Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Christian Arno, founder of the professional translation agency Lingo24

In the seven short years since Facebook was launched, social media sites have become a ubiquitous and all-pervading phenomenon. The social aspects of such sites are clearly important, but they’re also increasingly being used for marketing and other business purposes.

The global nature of the internet means social media sites give you the potential to reach out and make connections worldwide. Whether you’re pushing a business, a blog or anything else, new networks and markets are theoretically just a mouse-click away. In reality, there’s a little more to think about when it comes to approaching different cultures via social media.

So what’s in it for me? 

Globe Image by apbeatty via Flickr

For many people, social media sites are a way to keep in touch with friends and relatives, to chat, play games and generally kill time. For others, they offer a way to reach customers and new audiences on a professional yet casual basis.

The benefits of social media marketing might not always be as visible and easily measurable as more traditional marketing methods, such as website localization, which can be broken down into clear cost/benefit ratios. They do, however, afford the opportunity to generate leads, increase brand awareness and to monitor and police your online reputation.

You can respond to unfair criticism and, if there’s criticism that happens to be valid, improve the way you do business by taking appropriate steps to rectify highlighted issues. Social media sites can be used to find new customers or audiences, but they’re more often about making connections than the hard sell.

Using monitoring tools

Social media sites can provide a great deal of insight into what people actually think about your brand, products or services. One way they can express their opinions is by direct communication: posting on your profiles and responding to your own posts or blogs.

Chances are, though, people are also talking about you elsewhere. Google Alerts allow you to keep tabs on the conversation by entering a keyword or phrase such as your business or product name. Google will then email you updates of the latest relevant search results, allowing you to keep track of when and where you are mentioned.

There are also systems such as Board Tracker and Board Reader that specialize in trawling forums and message boards for mentions of your keywords. Most have language settings, allowing you to keep track of your reputation beyond your home market.

Finding the right sites

Twitter has enjoyed a recent upsurge in usage in Latin America, while Facebook is the single most visited social media site worldwide, and other big players, like the more business-oriented LinkedIn, have their own global presence. They all have their own language and regional settings and certainly shouldn’t be ignored.

In some regions, however, local competitors have a far greater share of the market. The likes of Twitter and Facebook might be on the rise in the vast emerging markets of South America, but the most widely used site in the region’s most populous country Brazil is Google’s Orkut, which is also a major social networking force in India. In Japan, meanwhile, Mixi.jp has the largest market share, with around 30 million users. These sites might not have the worldwide appeal of the aforementioned Facebook and Twitter but, if you are targeting the markets in which they operate, it might well be worth concentrating your efforts there.

Lost in translation

Once you’ve chosen the most appropriate platforms and a general strategy, you still have to get your message out there. Social media networks are all about effective communication and that can be problematic if you’re dealing with cultural and linguistic divides.

Automatic translation programs can be a godsend if you’re operating on limited resources, or simply looking for a workable translation of comments and posts about you. For your own posts and responses, however, you’d do best to consider working with native language translators.

Machine translation is prone to contextual errors, and is certainly not great at deciphering the colloquialisms and abbreviations prevalent on social media sites. A native-speaking translator will help to give your copy a responsive, human and local touch.

As with so many business decisions, it may come down to a matter of resources, but the golden rule is that clear and accurate communication is essential in approaching different cultures via social media.

Article by , the Managing Director of Lingo24, Inc.. Follow Lingo24, Inc.
on Twitter.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Anonymous

    Finding out what tools people use in different countries is a lot of hard work. Most of the big blogs and websites are in the USA and cover the same sort of stuff but over here in Europe you have about 20 different countries most with different languages and cultures. The only one tool that does seem to be pretty much everywhere and loved by all is Facebook!

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    This is so true! social media is an effective tool to get exposure and for creating brand awareness. the best part of social media is that you can have others opinion about your product.. i guess this is the only reason why we are seeing such a huge turnouts of companies in media’s like FB & Twitter

    Online Business
    Virtual Assistant

  • football news

    this is so true. i ve also launched a social networking football website. this might be helpful for me. thank you.