Could you manage an international social media campaign?
Social media campaigns are hard enough at the best of times. Soggy metrics, a lack of control, unexpected reactions…So adding an international dimension can make them even harder.
But if you are faced with managing an international campaign, what are the areas you need to consider?
I have been involved with a good number of international clients over the years and they are never easy to manage. Some of the learnings from international advertising campaigns are easy to apply to social media though.
Global vs local
The problem with international campaigns is knowing how “global” or “local” campaigns should be – to what extent they should be the same around the world and to what extend they should be designed for individual markets. And the answer to this is likely to vary across markets.
In some territories local activity will predominate. While in other territories it may be appropriate to use global assets that are produced by head office. The balance will depend on a number of factors.
The simplest thing to address is language. If a client is headquartered in an English speaking country then running campaigns in English may be a logical solution for other English speaking countries and even in countries (such as Sweden, the Netherlands and India) where large parts of the population speak English.
However, while this is an easy solution, it may not be the best. Cultural differences may mean that campaign messages in one country may not be well received in another. Early UK advertisements for Coca Cola’s Dasani water used the message “Can’t live without spunk”. True possibly, but not something calculated to attract the average UK consumer. Research into whether localisation is needed is essential. And this is true whether or not messaging is being translated from one language to another.
Another very obvious thing to address is the consumer. It is quite possible that the brand you are working with is perceived very differently in certain markets.
The oddest example of this I have come across was a UK cough sweet that was associated in Germany with, er, physical love! Fashion and retail brands often show differences around the world: for instance Levi Jeans have less fashion cachet in the USA than they do in Europe. Fast food too: Millward Brown show how Burger King is a weak brand in Belgium (compared with MacDonalds) but a strong brand in Mexico.
But getting the right message across to consumers isn’t necessarily the hardest part of managing an international social media campaign. There are many other issues.
A “one size fits all” approach to which social media platforms to use is unlikely to work. For instance Twitter penetration in Spain is around three time that of France but only half that of Saudi Arabia. Some markets, notably China and Japan, are very different from Western Europe and North America.
Local strategy implementation will need to take account of the strengths of different social media platforms. For instance if the strategy is to disseminate lots of photographs, then using Instagram to supplement picture posts on Facebook may be wasted effort in markets like Canada and France but worthwhile in Germany and Indonesia.
If you are working with local operations in international markets then you will almost always find that resources in individual countries will vary widely, as will skill levels. One market may have a team of half a dozen experienced social media marketers, while in another the intern looks after social media in between doing the filing.
This means that you may need to moderate the amount of global assets you share with some local markets, or at least give territories with less resource the option to pick and choose between which global assets they decide to use.
Local perceptions of social media
In most countries around the world consumers use a lot of social media. But that doesn’t mean that local marketers take social media seriously. There may be a big education job to be done helping local marketing managers understand why, and how, to use social media.
Where you are dealing with a local market that is sceptical about social media, it will be important to avoid a situation where social media is managed by a junior who may post inappropriately, without any (informed) supervision; social media is global and you won’t always be able to stop people in one country reading damaging posts in another country.
Some local marketing operations will be more independent and harder to influence than others. Managers in a large territory such as the USA may well feel that they don’t need (or want) central control.
This may be especially true if the territory concerned has a heritage in effective social media marketing (which you could argue is the case in many English and Spanish speaking markets).
Dealing with resentment aimed at “interference from the centre” is always difficult. Providing reasons to use global strategies and assets (such as cost saving) is likely to be more effective than simply mandating the approach they must take.
Building consensus through joint development of assets and best practice will also help. And with social media, this shouldn’t be too difficult given that accepted knowledge of how best to use social media is still building.
And finally do remember that laws vary across the world. For instance a competition that is legal in one country may be illegal in another. And similarly some countries have very stringent rules about endorsements.
Ensuring that local market operations are aware of the rules of what they can and cannot do on social media is important if you don’t want the humiliation of having your campaigns being deemed illegal or noncompliant by local regulators.
All in all
Setting up and managing an international social media campaign isn’t easy. As well as understanding how consumers differ across markets there are many practical issues around the nature and relative strengths of local marketing partners.
The safest way forward is to develop a global strategy with input from local markets and then allow local markets to tweak the global strategy, localise global assets and, if appropriate, add their own local content. Developing appropriate best practice guidelines to help less experienced local partners will also be important.