Beyond Facebook: Building a global social media strategy
A lot of people ask me: “Dino, what’s your company’s Facebook strategy?” It’s a fair question, given recent news that Facebook has eclipsed 500 million users. Were Facebook its own country, it would be the third most populated in the world behind China and India. (One in 40 users alone originate from India). Facebook is fast gaining market share in South America, Asia, Oceania and parts of Africa in addition to its already extensive reach across North America and Europe. There are boundless opportunties for entreprenuers to reach consumers across the world’s most popular social network, begging the question: “Who isn’t on Facebook?”
Of course, Facebook is a key ingredient in my company’s social media mix, in and of itself part of a larger marketing and communications strategy. As is Twitter, which just claimed 190 million users and counting. Both networks better help us understand our online communities, why they care about us, and how we can better care about them. But to say we have a Twitter “strategy” or one just for Facebook as posed above would sound somewhat myopic. Not to underestimate Facebook’s impact, but to get the sense of the greenest social media landscape for yourself and your company, you first need to spin the globe.
Passports to Adventure
So I should be on LinkedIn, Foursquare and other popular social networks too, no?” Potentially. Determining where to be in social media may seem daunting, given the offerings that come—and go—on a seemingly daily basis. Acclaimed author Chris Brogan created categories of “home bases, outposts and passports” to guide social media sherpas as we traverse through the thicket of bookmark sharers, microblogs, and geolocation camps, and choose where to plant flags. Mapping your social media is a terrific starting point, allowing you to consider if this-hotspot-versus-that-one is the right fit for your next online outing.
With adventure comes adversity. I recently had coffee with a fellow tweep (Twitter friend) in town that expressed his dismay at overhearing a social media consultant advise his client not to position his eatery on Foursquare. “Are you kidding me?” I replied at first. “Why wouldn’t a restauranteur want to be on Foursquare, given its 2 million users and 100 million check-ins?” But the more I thought about it over coffee, maybe there was something about the restaurant, its patrons, or something else that would fail on Foursquare. Certainly you want to be at the party, maybe even the life of one, but the discerning socialite will pick and choose which party to stage.
And, with adversity and risk come reward, but first think of the “it” social networks of today. Sure, they may be the places to be seen and heard, but will they remain so down the road? Have you ever figured on what Facebook may look like five years from now? Maybe it will hit the billion-user mark, maybe two billion. Or perhaps it will nearly perish as Second Life and Friendster almost did. (Talk about two networks that users flocked to in droves and where companies couldn’t empty their wallets into advertising fast enough, only to regret it when users up and vanished for the next big thing.) That’s not to say you shouldn’t explore all available avenues, particularly when you are in a position to be an early adopter. If the brief history of the internet has taught us one thing, it is that no research is exhaustive enough. Do your homework, and you may just find a happy home with thousands of new customers leaving your competitors to wonder, “How can I get behind that velvet rope?”
That, and these days, Friendster is really big in Belgium…
Friends in Faraway Places
Well, not exactly. For those that are wondering, Friendster may have fallen to the wayside in the Western world when Facebook appeared, but would you believe it still has 90 million users, many of them in Southeast Asia? And you probably know about Orkut, Google’s social network that never took off in the English-speaking world but does very well in Latin American and India to the tune of 100 million accounts.
Being the global netizen that you are, it makes sense to stake claim in those previously mentioned outposts and such around the world, right? I’ll say it again: Potentially. Facebook is increasing both market penetration and saturation worldwide, but there are other players in the game, and they are the real deal:
- Cyworld – 24 million users across Korea, China and Vietnam.
- hi5 – 90 million, hailing from Mongolia and Romania to Jamaica and Central Africa.
- Mixi – 24 million Japanese users and growing.
- Qzone – 200 million citizens in mainland China.
- Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki and LiveJournal in Russia and former Soviet states, with 81, 45 and 17 million users, respectively.
- Netlog – 65 million primarily young, Arabic persons from all over the world.
These represent the largely non-English social networks to date, though there are dozens more with varying degrees of favorability and influence. Assuming you choose to market in these communities, take care to localize your efforts. This means factoring linguistics into the equation, respecting cultural courtesies and other nuances, abiding by national and international regulations with respect to online activities, and even working with disparate teams across multiple time zones. Simply put, bragging about a brand on Facebook in the United States may not bode well in Indonesia, nor at all to the 70 million surfing RenRen in China.
So when it comes time to set targets for your social media strategy, you probably want to go with Facebook and the other big networks in your home market, and potentially other ones around the globe with the most go for your green. Chances are you’re already there or on your way. Amway, where I work, has some exciting things in store for Facebook and is frequenting more social media shindigs from market to market with each sunrise.
No matter where you go with social media, stay aligned with your marketing objectives and overall business goals, keeping the consumer top of mind on every network and in every market. That’s sound advice in any language.
Note: All estimates for social network activity presented above are collected from current media coverage, third-party analyses and other websites. The author makes no guarantees as to the validity of those numbers, but tried his darndest to arrive at the most accurate answers.
As the first-ever manager of online PR and social media for Amway, I came to respect Jennifer Fong as one of the hardest-working direct sales advocates in the biz. It was an honor to be asked to submit this guest post to her blog. (Photo CC 2.0 by Ho John Lee, 2006 via Flickr)