How Do You Manage Multinational Social Media Programs? We'd Like To Know!

Lately, a lot of our clients have been asking about how to manage their social media programs across more than one country. It's a real challenge: While some sites (like MySpace) have long offered solutions to help marketers direct users from different countries to the correct branded page, the current social media leaders (Facebook, YouTube and Twitter) don't seem to do this nearly as well. How, then, do you make sure that the Facebook page on which you post UK-specific content doesn't misinform your European fans? How do make sure the support community designed to help your US customers doesn't confuse your Canadian audience? Do you create multiple pages in each social network to serve all the countries in which you operate? Or do you maintain a single presence in each network, and avoid posting any country-specific material? If you offer different product lines in different countries -- or use radically different marketing strategies market by market -- it only gets more difficult.

I think there are different answers that are appropriate for different marketers. But anecdotally, one of the best examples I've seen (in theory, anyway) comes from JP Morgan. They have a single global Facebook page that doesn't host any content but that (if you scroll down far enough) directs you to regional pages. Fans can then choose the region that suits them -- America, Europe, or Asia -- and see content that's specific to their location. It's not a perfect implementation -- among other problems, it's too hard for users to find the region map on the global page, and all the content is in English no matter which region you choose -- but it's an interesting concept, and one I'd love to see developed further.

Likewise, if you launch Coca Cola's Facebook app, it asks you select what country you're coming from -- though again, no matter what country I select, I only see English-language content.  Disney goes one better: If you search for 'Disney' on YouTube, you'll find loads of country-specific channels -- all featuring videos in the local language.

Again, I know this is only one strategy for managing social media programs across countries, and it's not necessarily the right strategy for everyone. So over the next few weeks I'll be researching and writing a report on this topic. If you'd like to contribute to that research, we'd love to talk to you. Either drop me an email (nelliott at forrester dot com) or leave your thoughts in the comments below. In particular, we'd be curious to hear your answers to the following questions:

  • Do you use a single social media strategy in every country, or do you customize your strategy market by market?
  • How do you make sure your consumers find the social content or interactions you want them to find -- and not the ones designed for other consumers in other markets?
  • Which social media sites do the best job of helping you manage multinational social media programs?
  • How do you effectively leverage social media resources -- be they strategies and program ideas, media assets, or vendors and tools -- across all your national markets?


I look forward to hearing some great ideas -- and I look forward to reporting back soon on what I've found.


personal practice

I found this post very interesting as I work in a multinational that has the same issues.
For the moment we differentiate between every country. This for a number of reasons.
- Since almost every country has a different language, it's always best to address the visitor in their own tongue. Believe it or not: not everyone speaks English.
- Sometimes there are very specific regional differences. Not only culture and language differ but also socio demographic specifics.
- When choosing your channel, this is also important. We know facebook rules the social web but not in every country. E.g. in Belgium there is netlog that does mostly the same things as facebook but is much easier to work with since they are relatively small in comparison with facebook or myspace. You have to weigh the pro's and con's.
- Lastly: when attaching a promotion, country specific data is essential. Currencies, tax, handling, contact management, legal clauses, ... you name it; there are a whole lot of differences.

My advice would be to create a global strategy but differentiate between regions and countries as to personalize the most and create the best ROI.

To answer your second question:
* How do you make sure your consumers find the social content or interactions you want them to find -- and not the ones designed for other consumers in other markets?

There are a number of ways:
- The method you use, the channel you choose, the type of marketing, the direct mail channel, etc...
- If you use social sites (facebook, linkedin, Xing, ...) They can drill down in the details of their users. You can target very specifically which persons you try to reach.
- The message is also very important. Since I work in a company that has products that go to different segments, we have distinctly different messages, promotions and contests, tailored to the user we want to address.

* Which social media sites do the best job of helping you manage multinational social media programs?
This is a bad question. As you have read before: it all depends on the combination of message and target audience.

I hope this gives some insights.

Start you global social media strategy locally...

Here's another resource that might be of interest. I wrote on "global" social media strategies last summer, and advocated starting them locally. See my June 25, 2009 report "Start Your Global Social Media Strategy Locally."