Going Global by Going Local: Why localization improves engagement

Part 15 in an ongoing series that serves as the prequel to my new book, The End of Business as Usual

The world is becoming a much smaller place. But even with social media contributing to a globally connected society, businesses that continue to take a global approach to social content and engagement may be missing opportunities for greater resonance and relevance. While a global presence is necessary for any organization hoping to connect with customers around the world, placing reliance on one prevailing strategy is just the beginning. In any web strategy, including social and also mobile media, localization is king.

In my work and research over the years, I’ve observed a significant number of businesses that employ English-driven initiatives across the Web. As customers grow increasingly depended on social networks, paying particular attention to Facebook, a “one size fits all” program may make assumptions that miss the opportunity to engage people their way in the last mile. Data shows that customizing or localizing content for specific markets and cultures dramatically multiplies desired effect. In the great race to win the hearts and minds of customers, localization also helps customers feel better about the resulting clicks they make following each engagement.

Social CMS and SMMS systems such as Buddy Media, Vitrue, Wildfire, Spredfast, Involver, Expion, among many others, enable brands to publish once to many pages across social networks. Whether it’s Facebook, Youtube, Google+, Twitter, all of the above or a combination there-of, English-centric strategies can not only be centrally managed by the global brand team, but also further localized for important countries by the local country manager or their local team.

A brief study of average customer engagement on Facebook Fan pages around the world in 2010 helps illustrate the point of why localized strategies are important. In the review, Starbucks and Blackberry country pages that featured localized content in addition to the global initiatives fostered interaction as much as 10 – 15x than those which featured English-only content. And now with F-commerce and social and mobile commerce becoming pivotal in defining and activating customer relationships within their channels of preference, localized initiatives will only grow your opportunity.

To that point, Translated.net recently published its T-Index report, which projects the top countries global businesses should examine to increase online commerce and engagement. According to the report, the Top 10 countries for selling online through 2015 are as follows…

  1. China
  2. Unites States
  3. Japan
  4. Brazil
  5. Germany
  6. Russia
  7. France
  8. United Kingdom
  9. South Korea
  10. Mexico

Translated.net projects China to earn a market share of 18.8%, compared to 11.5% in 2011. According to these numbers, China is estimated to overtake the Unites States, which may see its aggregate online sales decline from 24.4% in 2011 to 16.8% by 2015. It’s estimated that Japan will remain third overall despite a market share reduction of -25.7% compared to 2011.With an estimated market share change of +43.3%, Brazil will jump into fourth place. Russia too will leap two positions to sixth overall with a change of +27.5%.

2011-2015 trend showing the countries with the highest potential for online sales

As you plan you global content and commerce strategy, it’s also important to review the languages that offer the highest potential. According to the T-Index report, English will continue as the top language with an estimated 25.4% through 2015 with Chinese Simplified growing to 18.9%. Spanish follows in third with 8.5%. As you can see, many other languages will play a role in your strategies, which is why it’s vital to employ a syndicated and localized content, commerce, and engagement strategy across all media.

Yes, the world is becoming a much smaller place. And, yes, global strategies establish a unified brand. In 2012 and over the next few years, going local will only improve engagement, resonance, and ultimately commerce in the last mile.  To make the most out of the oppotunity

1. Employ a Global Strategy, but also focus on Localized Initiatives for content, commerce, and engagement within in important market.

2. Empower Country Managers to extend the global vision, mission, and purpose for essential languages and cultures.

3. Create a centralized Global Directory that points customers around the world to their specific country page

4. Design a Syndicated Content, Commerce, and Engagement program that connects with customers their way in their channel of preference (the recipe of mobile, social, digital, and emerging media will vary from market to market)

5. Explore the data shared in the T-Index report to prioritize your Global Initiatives

Think global. Act local.

