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Know Your Facebook From Your Sina Weibo

Social Media can be an unforgiving wild west of a territory for big brands and businesses – finding themselves for the first time entering a true two-way conversation with clients, shareholders or consumers, and opening yourself up for everything they can throw at you.  But there’s a reason no serious company opts out of this maelstrom: the rewards brought by effective social media engagement are undeniably tremendous.

A couple of decades into the social media phenomenon, there are still teething issues, but most of us have got to grips with how to turn these platforms to our advantage – and even when there are mistakes, they are often quickly forgotten.  Today’s tweet is tomorrow’s chip paper.  But what about extending your social media presence across borders?  It’s all very well to have a thriving Facebook page, but their global domination is not yet complete: the top social media platforms in Russia are Vk (previously Vkontakt) and Ok.ru, while in China, users favour WeChat, Sina Weibo and RenRen.  And one size does not fit all.

Clearly there’s a certain amount of cross-over between each of these sites, but there’s also a lot of differences which it’s vital to understand.  It isn’t enough to simply duplicate English language posts in multiple places, for obvious reasons: the two-way conversation of social media means that you must be able to actually engage your audience, and cultural variations mean that what grabs a French user won’t register at all with a user in Mumbai.

You can get around this to an extent by using transcreation services to intelligently tailor your message, and even adapt to current trends, memes and news.  Given the real-time nature of social media, you will still need native speakers on hand and fully tooled up to respond – quickly – to consumer and client queries. These online ambassadors need the skills to carry the torch for your company: you wouldn’t hire someone with no social media management experience or sector knowledge to manage your brand at home, so it’s no good hiring someone to manage your posts on XING just because they speak fluent German.

Even if you have someone who knows their stuff and talks the talk, all this local autonomy has to be balanced by professionalism and a common voice, though, and all social media reps need to stay connected to ensure they’re in lock step and come across as one business.   Different outlets shouldn’t contradict one another – and there’s no point having a local team vetting your posts for cultural sensitivity in one locality, if reps elsewhere make posts which damage the brand there anyway (as with Delta Airlines’ Giraffe gaffe).

Let’s face it, we’re walking a tightrope in a world where social media gaffes and genius make news headlines in equal measure – from ASOS’s successful user-generated content strategy with #AsSeenOnMe, to an ad run by Snapchat mocking Rihanna’s domestic abuse that drew widespread criticism back in March.  When it comes to online presence, your localization strategy is more important than ever.

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