Worldwide, one in every five minutes spent online is on social networks and, with the number of international social media users rapidly increasing, it’s vital that brands who want to go global get it right. 

While many businesses know they should be thinking about international social media expansion, lots of myths exist around how best to do it.

This list debunks our top five.

1. To expand campaigns internationally, you just need to translate them

It is so wrong to assume that social media campaigns can simply be translated and re-posted in other markets in order to grow a global community.

What users might find hilarious in one country could fall completely flat in another; it is never safe to assume that what works in one region will necessarily work anywhere else. At best you can risk alienating your audience through sounding unnatural or contrived and at worse you could cause serious offence. 

A poorly translated post can quickly turn into a major embarrassment as we have seen last month with footballer Phil Neville accidentally posting a rude tweet in Spanish.

Failing to be aware of the local language nuances meant instead of writing that he was starting the day with an early morning run on the beach, he tweeted that he was starting the day with something else entirely – highly inappropriate! 

 

2. Businesses need to use every social media platform

There is a tendency for brands to want to keep on the cutting edge when it comes to social media. The pressure to stay relevant can make it feel as though failing to adopt the latest platform means falling behind the times – but this isn’t necessarily true. Just because one company is using snapchat doesn’t mean it’s right for your business.

The key is to figure out where your audience actually are, and create a strategy that will reach them: It could be several platforms, but equally it might only be one. Every brand and audience is unique.

This is especially true when it comes to expanding internationally. Some companies make the mistake of figuring out which social platforms are used in a particular market and assuming they need to create accounts on all of them as a matter of course.

This doesn’t usually work because each channel needs to be treated uniquely, and have content tailored to fit. Really understanding who, how and why different platforms are used by local users is an essential step before starting any activity.

3. Strategies can be planned months in advance

While it can be useful to map out social media activity in advance for known marketing events or seasonal celebrations, it is important to keep some flexibility and ensure resources are reserved for creating reactive content as well.

For global brands it is good practice to tailor activity on a regional level by keeping an ear close to the ground for relevant news and current events. These time-critical trends can be news-jacked in order to create topical campaigns which are really relevant and engaging. It’s this type of activity which often has the potential to go viral and gain maximum attention.

4.  As long as someone speaks the language, they’re qualified to manage international social media

Just as it’s terrible practice to leave social media posting to the intern at home, when brands expand internationally, never assume someone is qualified to manage an international social media presence just because they speak the language.

Branded social media channels, wherever they are, are viewed as an official mouthpiece for your business which means they need to be handled with care.

This means it’s essential to employ an expert who really understands social strategy and the local market in order to engage with new audiences effectively (and to avoid embarrassing mistakes).

5. It’s OK to jump straight into posting internationally without doing your research

Really understanding the market you are delving into can mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to international social media.

From being aware of regional influencers and trends to being sensitive and knowledgeable of local culture; there is no substitute for thorough research and planning.

When brands fail to prepare they really should prepare to fail. Major international airline, Delta, delivered the first social media World Cup controversy. Its photo of a giraffe used to represent Ghana, when there are no giraffes in Ghana, caused them to go viral for all the wrong reasons.