Social networks are not a fad. They have become ingrained in our Internet culture. The most popular and innovative social networks today, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, offer great international exposure. Not only do these networks connect people to each other, but also connect people to the brands and companies they are interested in. Nielsen, a global consumer research company, published stats showing that “the world’s most popular brands online are social-media related and the world now spends over 110 billion minutes on social networks and blog sites. For the first time ever, social network or blog sites are visited by three-quarters of global consumers who go online. The average visitor spends 66% more time on these sites than [in 2009], almost 6 hours in April 2010 versus 3 hours, 31 minutes [in 2009] (Nielsen, June, 2010).”
As more people are moving away from the TV and technological innovations are making it earlier to have Internet access anywhere, people are looking to social networks for information, entertainment, and business endeavors. Social networking is thus the perfect avenue through which businesses can target new domestic and international clients and build-up a reputable company image.
Facebook is the most popular social network, with 500 million users worldwide. About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States and Facebook users spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook (Facebook Statistics, 2011). The amount of Facebook users worldwide has grown 56.7% over the past year. The top five countries with the highest growth percentage, in decreasing order, are Russia with 377.2% growth, Brazil with 286.3% growth, Thailand with 206.7% growth, India with 196.2% growth, and Poland with 166.2% growth (Inside Facebook Gold, 2011). Three of those countries are BRIC countries. This signifies that social networking is growing the fastest in the fastest economically developing countries. This correlation is promising to companies wishing to expand internationally. Having a Facebook profile can expose your company or brand to potential clients in the next state over or emerging markets scattered around the world.
Twitter is a tool for posting very short comments that people whom you are connected to can read. Twitter was designed to be very compatible with mobile phones through text messages, so that users can update and be updated anywhere, anytime. Twitter is great for marketing because it allows small business owners to update their market on the latest happenings of the company, such as upcoming PR events, seminars, conferences, or new blog articles.
Twitter actually has a 140 character per update limit, so messages are always short and sweet to engage your clients. Sysomos, a social media monitoring company, launched a 2010 report about global usage of Twitter, stating, “the number of U.S. unique users was 50.8%, a sharp drop from 62.1% in June. This suggests the use of Twitter outside the U.S. has experienced significant growth over the past six months (Sysomos, January, 2010).” So, from the back of a taxi in New York on your Blackberry, you can send out an update that will reach thousands of followers around the world.
To undertake serious marketing promotional venture, look towards the more business-oriented community of LinkedIn for business success. LinkedIn is an ideal platform for developing and maintaining business relationships, and this is a great way to improve your B2B and B2C marketing strategy. LinkedIn makes it easy for entrepreneurs and start-up founders to mingle with other like-minded individuals because it allows users to form groups where they can communicate and share advice/experiences on common business interests. In this network you can expose your business and gain followers, potential clients and even potential employees.
In October 2009, LinkedIn’s network’s CEO, Jeff Weiner, said, “half of LinkedIn’s membership is international ( TechCrunch , February, 2011).” If you want to expand your business into Egypt, you can make an ad campaign that specifically targets other LinkedIn users in Egypt who are interested in your particular product or service. You can also receive advice from a businessman in Egypt on how to successfully expand your business in the country. The opportunities are endless and inspiring.
Take advantage of the innovative marketing techniques that these social networks have to offer to small business owners. Leverage the notion of online relationships and credibility and boost your international marketing efforts in ways that will generate noticeable results.