Playtime is over – social media gets strategic

For European marketers and brand managers the watchword has long been consistency – in how their brand is positioned, expressed and delivered. But the exponential growth in social media has made achieving this consistency a whole lot harder. Social platforms, behaviours, expectations and motivations differ greatly across European regions – Russians don’t use social tools for the same reasons as Norwegians, Norwegians are different from Swedes, who in turn are different from the English…

The result? Pan-European Brands looking to join the social revolution in an effective, consistent manner, face numerous challenges.

They need so consider whether to focus on the major pan-European social platforms only or have a presence on country specific networks, and also how their social media presence and social governance model cater for both central and local requirements.

Strategy needs to be co-ordinated centrally, with certain areas that can be managed locally agreed up front. Believe me, the list goes on and on, such as sourcing a technical platform that can be used to manage social interactions across multiple languages and how to produce compelling and socially relevant content across multiple markets.

Because of the sheer scale of the challenges social media presents, many brands have, perhaps understandably, shied away from tackling them at all – with each individual country empowered (or simply ‘left’ depending upon your perspective) to do its own thing.

And this is where the problems can really start. Without a centrally co-ordinated social media strategy an international brand can produce a wealth of social media content that is ill coordinated, costly and often totally ineffective. Moreover, without a defined, and agreed, Social Media Policy, a brand may well end up with numerous cross-market social ‘representatives’ – with each pretty much doing their own thing. The risks associated with this scenario are plain to see – it only takes one misstep to become hot social news for all the wrong reasons… whatever the social media evangelists tell you about ‘empowering the individual’.

My advice is simple – plan and implement your social media proposition carefully and thoroughly – look at setting up a cross departmental task force, get senior management to understand and sponsor your efforts, involve your markets so that social media best practice is understood and shared, and finally, coordinate from the get go.

Do this and you will have a chance of achieving that which is still all too rare – a coherent, consistent and effective pan-European social media presence.