4 Critical Global Social Media Marketing Execution Tips

McDonald’s has almost 70 million followers across all countries, regions, and platforms, 7,748 brand posts in 30 days, an active audience of 1.4 million, and 104.8 million impressions on Social Media.

How do you manage this?

As a Social Media Marketer of a global company, you’ve probably heard of this saying:

“Think Global, Act Local”

But what does this look like in implementation? “Glocal” social media strategies are complicated in theory and even more so in execution.
In this blog post, I’ll share four critical tips for Social Media Strategy for companies that have handles in multiple countries. Before getting into the bits and pieces, it’s important to determine whether or not you need a global SMM strategy in the first place.

How do you determine whether or not you need a global Social Media presence?

The internet seems boundless, so it’s easy to want to spread into multiple regions. But as with all business strategies, any decision needs to make business sense. For companies with multiple local retailers, like Starbucks or McDonalds, it’s rather easy to justify a need for a Global social media presence. But what about for businesses that aren’t retail?

For starters, let your Sales figures determine the need for your global strategy.

Alan M. Rugman, a leading scholar in International Business, wrote in his book The Regional Multinationals: MNEs and ‘Global’ Strategic Management, Global is defined as having sales of 20% or more in each of three regions of the Triad (North America, E.U., & Japan) but less than 50% in any one region. The study identified IBM, Sony, Philips, Nokia, Intel, Canon, Coca Cola, Flextronics International and Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton as global companies. This is from 2005, so the number of “Global Brands” have risen.

Increase of MNCs and Global Brands

You can use SMM to expand into new markets, and, in this case, using your current sales figure don’t make sense.

But to begin with, using Sales figure to determine your social media presence will ensure you don’t miss out on leveraging in the audience that is already present and loving your brand.

Marketers and business scholars around the globe are emphasizing the need for a glocal marketing strategy- your social media shouldn’t be any different.

“…the underlying macro forces of globalization and regionalisation may affect the optimal choice of companies’ strategy formulation, also depending on relevant drivers within the respective industry context. This statement emphasizes the importance of recognizing the environment surrounding the business in order to find the shape the right strategy and it has implications for strategies regardless of size. “…global as well as regional companies need to think through strategy at the regional level.” 
 – Regional Strategies for Global Leadership 

Going Global with Social Media
Going Glocal with Social Media

In fact, I would argue that Social Media needs even more customization and localization than “traditional” marketing because of the very nature of Social – 1:1, personal, and immediate.

So let’s dive into the four critical tips…

#1 Don’t listen to Generic Data. Craft local strategy directly from listening to your local audience.

How many times have you read vague statistic reports on “Social Media in CHINA,” or “How to do Social Media in India”? Having an overview of the country is fundamental, but using it to craft your social media is nonsense.

Imagine reading “Social Media in America.”

How absurd does that sound?

The country-based analysis is a great place to start and understand which channels you should do research on, but it should not be your guiding compass.

McKinsey’s report on Emerging Marketing strategies captioned its subheading as “Don’t be fooled by generalities” – I can’t agree more.

“While some generalizations may be fair, certain very strong differences, even within regions, go well beyond the already significant economic variance. Guangzhou and Shenzhen, for example, are both tier-one cities, located in the same province and just two hours apart. But Guangzhou’s people mainly speak Cantonese, are mostly locally born, and like to spend time at home with family and friends. In contrast, more than 80 percent of Shenzhen’s residents are young migrants, from all across the country, who mainly speak Mandarin and spend most of their time away from their homes. To be effective, marketers will probably have to differentiate their campaigns and emphasize different channels when reaching out to the people in these two cities.”

Yuval Atsmon, Ari Kertesz, and Ireena Vittal from “Is Your Emerging Market Strategy Local Enough?

So gather data and listen to your audience. That data is what you need to use to craft your strategy. Crucial information you need to begin your local approach:

  • Who is your audience? Even with the same product range, the users in each region may be different
  • Where is your audience? → Focus on 1,2 channels
  • What do they like? → Determine affinity categories and keywords

For more on Social Listening, read A Brand’s Guide to What, Why, How of Social Media Listening.

#2 Get a Centralized content hub ASAP

In a recent survey by the CMO Council, 86% of marketers said they intend to look for ways to better localize marketing content. A centralized hub can help with efficiency and the effectiveness of content production. As David Dodd, a B2B Business and Marketing Strategist, Marketing Content Developer, and Author wrote in a blog post, a centralized SMM asset will…

  • Eliminate the internal costs of processing and fulfilling requests for marketing materials
  • Reduce the time required to process and fulfill requests for marketing materials
  • Enable corporate marketers to maintain effective control of brand messaging and brand presentation
  • Simplify and automate the process of creating customized marketing materials, thus lowering customization costs. In addition, MAM technologies expand the degree of customization that can be done, thus allowing local marketers to create more relevant and compelling marketing materials.
  • Reduce the use of obsolete marketing materials
  • Reduce the costs of marketing materials obsolescence

Further adding to David’s point,  it’s important to determine specific ratio of global content to ensure brand consistency.

Aside from having a centralized asset hub, there are two crucial sub-to-do’s: 

1. Have a landing page on the global HQ that aggregates all your social media handles across different regions.

An example you can model after is Disney’s Social Media Index page:

Disney's Global Landing Page with all the social media handles
Disney’s Global Landing Page with all the social media handles

2. Create an Global Brand Facebook page if your company decides to be on Facebook

Starbucks Global Facebook Page
Starbucks Global Facebook Page

Key benefits of having a Global Facebook page:

  • A Centralized Facebook Presence: No matter that version of the page a visitor gets routed to, all visitors will see the same page name (translated into their local language), fan count, and ‘People Talking About This’ counts.

