Beyond Your Borders: Promoting Your Business Internationally Using Social Media

Christian Arno of Lingo24Today’s guest post comes from Christian Arno, the founder of Lingo24, a global translation company specializing in website localization and optimization. Lingo24 has been helping some of the world’s biggest global brands with their localization campaigns since 2001.I appreciate Christian taking the time to share his thoughts on the international aspects of social media and some tips on taking your content beyond your own borders.

The aptly named world wide web has opened up new methods of marketing for businesses both great and small. The benefits of localizing company websites to target foreign markets are now widely recognized (Common Sense Advisory studies suggest an average return of US$25 for every $1 spent on localization) and many businesses now use social media platforms for domestic marketing, but very few appear to be using those platforms to promote their services abroad.

For example, Econsultancy’s 2010 Social Media and Online PR Report reported that 83% of marketers were planning to increase their spending on social media this year, yet only 26% had plans to run campaigns in more than one country.

The Benefits Of Social Media Engagement

While search engine marketing is generally geared towards increasing sales conversions for your website, social media marketing is best seen as a PR tool, for building and maintaining brand awareness, gathering customer feedback and managing negative feedback about your brand. These can, of course, all have a major impact on your sales, even if they’re not directly related to creating sales.

In a survey of 1,100 owners of small businesses, conducted by market research company Ad-ology, the respondents listed the ability to generate leads, to keep up with developments within their industry, and to monitor the online conversation about their business, as the greatest benefits of social networking.

Which sites to choose

The social media sites you might already be familiar with – sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – are all global brands with their own localized settings for foreign language users.

Facebook is the single most visited social media platform worldwide, and figures released last year showed that Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic had the highest growth rate of languages used on the site, reflecting the growth of usage in Latin America and Arabic-speaking countries.

Facebook continues to attract global users, leveraging their localized language


There are, however, social media sites that are huge within their own countries but largely unknown outside these markets. In Brazil, for example, Orkut is the biggest site, with about 20 million monthly visits. Started in California and still boasting modest levels of traffic within the US, Orkut is now hosted within Brazil itself and gets the vast majority of its traffic from there, and from India. With its format and content geared toward a South American audience, Sonico is also popular throughout the continent. is the most widely used site in Japan, with around 30 million users, while the huge Chinese market is dominated by Renren and Qzone. Qzone alone claims to have a staggering 380 million users and, while it’s thought many of these are dormant accounts, it’s still a huge number.

Your international audience my use social networks that are localized to their language and countryEffective communication

Once you’ve selected the most appropriate platform for your social media engagement efforts (it’s little use concentrating on Facebook if you want to do business in China), it’s time to create your profiles and open up the lines of communication.

For translation, you could use any of a number of automatic translation programs, like Babelfish or Google Translate, or rely on the site’s own translation facilities, if it has any.

Be wary, though, as machine translation can throw up mistakes which can distort the meaning of your posts and other copy, or simply leave you looking amateurish. While machine translation is fine to get the gist of your followers’ responses to you, you’re best off using professional translators for your posts and tweets.

One benefit is that you can construct posts, tweets, etc in your native language and then have them translated for the various languages you’re targeting. Using social media management programs like Hoot Suite, which allows you to schedule tweets in advance, you can maintain a steady output on your various international social media networks, gradually building followers and generating buzz about your brand in every targeted market, for far less investment than it would cost to run advertising campaigns.

Your only outlay is to have your tweets and posts translated, which, considering tweets are less than 140 characters, means you’re not looking at a massive monthly outlay to translate your social media interactions. With a little planning and effort, you’ll find the response to your international social media efforts far outweighs the investment of time and money.

Thanks, again, to Christian for sharing his thoughts and tips! Any business that offer their products and servers on an international basis is going to have to consider how to engage via social media in different languages and will need to understand the cultures and language differences of their target audiences, as well as the appropriate channels where their international audience engages. I’d love to hear thoughts, experiences and feedback in the comments. Share your experiences with us!



Comments And Reactions

  1. Have a Super Friday and a Fantastic Weekend!

  2. Very interesting and helpful !! Thanks for sharing !!

  3. Michelle Gilstrap says:

    There are many US companies that do international business, Disneyland, Universal
    Studios theme parks to name just two major companies that bring international visitors to the U.S.
    I would hope both of these giants would be utilizing these techniques.

  4. Fantastic article. Well written. I have shared this on multiple networks. I look forward to more articles from you!

  5. China is big enough so they don’t need qzone or renren in other languages. But Japan with mixi only in Japanese ?

    Hmh . . .

  6. I’ve gotten international clients through LinkedIn. Of course, it was to do LinkedIn coaching/consulting, so I’m not entirely sure it counts, but still… 😉


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