• March 16, 2011
  • By Koa Beck, Editorial Assistant, CRM magazine

Forrester Research Describes a “Global Social Imperative”

It’s not enough to concentrate on U.S. customers when adopting a social media initiative, according to a new report from Forrester Research.

In “The Global Social Imperative,” Nate Elliott, principal analyst at Forrester, advises international marketers to consider constructing global pages that reach users with a single social profile, individual country pages that offer a unique social profile for each national audience, and hybrid models that collect global interests on a specific page that redistributes users to pages of individual countries.

Elliott points out that most social networkers are not based in the United States, writing that two-thirds of Facebook users are outside America and the Web site is currently being translated into 70 languages. Sixty percent of Twitter users are also registered outside the U.S.

Elliott also adds that most content on social media is then being directed to the wrong audience because most social media tools direct users to the most popular content first without taking into account geographical locations or languages.

“Marketers are used to having control over which audiences in which countries see their messages,” observes Elliott in the report. “They create local-language versions of TV spots and have media buyers in each country place those ads on appropriate channels; or they put country-specific pricing into banner ads and work with online ad networks to geographically target those banners. But things aren’t nearly as simple in social media.”

Elliott notes that incorrectly targeted material in social media, whether in language or geography, alienates big fans and hurts businesses.

The Twitter account for Zara, a fashion retailer based in Spain, generates 68 percent of its revenue outside of its home country, yet it contains mostly Spanish-language posts, Elliott points out. “Regional dialects can also present a challenge; English speakers searching on Facebook must choose between a U.S.-targeted ‘Nike Football’ page (featuring American football) and a U.K.-targeted ‘Nike Football”’ page (featuring soccer).”

Elliott advocates starting simple with a global page because it makes finding a particular page easy for fans and all fans are easily reachable with a single post. Creating a global page also minimizes the sources and funds required for a global social media strategy.

Elliott singles out Louis Vuitton as one vendor that created a successful global presence.

However, Elliott maintains that global pages still need local content and support to ensure as many customers as possible are being served. He recommends placing targeted content whenever possible but providing global content in spaces where it’s not feasible. He also suggests being prepared to respond to customers in multiple languages and using Facebook and YouTube insight tools to prioritize content posted on customer sitess.

Country-specific pages seem to work across any social media platform because users generate the targeting by selecting a page and each country’s cohort can then control its own page.

Hybrid structures, Elliott explains, tend to capture global interest and redirect to country pages. The most successful hybrid structure, Elliott says, creates two levels of engagement to meet the needs of different users and thereby “funnel” users to different country-level pages.

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