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Over the last few years, social media marketing has grown up from an experimental avenue for reaching students and twenty-somethings to a major channel for global companies to communicate with their customers.  

Tools like Facebook and Twitter are now a major avenue for customer service and marketing for most global brands, and users are responding in droves. It’s fun, it’s easy and it’s extremely convenient.

But, these digital consumers demand elegant solutions for interaction, which has opened a host of complications for global brands.   

With interactions primarily happening within a varied stream of engaging content, we can’t expect users to seek out the correct content for their location and language. 

It’s imperative that marketers use the tools available to them to deliver geographically relevant content and Facebook has really taken the lead on allowing multiple types of targeting: not just language (although of course that’s important: if you’re a French speaker you fairly obviously don’t want your favourite brand’s Facebook page to show German postings) – but also promotional content or information that shows specific local intent, and culturally diverse content.

Given the precision of targeting available (down to the city level in most countries!), having a compelling content calendar that’s actionable and useful for the long run for a large enterprise can be a challenge. 

Some points to consider when putting together your branded Facebook content plan:

A social network isn’t a separate country

It needs to feed across multiple countries, regions, and languages. Most companies will set an overall strategy centrally, but we generally recommend having local country or language managers who are empowered to engage with customers directly using their local knowledge.  

However, some companies (especially in the entertainment or consumer packaged goods space) may be able to take an extremely streamlined approach because they have very few inbound customer service inquiries. 

Take Eurosport for example, they quickly realised that having one page per country didn’t give their fans access to a strong global community. As a result, its 1 million strong fan base can access the global page, and still get the local sports news that’s relevant to them.

Local information matters

Brands that can provide localised content in publishing and customer service run the risk of appearing tone deaf on social media and alienating customers at a time when they’re willingly interacting.

There’s nothing more irritating than signing up for a promotion on a brand’s Facebook page to find out that its only available in the US, not the UK (because the brand is only differentiating by language not by location).  

Equally, understanding local intention helps you go the extra mile with customers. We already live in a world where sophisticated retailers can understand the value of a customer at the point of sale from loyalty programs and email data, but enriching this information with a combination of checkins, social coupons and geo-targeted ads can provide a new level of relevancy and personalization.

What works in one region won’t necessarily work in another

Brands know this. Advertising, product promotions, packaging and even brand names vary from country to country, so social media promotions should be the same.

For example, Thanksgiving promotions don’t work outside North America, while very few people outside of this country will know about Guy Fawkes day. 

Of course, the travel industry has always understood the power of a deft touch of local flavor. Cathay Pacific brings a truly global perspective to its social media efforts, using regional affiliation to reward fans with exciting geo-targeted getaways.

In the last few months, Cathay has offered Australian fans the chance to win free tickets to the Hong Kong Sevens Rugby Tournament, whilst Taiwanese fans got a chance to escape to sunny Australia.

Localise Facebook pages, but unify them under one corporate page

For most global brands, some version of the hub and spokes model will be most efficient. It’s key to have a mixture of national and international content, to maintain the overall brand presence, but spicing up that content with local relevance. (Think of the bit at the end of the news: ‘and now for the news wherever you are…’).

Look to Hyatt for a gorgeous example of maintaining a clean, classy look and feel across hundreds of pages managed both locally and internationally.


The level of targeting that you can achieve on Facebook is staggering, and much of the localisation and geo-targeting process can be automated to minimize the management overhead of a complex system.

By setting your strategy properly in the context of differences in language, location and culture, international social media campaigns can be highly effective at appealing to audiences wherever you do business.


Published 15 July, 2012 by Marc Blinder

Marc Blinder is Director, European Operations at Adobe and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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