Order The End of Business as Usual today…

Part 1 – Digital Darwinism, Who’s Next
Part 2
– Social Media’s Impending Flood of Customer Unlikes and Unfollows
Part 3
– Social Media Customer Service is a Failure!
Part 4
– I think we need some time apart, it’s not me, it’s you
Part 5
– We are the 5th P: People
Part 6
– The State of Social Media 2011: Social is the new normal
Part 7
– I like you, but not in that way
Part 8
– Are You Building a Social Brand or a Social Business?
Part 9
– CMO’s are at the Crossroads of Customer Transactions and Engagement
Part 10
– From Social Commerce to Syndicated Commerce
Part 11
– You can’t go back to create a new beginning, but you can begin to change the ending
Part 12 – How to Make Customer Service Matter Again Part 1
Part 13 – How to Make Customer Service Matter Again Part 2
Part 14 – Long Live Blogs! The State of the Blogosphere 2011

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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  • Anonymous

    Good to hear that Localisation is finally taking its place
    in the social media marketing mix. This is surely a sign that social media is
    coming of age.

    • Phifernet

      what about the niche social marketing. talking about precise passion and a fan base thats set to evolve

  • http://twitter.com/hootng Jordan Ng

    Powerful stuff and customers can help with these initiatives. We’ve localized our mobile app in seven languages through our translation project powered by our users. Volunteers participate in localization so that they can use an awesome product in the way they understand it best.

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  • Guest

    wow very nice image use full information

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    good post

  • http://www.iintentio.com/ Jeff Gross

    Great post! I think in today’s time it is important to make best use of the Social Media, it is a indeed the cheapest medium to create an awareness for your product. I think the localization is really important as it saves time in money and logistics and other aspects of business

  • http://www.twitter.com/1seomatt Social Media Blog

    Great Article Brian, always enjoy reading this blog. Cheers!

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  • Anonymous

    Great post! I think it’s especially important for those of us in the Social Media world to understand that we’re not just talking to ourselves in a small conference room with 30 of our closest, most homogenous colleagues. Social Media is still very much in the early stages of strategy development, but this will become crucial this year and in the years to come. Thanks for sharing :) ~Hanna

  • http://twitter.com/Risgaard Martin Risgaard

    Global also means local – good post, Brian.

    Also a very important point for all businesses with global aspirations. I come from a small country with little more than 5 million people (Denmark), and although Danes, rightfully, pride themselves of a very high proficiency in English, many still prefer the native tongue – PLUS you have all the cultural and national factors that the big ‘one size fits all’ campaigns hardly ever take into consideration.

    No doubt that the devil’s in the detail, but so is the recipe for success!

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  • Teri Thonpson

    Thank you for your perspective. Localization matters, which is what I learned in broadcast-television-now- social-media.  My mantra is similar but I flip the sentences: Execute locally. Think globally.  Regardless of the strategy, brand, or product, an action must take place at the individual level (purchase, improved perception, tune-in).  Otherwise, what’s the point.

  • http://twitter.com/GPITranslates GPI

    Great post Brian!

    With the massive global expansion we are watching lately we believe that localization is one of the most essential keys to improve your communication effectively. We will witness in 2012 alot of localization services as we provide taking a step into the market like SEO localization, Social Media localization, Blog localization and Online content localization. Companies should pay more attention to the localization services.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.winpisinger Joe Winpisinger

    In Christian mission circles the concept you discuss here is called contextualization not localization. From personal cross cultural experience I can say that the last mile you talk about can be an unbridgeable gap in some cultures. That is if the message is not contextualized. Great post as usual.

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      Thank you Joe. As I believe, it’s not content, but context that’s king.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.winpisinger Joe Winpisinger

      I just took my vision and business plan today and put it into my local context and niche. Funny that I saw this discus notification 2 hours later…

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  • Tim Love

    Well done, Brian.
    We have underestimated the impact language difference has on human misunderstanding. With neuroscience helping us understand how people’s brains process information and concept, we have only recently discovered that our belief that we can learn alternate languages and/or have access to interpreters, has mitigated our fully appreciating how hard it is to achieve understanding between people. In a world of 7-billion people, where 5-billion are now connected by mobile device and half can access the web without a land line, desktop or laptop, the issue of language is even more acute.  If you are interested in more about this, see “Our Language Impediment” published in The Internationalist last month.
    Beyond this, “Think Global, Act Local” is insufficient tool for contextualizing. Try “Think Like The Sun”
    which challenges us to assume a more objective frame of reference than geographical borders and to assume that perception-building is always on.  Tim Love

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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