6 Tips to Help You Avoid Committing Social Media Faux Pas

Matthew MacLachlan

1 Feb 2016

Social media platforms are now an every day part of our personal and working lives. Here are 6 tips to help you to avoid committing social media faux pas when using social media for professional purposes- particularly when your message crosses borders!

What happens when social media crosses borders

Whether it be Facebook for keeping in touch with our loved ones or LinkedIn for building our professional network, we are constantly connecting and updating. But are we doing it right and what faux pas are we committing without realising?

In the last decade the rapid growth of platforms such as Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter has provided international companies with the opportunity to increase the global recognition of their products and services and to engage with their international workforce and customers. Let’d dive in and see what some of the common mistakes are and how to correct them:

1. Local Does Not Translate

Online communication can bring challenges when organisations export their social media marketing plan overseas. Tactics that work well at home will not always have the same degree of success in overseas markets and marketing teams need to find the right balance between a consistent global approach and adapting to the trends and preferences of each local market – in other words they need to glocalise.

2. Choose the Right Platform

First and foremost digital marketeers need to do their research as social media use may vary from country to country. To engage with as many customers as possible they need to make sure they are using the right platforms.

It is well known that the Chinese government blocks access to a number of western social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and all things Google. Relying on these networks alone rather than exploring platforms such as WeChat or Weibo would mean missing out on the 618 million internet users in China.

The same is true of other countries such as Russia, Japan or South Korea which all have powerful social networks almost unknown in the West.

3. Lost in Translation

Language is also paramount.  English may be considered the language of the internet and is widely understood worldwide.

However, you will engage much more fully with your international customer base if you can speak their language.  Translation can take a lot of time and money but be wary of automated translation tools as while they may have come a long way since their early days they are still far from perfect.

4. Timing Is Everything

If you use automated services to ensure you regularly post online throughout the day you may need to adjust your schedule to take different time zones into account.

However good your posts are if they land in the middle of the night they are less likely to be read.  Remember that the working week doesn’t start on Monday in every country worldwide and you might also want to make special mention of local holidays and festivals or offer particular promotions that tie in with local calendar events.

5. Beware of Cultural Gaffes

Some international companies have already suffered social media embarrassment when comments on their social media accounts proved offensive or culturally insensitive, causing a loss of customer engagement and putting at the company’s reputation at risk, calling into question its integrity.

The use or misuse of humour, celebrity endorsement or local cultural symbols and rituals can disenchant rather than engage your potential customers if you are not careful. Making an effort to avoid culturally insensitive points of views in social media networks is critical for a successful international marketing campaign.

6. Make the Message Fit

Glocalising your communications’ strategy can ensure a more appropriate approach to the diversity of consumers you are appealing to and make all the difference between successful market penetration and a failure to make a significant impact on your target customers.

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