Everybody talks about participating in a global economy, global community, and the Worldwide Web, but how many social media experts and eMarketers really know anything about what’s going on outside of the United States?
Every blog, every post, every article I read is only about what’s happening here in the States. We are extremely U.S.-Centric, and if we are truly going to compete and sell in a global community, then all of the “experts” should pay a little more attention to our worldwide social partners.Over the past several months I have had the opportunity to perform two day advanced digital marketing masterclasses around the world. I have taught in Singapore (2), Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia (2), Shanghai – China, Dubai – AEU (2), Milan – Italy, Puerto Vallarta – Mexico, Arnhem – Netherlands, and Hyderabad – India. My attendees were executives from the largest companies in those countries along with delegates representing large government agencies such as Department of Tourism, finance, and their executive offices.
Working with the most trained and experienced people in social media worldwide, sure opened my eyes and taught me a lot. I was surprised at what is really popular in the U.S., might not be as big a deal in say, Europe and what’s so-so here, is huge in Asia. As an example, Orkut, which was much bigger than Facebook in the early days of social media is still pretty big in the Netherlands. With Facebook and Google being censored and continuously sued by the German Government, Xing, Wer-kennt-wen, and MeinVZ/StudyVZ are really big. And, Yelp is everywhere, but seldom used outside of the United States.
In the Middle East and Asia, primarily Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, I was surprised to see what a huge influence the Muslim religion has over business and the way things are marketed in those countries. In my hotels, there were NO pork of any kind; not breakfast sausage, not bacon, no dishes. It was entirely beef, chicken, and lamb. While in India, in addition, there are NO dishes with beef in them. Considering that I was in mostly Five Star international hotels in their largest cities, the marketing, culture, and food was all Hallalh. Homework Alert: Look up “Hallalh”! :o)
In Dubai, you can go to the Dubai Mall and see Tiffany’s, Cartier, Outback Steak Restaurant, Laura Ashley, Calvin Klein, Ethan Allen, Forever 21, Chili’s, Disney, Hersey’s, and Cold Stone Creamery just to name a few. Dubai wants to participate with the west and our economy and in doing so, they understand that they will have to embrace our western culture. They know that if they are going to be part of the global economy they have to participate; globally.
While this all sounds like an infatuation with food and fashion, it’s really more about how religion and wealth strongly influence these regional cultures and affects the way we as outsiders can affectively market to those regions through understanding both content and platforms.
One of the two most surprising platform differences was “WhatsApp” is HUGE in Asia, while here in the States, it’s only an O.K. marketing platform. Everyone in South Eastern Asia is using it a lot both for personal and as a marketing and sales tool.
The most interesting and dramatic differences was trying to teach advanced social media marketing to executives in communist China (Shanghai). Every “western” social platform is completely blocked and replaced by a Chinese equivalent. I will not use the term “knock-off”. While teaching, I found myself saying things like: “Well, this is what’s happening in the rest of the world…” and “If you ever get a chance to market outside of China, then you will need to understand…” and “Here’s the rest of the world’s perspective…” If you do plan on marketing in China, you will need to know that they are blocked and our social platforms don’t exist to them.
Here’s a list if the Top 5 Social Networks in China and how they equate to our western social platforms:
How To Get Around The Wall
If ever you are working in China and have to Tweet or post to Facebook, and for the citizens of China to access western platforms that we take for granted everyday, they need to utilize a VPN, Proxy, or Tor.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is an encrypted connection to a remote server that allows you to access the internet from behind restrictive firewalls. VPNs affect all internet traffic, which means Skype and other messaging services are not stuck behind the firewall either. VPNs are not free, but some offer monthly plans as opposed to yearly fee, which can be very useful for travelers. Some examples are: StrongVPN, ExpressVPN, WiTopia, BolehVPN, and 12VPN.
A proxy is a website, often based in a different location than yourself, that will allow you access to other sites through it. So if your proxy is in the USA, and you access Facebook through it, it should be the same as accessing Facebook in the USA. Here’s an example of a free proxy is: http://hidemyass.com/proxy-list.
Be sure to try them first, because you may find out that they’re not great solutions to access Facebook in China for example, because they often aren’t able to handle the bandwidth needed for some social media sites such as YouTube.
Tor is a free distributed network that anonymizes you while you are connected through the browser. Information is bounced between a large number of relays that exist all over the globe. Tor allows you to bypass firewalls or restrictions placed on your connection. The drawback is, that websites load slowly, as the data has to travel great distances to reach you.
The Tor browser bundle is a self-contained program that does not need to be installed. You can place it onto a USB drive and plug it into any computer and the browser bundles are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Lastly, these might only be temporary solutions as China keeps finding and blocking all of these bypass solutions.
Another interesting fact was that even with all this protection, every major hotel offers you free, clear WiFi Internet access to every social platform, worldwide in their rooms, the meeting rooms, and their public areas. Local residents often sit in the lobbies of the five star hotels so they can communicate with the outside world.
