Social media goes global

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Scott Monty, head of social media marketing at Ford Motor Co.
Scott Monty, head of social media marketing at Ford Motor Co.
Singh explains that culture and language are only some of the chal­lenges that face US brands looking to expand social media programs internationally. “The platforms them­selves and what they can do vary dramatically,” he says. “Questions about privacy or how digital-savvy the population is all vary, depending on the market.”

Social media reaches varied demos

The target demographic for social media — which was initially a younger audience in the US, but has broad­ened with the success of business-themed sites such as LinkedIn — also tends to vary between countries.

“If it's a developing country, it's more at the elite end of the spectrum, while in India or China, it is sort of an alternative culture where online is seen as an escape,” explains Singh. “The industry is still very young, so we're still figuring out which ad formats work best in each market. Whether it's an engagement ad or hyper-targeting, there's still a lot to learn.”

For these reasons, you can't simply translate the same conversation and send it around the world, says Bob Pearson, VP of communities and con­versations at Dell. “You have to have real people speaking the language in the country you're trying to reach, so the person who runs our Chinese blog is from Shanghai, we have Bra­zilians running our Brazilian forum that and it's the same thing in Japan,” he explains.

But, Pearson notes, that doesn't mean letting a company's brand mes­sage vary from market to market. “We put a high premium on making sure we do have the same message on a global level, so it really becomes [an issue of] where we should be having that conversation.”

As far as any potential downsides to globalizing a social media program, Singh warns that a brand's reputation can vary dramatically across regions, and social media allows everyone in all markets to talk about the positives and negatives about companies and their products or services.

“You may have two very different types of people that you're bringing together, which can do more damage than good,” he says.

However, in a global marketplace, Ford's Monty suggests major brands now have little choice but to meet their target consumer where they increas­ingly live online — social media.

“We believe in the mantra that it's not what you say about your brand, it's what your consumers says about you,” he explains. “So, we want to get out there and monitor all this and also give people information so they can have more formed opinions. With online communication in general, and especially through social media, we have a chance to hear what people are saying and join the conversation.”

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