Social Media Success Strategies in International Marketing

Creating a substantial social media presence is not simply about making a Facebook page and hoping customers will drop by. In business, successful communities are developed through the use of skillful marketing research, planning, and strategy making. Social media–based marketing succeeds best when the firm offers products and services relevant to the customer, incorporating substantial value, and provided by an organization deemed trustworthy and reliable. Below are important strategies firms should follow to maximize the effectiveness of social media in international marketing.

Monitor Your Firm’s Online Reputation

Trust plays a critical role in the success of social media marketing. In a world of 24-hour news cycles via practically unlimited news and information outlets, firms can fall victim to gossip and the rants of disgruntled consumers, activists, and others. Thus, marketers need to invest efforts every day scanning the Internet to monitor news about the firm and its brands.

Communicate Your Expertise

Sophisticated companies publicize their expertise in various ways online, such as via websites, podcasts, blogs, and social media, all emphasizing buyers’ needs. Fundamentally, more than caring about products themselves, consumers seek solutions to their specific problems.

Understand Your Markets

Marketers need to devise marketing communications only after acquiring substantive knowledge of the characteristics of intended buyers. By knowing who is using which social sites, marketers can promote their products to their targeted audience at the appropriate sites. For example, the social network site aSmallWorld targets affluent members and others who are part of the international social jet set. Care2 is a social network site that appeals to environmentalists and other interest in green living from around the world.

Manage Information about Your Company and Brands

Many firms today use Facebook and other sites to disseminate continuous news releases that provide value to consumers. Buyers respond favorably to information that appeals to their needs and concerns about products and brands they enjoy. News releases online link to the corporate website, where explanations are offered regarding emergent trends and events that interest buyers. The most successful social media sites incorporate numerous useful links to other sites and provide easy means for customers to contact company representatives. For example, Chinese computer giant Lenovo launched a site called “Voices of the Olympic Games” to collect posts from the athletes competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The site allowed Lenovo to link its brand to exciting Olympics events as they developed.

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Effective Research Techniques in an International Environment

The culture of the region being researched will have an impact on how marketers conduct the research, what is asked, and the length or form of the information received. The willingness and ability of respondents to spend time on the process and provide a free-form response are influenced by factors that include culture and education, the market conditions, and the segments being studied. Cultural and individual preferences, which vary from country to country, also have an impact on research techniques While U.S. businesses often like to generate research that gathers numbers they can sort and manipulate, companies in other nations might use other approaches. In Japan, for example, researchers might gather hard data about details such as shipments, inventory levels, and retail sales and combine them with soft data from interviews, conversations, and personal experience that come from site visits.

Traditional qualitative data tools –interviews, focus groups, and observation– are used in international research but researchers might need to use or evaluate the results differently. Interviews work best when the company needs in-depth answers to specific, narrow questions. Focus groups are effective in helping researchers learn more about attitudes, perceptions, and opinions. Technology also makes it possible for focus groups in different regions to interact with each other. When using focus groups internationally, though, it helps to understand that some cultures are uncomfortable with the frank and open discussions that might happen freely elsewhere. In addition, some cultures believe that disagreeing with another– a hallmark of focus group discussions– is rude, while others consider certain topics taboo.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Czinkota’s book Global Business: Positioning Ventures Ahead, co-authored by Dr. Ilkka Ronkainen.

Michael R Czinkota and Ilkka A Ronkainen, Global Business: Positioning Ventures Ahead (New York: Routledge, 2011), pg. 45-46.

Click HERE to acquire the full book.

Dove Campaign for Real Beauty Advertisement

Due to cultural and societal differences between countries, multinational corporations need to adjust their communication approach even when the product stays the same. Here are two examples of how Unilever gets the word out about its Dove product in Canada and in China.

Dove in Canada

Dove in China

Why Utilize Trade Shows?

Trade shows or fairs are a long-standing European tradition and one of the most significant cost items in a global marketing budget. A trade show is typically an event at which manufacturers, distributors, and other vendors display their products or describe their services to customers, prospects, suppliers, industry associates, and the trade press. Whether or not the company should participate depends on the type of business relationships desired within a particular country. When looking only for one-time or short-term sales, the expense might not be worth it. But if the goal is a long-term investment, it is probably worth the cost.

Companies participate in trade shows because:

  • They provide an excellent opportunity for introducing, promoting, and demonstrating new products to many people efficiently.
  • Appearing at shows helps generate goodwill and face-to-face customer contact.
  • It provides an opportunity for “[waving] the company flag” in front of the competition.
  • Participating helps boost sales force and distributor’s  morale.
  • It is a cost-effective way to meet with and screen potential intermediaries in a new-to-the-company-market.
  • Attending a show is an excellent way to meet government officials and decision-makers. In fact, the host government of the Chinese Export Commodities Fair held twice a year expects exporters to participate.
  • They offer potential for market research and gathering competitive intelligence because rivals are participating in shows, too.
  • There are opportunities to obtain data that helps marketers evaluate the effectiveness of a promotional campaign.
  • They can reach a large number of sales prospects in a brief period of time at a reasonable cost per contact. Some 82 percent of all attendees of the average trade fair have the power to recommend or making final purchasing decisions. In addition, people are there because they have a specific interest in the exhibits.
  • It can be a good place to find suppliers.

Capitalize on trade show participation by inviting key prospects to visit the booth or even better, the company’s hospitality suite where there is more privacy for negotiations. Use incentives to attract people to the booth; have systems in place to track leads generated and to evaluate show performance.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Czinkota’s book Global Business: Positioning Ventures Ahead, co-authored by Dr. Ilkka Ronkainen.

Michael R Czinkota and Ilkka A Ronkainen, Global Business: Positioning Ventures Ahead (New York: Routledge, 2011), pg. 130-132.

Let us know what YOU think about trade shows, leave a comment below…