In today’s world, digital channels and smart devices are integral to people’s lives both personally and professionally. Indeed, we are seeing the lines between personal and professional digital platforms becoming increasingly blurred.
You only need to consider the universal assumption that professionals will have an email account, smartphone or social media profile to acknowledge the critical role that technology is playing in the global workplace to facilitate cross-border interaction.
Digital engagement is also becoming increasingly fundamental to how organisations and brands are building their profiles. The online environment is a transient space and we are seeing businesses experimenting with new ways to engage their audience and are adapting their digital strategy accordingly to mirror current trends.
When it comes to cross-border digital engagement, there are a plethora of considerations to bear in mind and like any interaction with a foreign market, you cannot assume that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will work to engage or influence your audience. You need to remember that while corporate messaging may remain consistent across all markets, the popularity of digital platforms and online trends will vary considerably. With this in mind, if you are looking to adapt and localise your global digital strategy, here are some key considerations to take into account:
Know your audience
When it comes to cross-border digital engagement, it is really important to not make assumptions about the audience. Two countries that speak the same language will have unique online habits, for example, American websites will host very different content to profiles that originate in Australia.
You will need to conduct in-depth research of each country to get an understanding of the local culture, customs, digital trends and habits. This research should identify where users are communicating online and the preferred device usage in the region that you are targeting.
In Japan for example, it is common practice for professionals to have two smart devices – a personal and a professional one and they do not mix the two, so it is worth bearing in mind that you would not call a personal phone to discuss business matters there.
When conducting your research, make use of the global digital data that is available to you. Interestingly, Google’s “Our Mobile Planet” report reveals that 65 per cent of Australians own a smartphone, 75 per cent use them at work and 81 per cent visit social networks. In comparison, in China 47 per cent of the population owns a smartphone, 86 per cent use them at work and 95 per cent visit social media sites every day.
Identify your digital platform
Digital platforms have different roles and functionality in varying markets, for example a corporate blog can be a useful tool for thought leadership and to raise the profile of individuals and issues, whereas Twitter can be a great way to build relationships with stakeholders and communicate key corporate facts. You will need to be aware of region specific nuances; an example being that in Japan there are over 30 million Mixi users and Line is a popular instant messaging service, whereas in Russia, Vkontakte is the social media profile that dominates. Weibo is one of the most popular websites in China and is used by over 30 per cent of Chinese internet users and due to China being a regulated market, social network Renren is the country’s version of Facebook.
Develop locally relevant content
If you are a global organisation, you may need to tailor corporate digital collateral for specific countries. When doing this, you need to ensure that the format, tone and content is relevant to the local market and although there are tools available to you including Google translate, there are risks associated with using auto translate tools.
It may be worthwhile investing in local content managers and copywriters and you will also need to think about what time of day is best to publish content in the target market, as well as the preferred method to access content. For example, people in Asia tend to access content on the move via handheld devices.
Monitor profile and presence
Given the digital world never sleeps, monitoring what your audience says about your organisation or brand is very useful to gain insights about external perceptions, as well as your organisation’s share of voice. It can also help to identify emerging trends that may inform business decisions, as well as issues and crises to ensure that you are in a position to respond in a timely manner.
Understand the local regulatory environment
Local digital regulations, policy and politics will differ across markets, so it is imperative that you have an understanding of these across all markets that you are looking to engage. A good rule of thumb is to assume that rules and regulations that are applied in the office setting will also apply online.
Establish clear digital guidelines
We can all think of a corporate social media blunder that has highlighted how vulnerable an organisation’s reputation can be. To protect anybody who speaks on behalf of the organisation, it is worthwhile developing digital guidelines that clearly outline what is and isn’t appropriate to avoid any confusion. You may need to localise the guidelines for each market so they are relevant and it is also worthwhile hosting them on your corporate intranet so they are accessible to all.
Barry Thomas is the Vice President and APAC Managing Director of Cook Australia. Barry has more than two decades of international leadership and expertise in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries and he currently spearheads the world’s fastest growing region for Cook Medical. His current position sees him working to expand the opportunities for people in Asia to access Cook Medical’s advanced and minimally invasive medical devices.