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International Social Media Marketing: Understanding the Culture

It’s no surprise that many organisations have successfully managed to perform marketing campaigns through social media. Generally speaking, these marketing efforts are limited to local populations, generally within national boundaries. But what happens when an organisation wants to use social media to market to international users? Is marketing to the local population identical to marketing to the international population? In this post, we take a look at the three things organisations must consider before embarking on international marketing ventures through social media channels. So without further ado, let’s explore these three key considerations.

What are the target countries?

This is perhaps the first factor that needs to be considered before engaging in any type of international marketing efforts, let alone through social media channels. It’s imperative for organisations to understand where their foreign social media users are. A study conducted in 2013 by Universal McCann found that 53.1% of the German population were regularly active on social media, while this percentage was significantly higher for both Russia and China, with 77.1% and 68.9%, respectively. Thus, such countries that demonstrate a high social media user penetration would be suitable target countries for an organisation’s international marketing efforts, provided this also aligns with their business strategy.

What types of social media channels will be used?

While Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp may be the dominant social media platforms in Australia, this is not the case for other countries. Countries such as Russia and China have their own local social networks, which a large portion of their population uses. Therefore, it’s imperative that organisations conduct research to understand what social media channels are used by their target countries. Some of the most common social media platforms by country include:

Much of this can be found through the power of the the Internet. To begin this research, organisations need only to search ‘social media network’ and their targeted country into an online search engine to understand these social media channels by country.

What type of content will be included?

The type of content is another key consideration before engaging in international social media marketing activities. Organisations cannot create the same message for their entire international marketing campaign and simply translate this message into the languages of the target countries. Instead, organisations must appropriate this content to suit different foreign audiences. In doing so, some of the key factors to consider include:  

  • Culture-specific references: for example, does the organisation’s marketing campaign plan to include country-specific celebrities?
  • Currencies and region spellings systems: for example, does the marketing content include prices or words that are spelt differently in different countries? (i.e. US and UK spelling)
  • Current local affairs: for example, is it wise for an organisation to market their discounts as “ground-breaking prices” in a country that has been devastated by a major earthquake?
  • Cultural slang: for example, are the some words, terms or phrases that have different meanings in different countries?

Wrapping up this post, social media can engage not only local audiences, but it also holds the potential to reach and engage international audiences. However, successfully doing so through international marketing efforts is generally context-specific. Thus, we’ve taken a look at three key considerations that organisations need to take into account before embarking on international social media marketing ventures.

Is there a key consideration that we have missed? Is there even a difference between local and international social media marketing efforts in your opinion? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.


Arno, C., 2013, ‘5 Steps to Launch Your International Social Media’, Convince and Convert, weblog, accessed 19 May 2016, <>

Fanteev, F., 2015, ‘300+ Million Users: Understanding Russia’s VK Social Network’, Digital Marketing Magazine, accessed 19 May 2016, <>

Phillips, J., 2015, ‘The Rising Trend of Social Media for International Marketing’, Linkedin, weblog, accessed 19 May 2016, <>

Smith, C., 2016, ‘By the Numbers: 53 Amazing Weibo Statistics’, DMR, weblog, accessed 19 May 2016, <>

Weller, R., 2013, ‘International Social Media Marketing – Different Places, Different Habits’, Social Media Today, accessed 19 May 2016, <>

Wong, K., 2016, ‘Japan’s Social Media Landscape in 2016’, Freshtrax, weblog, accessed 19 May 2016, <>


2 thoughts on “International Social Media Marketing: Understanding the Culture

  1. This was an interesting read – I wasn’t aware of the number of factors which need to be considered when targeting an international audience. Social media has been of increasing significance to society and thus holds great potential in an organisation’s attempt to enlarge its consumer base. It is therefore in the organisation’s best interest to ensure their methods of reaching out are calculated and effective. I’d love to hear more about a specific case though!


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