According to Econsultancy’s 2010 Social Media and Online PR report, 83% of marketers will increase social media spend next year, but only 26% will run campaigns in more than one country, why is this?

Essentially then, these businesses will be increasing their marketing spend in their local markets on a medium which, while undeniably very exciting and useful, has yet to be furnished with a reliable method for measuring ROI.

Meanwhile, they’ll ignore the opportunities presented by localisation, which does have a proven ROI, and a very healthy one at that (the Common Sense Advisory considers the average return for every US$1 spent on localisation to be US$25).

Now this is not to say that I think digital marketers should ignore social media and instead work on creating and optimising localised websites for foreign language markets. On the contrary, the two should go hand-in-hand. It makes sense that if you’re putting the time and money into creating a social media campaign for, say, the UK, then it will be well worth your time to take the extra step of localising that campaign for any foreign markets you’re active in.

This is especially true for foreign markets with significant social media use, such as India, South Korea, China (where 92% of all web surfers use social media, compared with some 75% in the USA) and Turkey (which has the fifth largest Facebook population in the world). It stands to reason that the larger your potential audience on a social network, and the more active they are, the more effective your campaign will be.

You may wonder why you would bother with social media campaigns in foreign languages if your business only operates in the one country and has no intention of expanding to foreign markets – which is a fair point, prima facie, but this outlook completely discounts the foreign language markets within your own country.

For instance, think of the number of Polish speakers in the UK, or Spanish speakers in the USA, or Turkish speakers in Germany. Let’s take just the Spanish speakers in the USA into consideration for now: according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, the purchasing power of US Hispanics will reach US$1.2 trillion in 2011, which is more than the total GDP of Canada and Mexico.

There’s also evidence that localising social media campaigns for ethnic languages works – a 2009 study by eMarketer found that on Myspace Latino, ads in Spanish were 20% more effective than ads in English, this despite it being a social networking site geared towards a bilingual (English and Spanish) audience.

My point is that the power of the foreign language internet can’t be ignored, even (or especially) when it comes to social media. If you’re planning a big social media push in 2011, it would be worth having a think about what languages your potential audience will be speaking, and tweaking some localised social campaigns for them. Your ROI will thank you.