E-commerce marketers are facing a lot of competition in the United States. This has driven many of them to seek customers abroad. The markets in Asia, Europe and Latin America are growing faster than anybody could have ever predicted. In the Asia Pacific e-commerce market, sales rose over 40% between 2016 and 2017 and are currently higher than in the United States.
You can pursue these markets with the same channels that you use to reach e-commerce customers in the United States. Facebook and Adwords can be exceptional platforms in any country.
However, some of the popular platforms that you use for domestic marketing may not be as effective for international e-commerce marketing. This is especially true for social media marketing. You may be able to find cheaper and higher quality traffic from social networking sites specific to the regions that you are marketing to.
Here are some things to consider while using social media to start a business in another region.
Understand the customs and expectations of social media marketing on foreign platforms
I recently spoke with a friend that was trying to expand her Etsy store into Latin America. She had a very successful Facebook campaign reaching people on the West Coast of the United States. She believed that she could copy her system from the United States and replicate it for Facebook campaigns targeting people in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.
She learned the hard way that customers in other countries respond differently to marketing messages. There are a number of behavioral differences that must be taken into account.
More direct messages may be preferred over clickbait
In the United States, customers often suffer from ad blindness. This is due to the fact that American Internet users are bombarded with irrelevant ads on a daily basis. E-commerce brands often need to use disruptive marketing techniques that include click bait headlines and bizarre pictures.
Clickbait strategies may be necessary in the United States, but they are counterproductive in many other regions. Using quirky headlines and crazy pictures may come across as unprofessional or even deceitful to customers in other markets.
Your best bet would be to focus on creating straightforward headlines and using basic, professional images instead.
Understand the expectations people have when using social media sites in other countries
You may be used to using social media certain way, but that doesn’t mean everybody else does. We often have difficulty looking past our own cultural echo chambers and realizing that expectations vary in other parts of the world. In some countries, people shun the idea of others sharing highly personal things with anyone outside their closest circle of friends and family members. They may also have much smaller groups of friends and prefer more introverted activities. In other countries, people have more traditional views of behavior, so outwardly liberal messages could be off-putting. You will need to be aware of their expectations and adapt your messages accordingly.
Research the sites that are specific to the area you want to target
There are lots of opportunities to reach customers on other social media websites. However, you can’t use the same campaign templates that work for you on Facebook, even if they were successful in the same country.
The mechanics, demographics, and policies are different on other social media websites. And you want to review them carefully and take notes of the following.
Familiarize yourself with the targeting capabilities
The average CPC on Facebook is $0.97 a click now. The rising costs are one of the reasons that some e-commerce marketers are looking to reach customers on for and social media sites. However, the lower CPCs on these sites comes with a tradeoff – the targeting features are not as effective as they are on Facebook.
You need to understand how they work. If you aren’t able to target customers by demographic or interests, you will need to use a broad marketing message that appeals to the site’s core demographic. Some sites may allow you to target user is following specific groups or profiles, even if they don’t offer more nuanced targeting options. Take some time to understand how they work and gauge the possible ROI before investing in them. If a website doesn’t offer any targeting capabilities at all for paid advertisements, then you should avoid it unless it has a very specific demographic that relates to your product. You could still try testing it with free social media marketing strategies.
Leverage regional search engines to drive traffic to your social media profiles
Most e-commerce marketers understand the need to optimize their social media profiles for SEO. When they create a profile on Facebook or Yelp, they make sure to use the right keywords to draw traffic.
You should apply the same principle when trying to reach customers with foreign social media websites. Search engine traffic can provide a very steady flow of customers to your social media profiles, which will help strengthen your brand.
Keep in mind that Google and Bing don’t have the same share of the search engine markets in some other countries. You may find that they actually are hardly used in some parts of the world. For example, in South Korea, Google only accounts for about 1% of all search engine traffic.
Keep in mind that all of these search engines have different algorithms. Some of them are much more basic than Google and don’t revolve around concepts like domain authority. You simply need to make sure that your profile has the right meta-data or keywords to be properly optimized.
Unfortunately, they don’t usually have descriptive data on keyword search volume, like what you can see with the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. You are going to have to use your own judgment when optimizing profiles for search engine traffic. Your best bet is to choose fairly broad keywords.
Keep in mind that competition in foreign search engines is usually much lower, so you could probably rank for keywords that would be too competitive on Google. You could probably also optimize your profile for a dozen or more keywords since most foreign search engines don’t have spam filter is like Google does.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t optimize your social media profiles for Google or Bing as well. The major search engines could provide a decent supply of high-quality traffic, even in regions where they aren’t dominant players.
Understand the policies
Social media websites in other parts of the world are going to have their own policies. Keep in mind that many of them are designed to be compliant with local laws. You’re going to need to research them carefully so that your profile doesn’t get taken down.
What are some of the best international Social media sites to use?
There are lots of foreign social media websites that you can use to reach your audience. Here are some to look into.
QQ is a social networking site that was launched in China in 1999. Since Facebook and most other large Western social networking sites are banned in the Chinese market, this is one of the few sites that you can use to penetrate this region. The site has a global Alexa rank of 8 and is the second most trafficked site in China.
VKontakte is basically a Russian clone of Facebook. It has a very similar layout and similar targeting options for advertisers. It is available in several languages, but most of the content is shown in Russia and caters to the Russian market. VKontakte is the most popular social networking site in Russia, with nearly half a billion active users.
Taringa is another site that was made in Facebook’s image, but it is designed for Latin American users. Taringa is one of the most popular social networking sites in Chile and other Spanish speaking Latin American countries.
Skyrock is a French site that merges the features of Tumblr and Facebook. Users can exchange messages and create blogs for their friends to read.
Viadeo is a business social networking site. It is very similar to LinkedIn, except it tends to focus more heavily on reaching professional users in Europe. The Paris-based social network is available to people in the U.S. as well, but most of the content is not in English, so it is best for reaching people in Germany and France.
Utilize international social media platforms for your e-commerce strategy
Social media has proven its value in almost every industry. However, it is different in various regions throughout the world. You may need to consider looking beyond Facebook and Instagram and utilize foreign social media platforms to reach customers for your e-commerce business. Do your research on these sites and find a strategy that aligns with customer expectations. There will be a learning curve, but you may have an excellent ROI once you test it out.
If you are interested in Chinese Social Media, we have a number of posts here on Maximize Social Business you should check out, including: