One might assume that when global brands run social media pages in foreign markets that they localise the content.
Surprisingly, though, many don’t.
Sure, the text is translated and links point to a local website, but a lot of what is posted on social media in Asia, for example, is surprisingly similar to what is posted in the brands’ home countries.
There are many good reasons for this.
First off, it’s easier to manage. Marketing resources may be stretched and having one base creative makes it much easier to roll out a campaign globally.
Also, many brands prefer to project a single image globally. Doing so avoids having to have difficult discussions between the regional and HQ marketing teams.
And finally, sticking to a single creative globally makes compliance much easier. Only one set of approvals from legal required.
But brands who do make an effort to localise their content, benefit from overcoming the obstacles. Here are three ways in which they do, with examples.
1. Localisation makes a brand look more customer-focused
Centrally-managed content is good for the brand for the reasons cited above, but nowadays many marketing teams have another goal.
They are also looking for ways to improve customer experience, and offering localised content is one effective way of doing so.
When you provide content that has clearly been designed for the market you are posting for, customers can see that you are focusing on their needs as opposed to just running the brand messaging.
For example, Uniqlo has Facebook pages which are localised by country.
This allows the marketing team to promote summer clothes in Hong Kong on the same day it is showing winter gear in Australia.
Targeting like this makes the social media seem in touch with the local market and reflects well on the customer experience aspect of the brand.
2. Localising content encourages comments and shares
Social media works best for brands when they can elicit feedback from their fans. To do this, though, brands have to offer fans an opportunity to identify with what is being posted.
If local fans see things which they recognise, then the brand will have a better chance to reach them at an emotional level.
And, as a result, the fans will be more likely to share.
Earlier this year, Magnum featured a series of tweets of celebrities creating their own bespoke Magnum ice cream in Cannes during the film festival.
In order to appeal to its local audiences, however, Magnum showed different celebrities at the event to different Twitter feeds.
The Magnum UK feed featured fashion model Kendall Jenner…
..and the Magnum Thailand feed featured Thai celebrity Davika Hoorne (Mai).
It must have been expensive for the Magnum team to fly in models to localise the content, and risky too. What if nobody cared?
But, the response from Thai fans was overwhelming.
The photos received thousands of likes and retweets and built significant goodwill between Magnum and its fans in Thailand.
3. Brands can demonstrate local cultural sensitivity
Religion is a tricky subject to touch on in marketing. Brands typically, and wisely, avoid it.
However, if a particular religious custom is pervasive in a country, then it may be worthwhile for brands to acknowledge that it exists via social media.
Doing so shows that the brand understands its consumers and their culture at a deeper level. This can, in turn, increase local affinity.
Ramadan, the Islamic period of fasting, is a big part of life in the predominantly-Muslim country Indonesia.
Coca-Cola recently ran a video campaign which managed to address the period and how it affects life, sensitively.
In the video series, a teenager is repeatedly tempted to break his fast during the day, but waits until the proper time to do so – and then does so with a big glass of Coke, naturally.
The amount of supportive likes, comments, and shares for this series of videos were off the charts.
Coca-Cola’s social media team also took the opportunity to respond to each comment.
The success of this series of posts is a testament to the reach and impact that can be achieved with localising content, even when it might be seen by some as a topic which crosses the line.
It’s awfully tempting to create social media posts centrally and then just ask the regional teams to translate and repost.
Social media, however, works best for brands when they reach their audience emotionally.
This can be achieved by posting content specifically produced for the local market.
It demonstrates that a brand is more serious about the local market and that it is not just superficially interested in its customers there.
As seen by the examples above, it takes some work to do this well.
Brands who make the effort, though, will stand out from competitors and build strong affinity with the local market.