There’s plenty of hype about how you can use social media to build your company.
In the United States, we’re told that if a business has a low marketing budget, it still can put up a Facebook page, for example, and profit from it. That remains to be seen.
But social media has been less effective for U.S. companies trying to sell goods and services overseas. In International Markets, it just may not work
Many U.S. businesses struggle to achieve an acceptable ROI for their domestic social-media efforts. So can they possibly calculate what their posts and blogs are worth overseas? And can all the sites that follow social-media traffic, and report both the positive and negative posts back to their clients, prove to be effective in foreign markets?
Much in social media is about building and maintaining reputations. With no direct sale attached, we can’t calculate the real return in our social-media business plan.
Business overseas is relationship-based. Social-media experts claim that firms can “Facebook” their way into a market. Is this true?
Experience shows that people in many countries use social media — not for creating new relationships, but more for maintaining existing ones.
A Denver salesperson said she has to have a huge presence on LinkedIn. She mentioned that firms will go to LinkedIn to evaluate products and companies extensively. After that research, a firm might contact a salesperson to buy goods or services.
This kind of thing simply doesn’t happen very often in, say, Asia or Europe. The idea that a stranger will find me, hire me and pay me might never occur.
People don’t google “accounting firms” in Ukraine, find one and then start paying them. They may do a Google search for a reputation check, and they may go on to Twitter or Facebook to see who you’re connected with. But the idea of making a new online “friend” and cutting a check doesn’t happen.
Also, in many foreign cultures, CEOs don’t make themselves public figures, as do many U.S. CEOs The cultures are more private. And these executives worry about being embarrassed more so than their U.S. counterparts.
The five main myths in social media abroad are:
Customers turn to peers for help.
Overseas, especially in service-oriented countries in Asia, customers expect that help from the firm itself, not a user group.
Corporate transparency is key.
Most countries don’t have the rights to free speech and the ability (or the desire) to hold their companies and figureheads accountable. And when accountability is essential, it’s often dealt with privately.
Social media is an international language.
For example, if you want Ukrainians to use a social-media platform, it had better look and feel Ukrainian. And it’s important to understand how Ukrainians interact with social media, as they may approach it differently than Americans.
People want to reveal lots of personal information.
Many cultures have stigmas about putting things in writing at all. Fake names, fake email addresses or an anonymous system will do better than one that demands cellphone numbers and birth dates.
A Spanish social-media site will handle the Latino population.
Spaniards from Spain are different than Puerto Ricans from Puerto Rico (even Puerto Ricans from the Bronx), who differ from Mexicans, Argentinians, etc. To take on these populations, a firm needs social-media sites that are geared specifically towards them.
Famed magician Harry Houdini once said, “You’ve got to get your name in the paper every day, whether it’s good or bad. Just make sure they spell your name right.” In other words, bad press is better than no press.
But most foreigners would disagree with this. Remember that when launching your social-media initiative outside the United States.
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