A quick guide to Social Media around the world

Social Media of the WorldAs every digital marketer knows, there’s a lot more to social media strategy than Facebook and Twitter… especially if you’re going global. Cultural differences throughout the world have created different social media consumption preferences based on local nuances. Traditional marketing incorporates awareness of cultural sensitivity when dealing with different audiences and it’s naive to think the social sphere is any different.

China is well known for having unique channels in the form of Sina-Weibo, RenRen and Qzone and brands targeting the Chinese market will (hopefully) already have these covered. But China is not the only country with its individual social media quirks:

Brazil: Orkut

While Facebook is the most used and popular social network in Brazil as of December 2011, but its popularity can be deceptive. When it comes to brand engagement, Facebook’s response rate in Brazil is a lowly 22%.

So the country’s former leading social network, the Google-run Orkut, is still of value. Forget Google+ it is Orkut that rules. The network has a tendency to segment by religion and class, with Brazilian Orkut users usually falling into a lower socio-economic ranking… ideal for FMCG or low cost item marketing.

Russia: Vkontakte

Still the most popular social network in Russia to date, Vkontakte is eerily reminiscent of Facebook. Actually, it’s almost identical in parts. Brands can take advantage of its public pages and groups, with the latter being used to encourage more brand interaction and conversation. Although Vkontakte dominates, it’s wise to additionally invest in Facebook marketing because younger Russians are increasingly catching the Zuckerberg bug. 

France: Skyrock

After Facebook, Skyrock is France’s largest social network. It’s designed to help musicians showcase their own masterpieces via a simple blogging platform. This makes Skyrock – the 7th largest social network in the world with 22million registered users – an interesting space for brands that are looking for user-generated content. The network also has a strong blogging culture, similar to Tumblr. 

Germany: StudiVZ

Although StudiVZ is exclusively for students (just like Facebook’s early days), it can be linked to its sister network – MeinVZ – which is open to former students. Brands can use the network to start conversations. MeinVZ’s Mercedes group page, for example, has 2,281 members that are regularly messaged by the brand. The fact that it had to be created by an actual member, who works for the brand, creates an added sense of personalisation. At the risk of sounding clichéd, cultural research shows that Germans generally value a serious and formal tone but StudiVZ’s students are more liberal and open to digital cultural norms in the form of memes. 

Netherlands: Hyves

Hyves launched in September 2004 and quickly grew to become the number one social network in the Netherlands – proving more popular than MySpace and Friendster at the time. Facebook only surpassed Hyves’ Dutch user numbers in June 2011. Although Facebook now reigns supreme, Hyves still boasts a healthy 9.8million users (that’s nearly 60% of the population). It was also the most searched-for Dutch internet website in 2011. When Facebook steamed in, Hyves adapted by looking beyond networking to focus on content like news, weather and polls. This turned Hyves into a daily social hub. Hyves, which attracts a broad demographic, uses it showbiz news and active groups to encourage daily conversations that can be used by brands.

Japan: Mixi

Japan’s unique cultural characteristics require a unique social media strategy. Mixi is the country’s most popular local social network. It’s based around niche communities, anonymous blogging platforms and various mobile gaming communities. Anonymity is hugely important to the Japanese; a problem that Google+ encountered with their real name requirements. But this anonymity has allowed social gaming through mobile platforms to flourish and is used primarily to keep in touch with friends. Brands have been quick to take advantage by embedding games with product placement. Mixi provided an invaluable way for people to connect in the aftermath of 2011’s tragic earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. This has created a shift in attitudes towards social media privacy, identity and community. Japan’s younger generation is now happier to reveal their identities on social platforms. 

Social networks vary widely

One of marketing’s most basic principles is to work around demographic and cultural sensitivities. And this, obviously, remains true in the era of digital marketing. What is particular to social media marketing, however, is that different networks offer different features. A TV is a TV in any country, but social networks vary widely. So, when honing social media strategy to suit local markets, campaigns need to be augmented around the country’s preferred social network’s specific  features, as much as that nation’s cultural and seasonal patterns.

Social media marketing has come to play a key role in reaching new customers in new territories, whilst retaining existing ones. Consumers throughout the world want to connect and get social with brands on a local level, starting the conversation about a product at home rather than in a global community. The high relevancy and exposure that local social networks have make them key marketing channels. But using them to effectively drive traffic and sales requires a strategic approach that correctly targets audiences whilst delivering the right message.

Chris Mead is a Social Media Executive at creative search marketing and social media agency, Tug.