  • A Single URL: Rather than having to promote a different page URL for each localized page, global brands will be able to promote one single URL in all of their marketing efforts to promote their Facebook presence, since page visitors will be automatically be redirected to the appropriate version of the Page based on their geographic information.

  • A Centralized Global Insights Dashboard: Rather than having to check the Facebook Insights for multiple pages, administrators of the main Global Page will be able to check Insights for all page variations in one centralized dashboard.

To learn more about using Facebook Global Page, here is a great slide deck created by Facebook:

#3 Shorten feedback loop between Global and Local through local hiring and well thought-out Standardized Operating Procedures. 

Social Media campaign, “Share a Coke” went viral in Australia.  Thanks to its global charter model, Coke successfully deployed the  “Share a Coke” campaign to 30 additional countries. 

Share a coke marketing campaign - australia

Learn from Coke – shorten the feedback loop between local and global to amplify success and minimize risk. Having a centralized asset hub (#2) can help, but there is more..

One of the biggest challenges for distributed organizations is “balancing the conflicting needs of local marketers and corporate marketing.” 

You can do two things to mitigate: 1) Hire locally and 2) Create a Standard Operation Procedure while giving your local partners autonomy. The bloodline of Social Media is on its pulse – delivering time-sensitive content and remarks should not be impeded with beurarcacy.  Local functions have first-person insights to your local audience – insights that needs to be reflected in social media contents’ messaging.

  1. Hire Locally

The key is to understand that the world is vastly different. Same things will be interpreted differently in each region, and big brands are particularly vulnerable to insensitive marketing created by a lack of localization. Your local partners – be it in-house specialists or agencies – will provide the nuances of a local market that pitch decks can’t teach. 

I hope in 2015, I don’t have to persuade you on why you need local expertise.  There are tons of examples online. Here are 10 Geoffrey James’ 20 Epic Fails in Global Branding:

  1. Braniff International translated a slogan touting its finely upholstered seats “Fly in Leather” into Spanish as “Fly Naked.”
  2. Clairol launched a curling iron called “Mist Stick” in Germany even though “mist” is German slang for manure.
  3. Coca-Cola‘s brand name, when first marketed in China, was sometimes translated as “Bite The Wax Tadpole.”
  4. Colgate launched toothpaste in France named “Cue” without realizing that it’s also the name of a French pornographic magazine.
  5. Coors translated its slogan, “Turn It Loose,” into Spanish, where it is a colloquial term for having diarrhea.
  6. Electrolux at one time marketed its vacuum cleaners in the U.S. with the tag line: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”
  7. Ford blundered when marketing the Pinto in Brazil because the term in Brazilian Portuguese means “tiny male genitals.”
  8. Frank Perdue’s tag line, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” got translated into Spanish as “It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate.”
  9. Gerber marketed baby food in Africa with a cute baby on the label without knowing that, in Ethiopia, for example, products usually have pictures on the label of what’s inside since many consumers can’t read.
  10. Ikea products were marketed in Thailand with Swedish names that in the Thai language mean “sex” and “getting to third base.”

    2. Have a Social Media Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 

For global brands divided regionally, and then locally, communication is the biggest source of inefficiencies. Imagine this..

Your company’s regional social media strategists brief their regional partner agency, but your regional strategists didn’t collaborate with local strategists. Now when the regional partner agency’s local branch execute their strategy, the local strategists from your company is hyperventilating because their strategy isn’t aligned with what the agency is doing.

Complete chaos.

Having a standard operating procedure will ensure that there are consistency and increased transparency for accountability. Don’t confuse SOP with Social Media Playbook. Playbooks are more for branding and setting the tone – more for high-level strategy. SOP is procedures for daily executions of content, which should include information on how to access the asset hub, who to ask for what, how to collaborate etc.

Tina Chang, previously an Account Executive for Edelman emphasized that strategic collaboration for content generation made Social Media Marketing more effective for Spotify Taiwan.

“Regional agencies will have online meeting bi-weekly to discuss what went well in each market and what not, and also discuss themes that we could work on that can be leveraged across. For instance, Chinese New Year. Spotify Singapore and Spotify Taiwan each created 3 content that we shared across the region.”

Here is an example of a Social SOP by Crieghton.

My favorite Social Media Playbook from Brands:


#4 Same Metrics, Different KPIs 

Your metrics needs to be consistent, so everyone in the company can talk in the same language. But that doesn’t mean KPIs for Social Media Marketing in each local markets should be the same. In fact, they shouldn’t – unless your business goals for all markets are the same, which is highly unlikely. Social Media Marketing KPIs need to reflect the business objectives of each region.

Start with your local market's business objectives  - social media strategy funnel
Start with your local market’s business objectives

Similar to how copies and colors resonate differently in each local markets, global KPIs don’t necessarily reflect the same business outcomes locally.

Let me give you an example.

A common KPI for online conversion is submissions of email contact forms. Should this KPI be used in the Chinese market? Chinese people use emails too, don’t they?

It turns out, email contact forms are an incredibly poor indicator of conversions in China.

“Chinese don’t like waiting for help.  They demand real-time assistance, and they’re used to getting it, especially in the online world.” Prevalence of real-time assistance means there aren’t even a contact us page on most Chinese sites! So measuring Contact Form Submission for conversions in your local market in Shanghai would be useless.

The takeaway here is to customize your local market’s social media KPI with market insights. Align your business outcomes with global strategy, but metrics for local markets should vary.

If you want to learn more on how to develop KPIs, here is a great blog post by J-P De Clerck on Social Media Metrics: why, what and how to measure.

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