The Hong Kong Contradiction
I also asked the delegates what I felt was a sensitive question and thought I might get my visa revoked for asking. I asked “How do you and your government reconcile communism with Hong Kong? Considering that Hong Kong is a stellar example of how well capitalism works, which flies in the face of communism, and has worked for over 100 years now that Great Britain’s 99 year lease ran out in 1998?
It turns out that they weren’t offended at all. They simply agreed that capitalism really does work and that’s why China has been moving from a strong communist society 50 years ago to a more socialist society and at the same time embracing capitalism. They pointed out that over the past decade, they have made amazing strides in building world class financial and commercial cities in Shanghai and Beijing. That was an unexpected answer.
As I wasn’t dragged out of the classroom at that point by military police, I continued with “I am sure you are familiar with the great Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher, Confucius who once said “The harder you squeeze a handful of sand the faster it flows through your fingers. Do you think that with this tight grip your government has on the Internet, that this will eventually lead to the government to just give up and opening the Internet and the rest of the world in the next 3 to 5 years?” There was a resounding “Yes.” Maybe not in three years, but most likely over the next five years.
The Global Perspective
If you think that you are a worldwide savvy marketer, then you have to ask the question: “Am I marketing affectively on the all of the largest worldwide networks or am I just push Facebook and Twitter thinking I am doing a great job?”
Here’s a list of the Top 24 Social Platforms Worldwide:
Are you participating on everyone of these networks? Remember… This isn’t about you. Where you market isn’t on your favorite networks, it your prospects favorite networks. You have to be where they are.
Another interesting fact was how the level of sophistication and experience with social media and digital marketing was different in each of these different countries, how it has progressed of the past several years I have been teaching there, and how it compares to our marketing knowledge and techniques here in the U.S.
The country that I had the most difficulty in was Italy. Of all of the countries that I have taught and spoke in, Italy was the only one that I needed an interpreter for. They were the only country that didn’t speak English. All of the other countries spoke English well enough that I could switch into my New York Minute, hyper-caffeinated presentation style and they had no problem keeping up with. I continuously thanked the delegates and told them how much I appreciated that I didn’t have to present in Malay, Tamil, Dutch, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese or one of the 780 languages that is spoken in India.
After spending two days with their country’s more versed practitioners in social media, I got a pretty good feeling for the level of expertise judging by the speed the class took and type of questions asked. Several years ago, I would have said that Asia was two to three years behind the U.S., but now, maybe only 2 to one years behind. The UAE was about the same and they are catching up as well. Italy seemed to be three years behind, while China was only a year or so in their understanding of social marketing.
What surprised me was the level of sophistication I saw in India. I would have to say that even though we invented nearly every social platform used worldwide, India is several years ahead of the U.S. I threw out many different questions during my two days of teaching that requires the delegate to raise their hands. One question is “Who in this room knows what their ‘Cost of Customer Acquisition’ is?” In the U.S., in a room with 30 to 60 people, the number of hands that go up is always ‘0’. In Asia and the Mid-East, it’s 2 to 3. In India, 23 out of 32 hands went up.
Indian marketers are extremely savvy when it comes to metrics. They are using monitoring and measuring tools, studying the data, comparing, and testing like I have seen nowhere before. Everything they do has some sort of measurement built into the campaign. As this is part of what I teach, this made it very easy to work with this Indian group.
Another test came during the second day when I ask the class to break up into groups of 5 to 6 and develop an integrated traditional and digital marketing strategy that “fuses” the two marketing types together into one form of marketing (The Fusion Marketing Bible, Author Lon Safko, published by McGraw Hill). For the first time ever, one group excused themselves from the classroom and came back after 3 minutes with a video mock-television commercial they scripted, acted, and produced in the hallway on their Samsung.
At the end of the Masterclass, I praised the delegates for being, not only ahead of the rest of the world, but also being ahead of the U.S., One delegate shouted back “Why do you think we do all of your tech support!” I had to agree with him.
The commonality that I did find country after country was… that the basic premise about social media marketing is the same everywhere! Social platforms give you the opportunity to make yourself (company, products, and services) available to build relationships so when a prospect realizes he needs to become a customer, it’s you they think of first.
Relationships lead to trust, trust leads to revenue. You never buy anything from someone you don’t trust. So, whether it’s Renren or Facebook, Weibo or Twitter, it all works the same. Different tools in different languages that help us connect to others in a trusted environment.
So, worldwide marketers, social media gurus, ecommerce junkies, Amazon, eBay, Groupon, Google, and spammers everywhere, be prepared for the largest influx of new Internet users in the history of the world! Get ready for 1.35 billion new surfers, posters, tweeters, updaters, and buyers! And, the citizens of China won’t have to wait as long as we do for all of the products that they buy on Amazon, as they are already made in China!