The rise of the Internet has truly shaped our modern world. Everything is smaller, faster and synchronised to the nth degree. There are seemingly no barriers to us connecting with one another instantly via voice, video or the written word, literally just one-click away from purchases, debates, revolutions and friends.
This past decade has proven to be great for new and old brands alike. For years now multinational campaigns have been replicated across the globe with only the cost of translating website content or adding subtitles to video acting as a barrier to a new market.
However, there is a warning here for sleeping giants. Just like the early noughties, when many traditional businesses failed to grasp the true principles and opportunities of the web and were left behind by their customers. We are now at a similar point in social media. Where holding a (now very traditional) view of how to engage audiences via websites risks leaving organisations behind in the new social media landscape.
Whilst translating content alone may have worked back when websites were broadcasting content around the world, it fails tremendously when having a real-time conversation via social media. It’s not just because translations can often sound like someone using a phrase book badly when on holiday, but because culture is so much more important than words alone.
In the business world this is nothing new. Business deals would not be made in local markets without an understanding of cultural, technological, political and economic dynamics.
Yet, online these principles are so often missing when they are needed the most. In the social media world, the focus should not be on the media but on social. Which means localised campaigns must take into account much more than language and have an inherent awareness of local humour, common, job markets, local economy and so on.
In other words, localised social media is not something that can be centralised and translated alone. It needs to be local. Delivered by people who live and breathe not just the brand, but the environment and audience they are talking to.
Authenticity and responsiveness are key. Which is why getting a modern global campaign right is just as much art as it is science. Increasingly social media is now as much a customer services channel as a sales and marketing one. It can build communities or unite them against you. Which means it cannot be a part time business pastime; you must either do it, properly, or perhaps not at all. Nobody likes talking to someone who is distracted or worse, ignoring them, so why would they put up with it for brands online.
This means a huge range of factors need to be considered at a truly local level. Ranging from what channels to focus upon e.g. should you choose LinkedIn over Xing or Facebook over Tuenti. What are the local trends of the day, or the big news items you should steer clear from. This also includes understanding what is your local brand voice is in multimedia and via the written word.
This can only be achieved by building the right representatives who live and breathe both your brand and local culture this when speaking to your end customers.
Of course, this isn’t removing the need for some centralisation, which is still essential for ensuring consistency through coordination, support and guidance. However, this should never be mistaken as more important than local understanding and day-to-day delivery.
Otherwise the risk is that however big your brand, you will just look like a foreigner lost in a new country. Unable to ask the right questions, provide the right answers or most importantly, form the depth of relationship needed in a world increasingly build on conversation.