Strategy Trumps Tactics in Social Media

Social media has now reached 1 billion users worldwide according to EMarketer. A recent article summarizes their full report, “Social Media in the Marketing Mix: Managing Global Expansion,” cites that Asia-Pacific countries, the Middle East and Africa now garner higher usage volumes than those in the United States and Western Europe. The article polled several marketers grappling with how to successfully implement social media globally.

The results are surprising (see table below):

How can companies successfully approach global social media, be effective and scale without dictating what local regions can and cannot do?

1. Strategy – Before tackling the “how” think about your global business goals, review what global marketing strategies have been established and then define an overarching global social media strategy, goal and objective. If your company doesn’t have a global marketing plan, then look at the business goals and go from there. Once you have defined that overarching strategy then you can downstream smaller strategies to the regions. Don’t overcomplicate this — keep it simple. Remember, social media is part of the marketing mix and has the same marketing goals like any other marketing tactic, i.e., selling a product, gaining brand awareness or establishing brand advocacy – it is no different.

2. Center of Excellence – Establishing a Center of Excellence is critical to providing your company with a framework to operate within. Each company should define their own COE,  but broadly speaking COEs are groups established as best practice centers – a place within the company that provides standards, insights and intelligence on trends. Yes, it will seem overwhelming especially if you are unable to hire additional staff. This is crucial to how you approach social media globally. I like how @beckyannbrown, Director of Intel’s Social Media describes their COE in a Forbes article, “Top Brands on Social Media Week, what Intel, Adobe, Wells Fargo and SAP said“.

3. Guidelines – In order for regions to function and have guidance you must establish guidelines and best practices. Guidelines need to be established for what social media outlets are allowed, iconography standards, naming and firm logo standards. These guidelines are very similar to what you should already have in place for your brand but need to be adapted for social media. Think about how you want your brand to appear externally around the world within third-party social media platforms.

4. Best Practices – Best practices should be written to provide both your group and global regions with a set of rules of the road as they venture into social media. You should be working with your brand team as you establish these – think about overarching guidance, platform specific best practices and industry best practices. Social Media Today’s recent “B2B Social Media Best Practices Today” webinar is an insightful overview.

5. Content Guidance – You aren’t looking to dictate content for each region, but you do want to create content that filters to your regions so they can tweak for their own audience. I am not advocating you should do this for every piece of content created. As the COE, you should operate with that frame of mind and understand regions will not have the resources you have. They will rely upon your guidance and direction. Establishing overarching content guidelines (tone, voice, delivery), blogging guidelines, tweeting guidelines, Facebook content posting guidelines, imagery, Pinterest guidelines and the list goes on and on–you get the idea. Imagine you are a one or two person team executing social media, PR and a list of other duties. Having guidance and standards in place not only establishes consistency, but takes the guess work out of how a region can successfully operate.

These are just a few suggestions on how to operate globally in the ever changing world of social media. Remember to establish your strategy first and then go the “how”. Once you have built your foundation have fun – establish a quarterly internal award and be infectious in your internal communications. It is very important to promote your efforts internally and let others know how global social media is paving the road and participating in your company’s marketing efforts.

Image Credit: Go-Globe, EMarketer

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