Today, thanks to the global reach of social media, consumers around the world can access your content, interact with other customers, and take part in the conversation around your brand. The number of social network users around the world has risen from 1.47 billion in 2012 to 1.73 billion in 2013. It’s been predicted that by 2017, the global social network audience will total 2.55 billion.
As social platforms continue to grow in size and reach, it creates a lot of opportunities for businesses with a global audience. However, that growth can also result in some unique challenges for international brands. For example, should marketers create a single, central Twitter account or different accounts for each market?
While there’s no right or wrong answer, you can see how a social media strategy for an international brand tends to be more complicated than that of a purely local business. In turn, social networks have had to adapt to that growth by releasing updates and features with an international audience in mind.
Facebook has come a long way in terms of helping local businesses, but the company maintains incredible reach across the globe. According to Alexa data, Facebook remains the dominant social network in 127 of the 137 countries analyzed in the December 2013 Map of Social Networks. This isn’t all that surprising considering that 957 million, or 83 percent of the social network’s total users are international.
It didn’t take long for the social network to begin its global growth, but the company went out of its way to make the platform more available for those audiences. In October 2012, Facebook launched Global Pages which let brands maintain a single Page with localized experiences for fans in different countries.
Not only that, but Facebook recently began allowing international networks to display its content in television shows. Introduced in October 2013, the Public Feed and Keyword Insights APIs allow content producers and broadcasters to display a real-time live stream of public posts mentioned during TV shows.
Facebook’s international support can also be seen in its Gifts feature, App Center, and even Facebook Ads — which can be targeted by country and paid for in more than 20 currencies.
Pinterest has seen incredible growth over the years and in 2013 it went international. Localized versions of the platform were already in several countries outside of the U.S., including the UK, France, and Italy, but a new round of funding this past October helped the company launch in 10 countries before the year was up.
According to the company, it has seen a 125 percent growth in international traffic since the beginning of 2013. In an effort to continue that trend, Pinterest and Telefónica brought an exclusive Android Widget to phones and tablets to some 316 million customers in Latin America. The service was already performing well with the carrier’s customer base, and monthly active users in areas where Telefónica is active have gone up by more than 130 percent.
During the following month, Pinterest launched another localized version in Japan. In doing so, it also introduced a sub-category that specializes in topics for hair styles, products, design, art, and food popular in that region.
Since 2010, Twitter’s international user base grew 745 percent from 20 million to 169 million users. In contrast, the service’s U.S. user base only grew 390 percent from 10 million to 49 million users. As of January 2013, 70 percent of Twitter’s accounts are outside of the U.S.
With usage around the world increasing, and more demand from advertisers wanting to connect with global audiences, Twitter has made its services available in more than 33 languages with advertising support for more than 50 countries — including the UK, Ireland, Japan, Brazil, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and more.
One of Twitter’s newest features, TV conversation targeting, makes it easy for networks and brands to connected with Twitter members already engaged with TV. Already available in the U.S. and the UK, Twitter began its first major wave of international expansion in November, bringing the tool to advertisers in Brazil, Canada, France, and Spain, with more countries to follow.
So whether you manage one central account or several regional ones, there are a couple of tips you’ll want to keep in mind when using any social platform. First, optimize your content for different time zones. If you only focus on the time zones around you, you’ll miss out on reaching people in different markets. This isn’t as important for Pinterest as it is Twitter and Facebook.
Additionally, using a tool that can geo-target your content for you will help to create better experiences for local audiences. You can actually access this functionality when composing tweets through Sprout Social. Just select one or multiple regions for each tweet you write before you publish.
Lastly, listen to customers everywhere, even if they’re not in your most popular markets. We live in a globally connected world, and a customer of yours might be just as likely to be friends with someone from another country as they are to be following you. So while you don’t want to lose sight of your target demographics, sometimes consumers are reachable and influenced by others beyond your local community.
Jennifer Beese: Jennifer Beese has worked as a community manager and social media strategist. When she’s not writing, you can find her studying anatomy and physiology—she literally has a skeleton in her closet—or under the stars with her telescope.