For digital marketers, content marketing is top of the priority list for 2013. And as more of the world gets online, the global audience for content is growing fast. According to the UN Broadband Commission, a third of the world population already has internet access, and this is set to rise to 40%, or 3bn, by 2016.

More brands are realising the opportunities presented by the rapidly growing markets in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Global companies such as Coca-Cola, Nike, and L’Oreal are reaching out to these online users through social media, video marketing, and other targeted digital campaigns.

Multilingual websites are already seen as necessary by most large companies, with one study finding that 58 per cent of Fortune 500 companies already have them. But this is just the starting point. Developing an effective international content marketing strategy involves adapting the message to different audiences, and using multiple channels to engage consumers.

Here are four steps to taking a content strategy global:

1. Develop a compelling core message

Every company has a core brand image, whether it’s young and cool, or conveys a sense of timeless luxury.

Starbucks is not just about selling cups of coffee, the brand aims to create a sense of community and be a comforting “third place”. It’s synonymous with an aspirational Western lifestyle in China,where it’s rapidly opening new stores and winning customers (despite a traditional preference for tea).

Red Bull’s brand is linked with extreme sports, and it’s billed as the drink of choice of adrenaline junkies.

McDonald’s uses same basic message “I’m lovin’ it” around the world, while adapting its menus and marketing to fit local audiences. Just as the menu serves pork with rice in Hawaii and paneer wraps in India, its websites and local marketing have been adapted to fit local preferences.

2. Translate and localise the message

English might be the most widely spoken language on the internet, but the UN Broadband Commission predicts it will be overtaken by Chinese in 2015. And research by the Common Sense Advisory shows that people are much more likely to respond to web content in their own language.

But translation is only the start, and it’s vital to localise the message. This involves considering everything from the tone of voice to references to popular celebrities or TV programs. Ideally, it should be considered at an early stage.

McDonald’s uses in-country translation and localisation teams ensure that the content strikes the right note.

One benefit of international marketing is that content can be translated and adapted for different markets. While Google penalises duplication in English, it doesn’t recognise the same content in translation. A multilingual strategy can give more value for the same content, enabling it to reach many more users.

3. Simplify content management

Managing websites, blogs, social media, and other digital marketing across multiple languages can be a tricky juggling act. In many cases it makes sense to outsource some aspects; for example by hiring local social media managers.

But it also helps to have the right tools and systems to simplify the task. Many content management systems now make it easy to manage content across various languages. Joomla, Drupal and WordPress all support multiple languages, with features to simplify the process.

4. Develop an integrated strategy

A strategy that uses multiple channels, and integrates content marketing with paid advertising, can be the most effective way of conveying a message.

Pizza Hut is one global company that is successfully using multiple platforms in China: using its Sina Weibo page (the local equivalent of Twitter) to link to special offers in restaurants. It recently teamed up with Sina to feature the microblogging site in a TV advertising campaign.

(Image credit: Cnet Asia)

Another example is FC Barcelona, which launched a localised website and social media feed via the rival site, Tencent Weibo, tapping into a strong existing fan base in the country. It also developed a partnership with the Catalan tourist board, promoting the region at the same time.

It’s also vital not to neglect mobile phones. Ensuring content, whether that’s a video, blog or website, works on the small screen, can be key to reaching a wider audience.