As defined by Pellegrino Riccardi who specialises in cross-cultural communication, culture is a system of behaviour that helps us act in an accepted or familiar way. The underlying values and beliefs of each culture inform behaviours and social codes, like communication styles and the way audiences use social media.
We all have a different perception of what is accepted and familiar if we take Riccardi’s definition. Marketing is not about what you say as a brand, it is about the way you communicate and how you act which develops the perception of your brand – the audience’s perception is what really matters. Carefully considering cultural peculiarities and communicating in a way that is relevant and clear to local audiences is crucial to building positive perceptions about your brand on a global level.
Therefore, ensuring you are thinking on a global scale when it comes to your brand is essential for success on an international level. “Global thinking” is the ability to recognise and adapt to cultural signals so that you intuitively see global opportunities and are effective in communicating with people from around the world.
Social media is, as the name implies, inherently social. It is about building relationships, and this means creating conversations (preferably in the native language) to engage with audiences. However, the use of language on social media is not as simple as translating the text, posting and hoping your message resonates. It is very likely that an effective, engaging sentence in one language will not be similarly successful in another language. Misinterpretation is common on social media when trying to copy one message to another language and this can cause misunderstanding at best, or a communication crisis at worst.
Social media is not a one-way communication tool. Audiences do not want to be spoken to by a brand that does not properly engage with people. Therefore, ensuring your brand can speak the native language and answer questions, queries or complaints on social media is very important before launching social media in new markets.
Communication that is perceived as geographically close and relevant is the only true form of social communication.
It is also important to remember that social media is “real-time”. Brands must succeed in balancing the magic equation of real-time marketing and a consistent brand message, especially when they are present in countries all over the world. Creating a plan for the year of all the events, festivals and bank holidays in each country is very helpful when communicating on a global level and means you can plan in advance. As well as this, it is crucial to keep up to date on local events, weather and trends to ensure your digital marketing it relevant and responsive in real time.
People act differently on social media and this is in part informed by their culture. Germans for example are more concerned with privacy on social media while Americans tend to post more sensitive information online than Europeans. Therefore, brands must remember that local markets use and behave on social media differently. In 2017, 71% of internet users were social network users, proving that social media is a truly global network. However, even when dealing with the international scale of social media channels, tailoring content to specific local needs is so important when creating effective campaigns in different markets.
The ability to adapt is key in cross-cultural communication, whether this is online or offline. Brands must be flexible to adapt their communication style in different cultures in order to successfully deliver their brand message and sell their product or service. A quick fix translation service is not enough on social media to conduct an international campaign. Brands require knowledge of cultural differences and specifics; language professionals; and social media experts in each country to do it right.
To find out more about digital cross-cultural communication, you can download our publication “How to successfully implement an international social media strategy – Think Global Act Local”.
_ By Natasha Kaursland