needs of the mainland Chinese market.”
China’s leading social network is Qzone (376,000,000 registered accounts). With 1,452,000 registered accounts, Facebook fails to rank among the top 15 social networks in China while MySpace can boast only 6 million users (much more than Facebook though, another difference from the U.S). As for Twitter, it does not even appear among the Top 20 Chinese Social Networks ‘Virtually’ Out-Earn Facebook And MySpace: A Market Analysis!
And BBS, yes the good old Bulletin Board System, is still very much alive and extremely popular in China, with Tianya the #1 BBS (almost 30 million users!)
Wei Wang’s conclusion, (mine too : “This all means that Internet companies from the US looking to crack the mainland Chinese market need to do their homework and tailor their products accordingly.”
Social Media Rising All Over The World
And of course this also works for all other markets on the global scene.
Also check out The Next Billion – The Rise of Social Network Sites in Developing Countries. It was written in June 2009, but it still gives you an idea of what’s happening on the African and Asian social media scenes. Things move very fast in the online world, so the figures are probably much higher now, 9 months later…
Note the growing importance of the mobile phone “there is a much higher mobile saturation in terms of consumer content in Europe and Asia” (Scott Monty). Also see Christian Kreutz’s “Culture of social networks in Africa on the example of trade ”
A New Type of Market Research
Now you can meet your market on social media, wherever it is located in the world, or almost. But this requires a new type of market research, because Facebook and Twitter are not as “global” as you might think. However the social media experience you may have acquired will come in handy, and all you have to do is adapt it to your new markets and audiences. For this you will need empathy, flexibility, adaptability, cultural awareness and cross-cultural competency, and also probably the services of a good translation/localization company.
Amadou M. Sall
What do you say? Tell us about your Social Media experience on the Global Scene!