International Business: International social media marketing is more than just a Facebook page

Published: Friday, Dec. 9 2011 7:00 a.m. MST

“In most Western cultures having a real photo creates credibility, and in some Eastern cultures it creates discomfort,” explains international social media expert Cindy King on her eponymous website. “Cartoon avatars work much better.”

For this reason, Mixi adopts highly relevant features that appeal to Japanese users. For instance, it allows anonymity that is not permitted by Facebook. Mixi also goes a step farther by allowing shy Japanese users to add friends without ever being so bold as to actually request a connection; users create lists of potential friends and Mixi quietly makes connections where it sees matches.

The social networks themselves have also seen failures in cultural adaptation. For example, Facebook was criticized earlier this year for inviting Russian users to announce children on the way, even though speaking of the unborn is considered bad luck in Russia.

Local hires

Finally, successful international social media marketing campaigns require skilled marketers to not only plan and implement these campaigns according to local language and culture, but also to keep the messages lively and, well, social.

The Clearasil brand saw huge success in Russia with the help of Russian marketing agency LLC Grape. Grape created a culturally relevant, Russian language campaign on VKontakte. The agency’s cleverly engaging efforts connected Clearasil with more than 500,000 online participants and increased annual sales in the country by 30 percent.

International social media marketing is more than creating an English Facebook page for an international audience. Brands like Clearasil that understand this reality and adapt to different international networks in language and culture will see more international success than those that do not.

Adam Wooten is director of translation services at Lingotek. He also teaches a course on translation technology at BYU. E-mail: awooten@lingotek.com . Follow him on Twitter at AdamWooten..

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