We're all aware of the benefits social media offers multinational companies to attract new international clients, increase brand awareness in a new market and even reinforce existing customer loyalty. Yet many businesses are oblivious to the wealth of the international social media opportunities and platforms out there to help them achieve these benefits. For many, it seems that the term “social media” has become synonymous with the three major players in the field: Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.
Just like any social media strategy, there are no “right” or “standard” platforms for going multinational; remember, your choice of platform(s) depends on your target market as well as the message you want to portray.
Identifying the right platforms
Despite the general awareness of social media, many multinational companies still seem to be content with setting up a Facebook account to inform the public of certain events, initiatives, or campaigns. Yes, Facebook is continuing to dominate European social media (well, with the exception of the Netherlands and Germany), but others do exist. To really reach their audience and promote their brand, companies must listen to their market. Listen, research and analyse how and if their market is engaging and interacting with social media networks, to determine the right platforms for their strategy.
The situation in Europe
In Europe, people join on average 1.9 social networks, whereas in America, this figure is 2.1. Compared to the rest of the world, Western Europe still lags behind in social network penetration, with Germany being particularly slow on the uptake: only 37% of German internet users make use of social media sites. That said, this is probably not down to an unwillingness or lack of awareness of the users themselves. Social media sites have faced particular barriers there because of Germany's strict privacy laws and all have to undergo a long process of verification. There's also the fact that German users themselves are especially sensitive to online privacy issues with Facebook's face recognition feature triggering an outcry amongst both users and the government.
Local vs global
Despite the dominance of Facebook and Twitter, local social networks continue to play a huge role, especially when it comes to brand awareness and blogger outreach. In terms of popularity, the French Skyrock is in second place in France and French speaking Switzerland and Belgium. It's large teenage user group prefers the privacy aspect of anonymous blogging instead of creating user profiles. Similarly, with approx. 11 million users the Spanish Tuenti is also just behind Facebook. This platform really focuses on the local element by allowing users to change to local language settings Catalan, Basque or Galician, hence allowing you to target particular regional audiences.
Eastern Europe, and Russia in particular, has shown a little more resistance to Facebook, with its hugely popular Vkontakte battling for the public's attention. However, when it comes to local social media winners, then it has to be Holland and Germany. These countries are holding their ground, with their local social media networks Hyves and StudiVZ continuing to be more popular than the US Giant. Like Facebook, the German StudiVZ started out as a student directory, but unlike Facebook, it has largely stayed that way.
Although some countries may not have really taken it up (yet) in comparison to others, this doesn't mean companies can ignore social media there. They simply have to respect what social media culture is present there, and work it to their advantage.