Whilst social media certainly appears to be a universal phenomenon, the medium and application in some of the world’s most influential countries couldn’t be more different. If your business requires social media interaction across different cultures, it pays to be clear on the nuances.
Since the introduction of blogging in the late 1990s, the popularity of social media has grown rapidly across the globe.
There are currently 2.3 billion active social media users worldwide, with 55% of them using popular sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep in touch.
That figure is set to increase further to 2.55 billion social network users estimated to be active around the globe by 2018.
Increasingly businesses are realising the marketing potential of social media, with 91% of retail brands using two or more social platforms.
China uses completely different platforms and relies on bots.
Whilst more than 300 million people go online to access social networking sites and microblogs, China’s social media usage is completely different to that of the West.
Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are barely used. Instead, China has two major microblogging platforms: Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo that run alongside social networking sites, notably RenRen.
Each of these major social media brands have different strengths, areas of focus and their own geographic priorities making competition fierce for brands using China’s social media space.
Many companies regularly employ ‘artificial writers’ (programs or bots) to seed positive comments about their own business and to attack competitors with negative news in the hope that it will deter potential customers.
To keep up, it is often recommended that companies factor in the impact of these artificial writers when using social media for a Chinese audience.
Non-fluent marketers looking to break into a Chinese market via social media won’t just need excellent translators, they’ll need industry experts with specific experience in social media campaigns.
If it’s any consolation, Chinese consumers still follow the same decision making journey and basic rules of engagement as their peers in other countries.
In Germany retailers are most active on social media.
Europe’s largest economy, Germany, is fertile ground for social media marketing, with 90% of 14 to 29 year old Germans registered on a networking site.
Amongst the wider population, 75% of Germans over the age of 14 are currently signed up to at least one social media site.
The basic motivations for social media use among Germans are familiar: communicating with friends and staying up to date with the news.
In addition to Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and Youtube, all of which have strong uptake in Germany, native sites Lokalisten and MeinVZ/StudiVZ are also popular platforms.
German businesses have embraced social media, with a fairly recent study showing that in 2012, almost half of German companies were using social media whilst a further 15% were planning on using it in the near future.
The study also showed that most companies used social media sites like Facebook both as a means of representing their business as well as for communicating with their customers.
The difference in usage between smaller businesses to larger enterprises is not discernible, but the difference within sectors is.
More than half the businesses that operate in the retail sector use social media, whereas only a third of manufacturing and construction companies do. This may be due to the retail sector having a closer relationship with the consumer.
Speak to a translator with local insight to determine whether it is worth investing in developing a social presence in your particular field.
In Japan Facebook is used for professional networking.
Japan has not only embraced worldwide social media, it has also invented its own, including LINE. In Japan, the approach to certain social media sites differ from those in the US and the UK.
For example, only 17% of the Japanese Population use Facebook, treating it as a platform to emphasize their professional face and make business connections; similar to how LinkedIn is used for in the UK. Twitter is actually more popular in Japan than Facebook, making it the only market where Twitter has overtaken Facebook.
Japan’s equivalent of Facebook (in other words a social network used primarily for networking with friends and family), is LINE. It is the most widely used with about 40% of the country’s population logging on every month.
Predominantly an instant messaging and communications platform, LINE is also a way to share audio, images and video amongst friends and has encouraged the use of large emoticons during conversations.
A good translator will help your business work out how to best use Facebook in Japan.