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Why Localization Matters in Social Media Marketing
(3 Examples from Southeast Asia)
Find it hard to cut through the noise on social media? We’ve had corporate and nonprofit clients campaigning in Southeast Asia come to us with great content or great products but who were losing the battle on social media engagement.
You might be tempted to blame the region itself, but Southeast Asia has a social media penetration rate of 72%. In our experience, campaigns that see high engagement from the region have one thing in common: a great localization strategy.
If your organization doesn’t want to throw away good money after bad, it’s important to understand why localization matters in social media marketing (SMM).
What is localization?
In the context of digital marketing, localization refers to the process of adapting a digital marketing campaign to account for cultural differences and preferences in different markets. More than mere translation, localization requires adjusting the message, graphics, and other elements of a campaign to better resonate with local audiences.
Localization can be seen as a form of personalization for foreign markets, but it also applies to marketing in different areas within any given country, as well as specific demographics. You might be used to targeting people in the United States, but what if you’re targeting Gen-Z students in Bangkok versus Isaan farmers? That would require a delicate thumb on the pulse of those audiences to find out how to speak their language.
In an interview for Singaporean bank DBS, Quek Siu Rui, CEO and co-founder of Singaporean startup Carousell, cited Southeast Asia’s diversity as one of the challenges in growing his business.
“The cities of Southeast Asia are highly differentiated. We speak different languages and dialects, have different cultures and traditions, and transact in different currencies.”
What are the pros and cons of localization?
We’ve been blowing localization’s trumpet so far in terms of social media marketing, but is it always a good idea? The short answer is no; it can be a double-edged sword and an embarrassment for your brand if executed hamfistedly. Find out how it can help you achieve your social media marketing goals if executed correctly, but how it can backfire tremendously if done poorly.
The case for localization is compelling to say the least. According to a CSA Research survey, not only do 78% of online shoppers prefer products in their own language, but 40% will never buy from websites in other languages. Put another way, localization can help your business or organization rise above the competition and unlock up to 40% of your potential audience.
When planned and executed correctly, localized content can offer a level of personalization and inclusion that helps your target audience better imagine themselves as consumers of your product or identify with other members of your community. This is especially important on social media platforms, which require more authenticity from businesses to seamlessly fit into people’s newsfeeds.
The not-so good
Social media localization, when done incorrectly, is a first-class ticket to brand embarrassment on a grand scale. The Fellow Kids subreddit is full of clumsy attempts to cater to youth culture.
But there are plenty of other pitfalls, like offering the wrong payment methods for the region, being ignorant of local holidays, or implying sensitive political issues. Half-hearted attempts at localization can run the risk of implying damaging stereotypes that hurt your brand image.
Several multinational programs also struggle with scaling their communication strategies, because localization can sacrifice standardization. To minimize unnecessary work duplication, project managers must carefully plan content and workflow early on with translation and localization in mind.
Three examples of localized social media
Here are some real-world examples of localized social media marketing in Southeast Asia. Each demonstrates a brand or nonprofit entity using localization to meet their social media goals.
The UN refugee agency in Thailand initiated a major donation campaign, “Namjai for Refugees.” The campaign slogan uses the Thai word namjai (น้ำใจ), which means “generosity,” to elicit the sympathies of donors in Thailand.
Addition to partnering with local celebrities to mobilize their respective fanbases, the Namjai for Refugees campaign also worked with a Thai artist to create a mascot and a limited edition sticker collection for LINE, a popular super app for instant messaging, reward cards, e-payment, and food delivery.
This localized campaign is a great example of how public relations officers can leverage their knowledge of the local language, culture, and consumer behavior to deliver the right message with the right messengers with the right incentives.
Netflix’s global expansion is so successful it has its own Wikipedia entry. It owes a lot of that success to its ability to tailor content to individual markets, both on its streaming service and its social media.
For its Thai movie, AI Love You, Netflix’s Indonesia and Vietnam Facebook Pages are content to simply promote the trailer. On the other hand, the Thailand Facebook Page published a press junket with the actors, Baifern Pimchanok and Mario Maurer. Betting on Thai audience’s familiarity with their work, Netflix had the actors reenact an emotional scene from a movie they both starred in 12 years ago.
As of this writing, the post has already racked up nearly half the number of comments as the movie’s trailer, which is impressive considering the trailer was published a month before.
AgriSource partnered with PAPER & PAGE to promote U.S.-origin pulses or legumes, including beans, dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas, in Southeast Asia. Collectively, pulses do not have any direct translation in the regional languages, which do not differentiate between beans and nuts. In the United States, pulses can be marketed as an affordable, long-lasting pantry staple. However, import duties on U.S. goods made this messaging unrealistic.
With this in mind, we decided to focus on what we could translate: the specific types of legumes. PAPER & PAGE created national Facebook Pages for Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam and focused our message on differentiating between the specific pulses. We also worked with local influencers to celebrate local holidays or American holidays with a local twist.
In one year, our efforts were rewarded with a 34% increase in engagement across all six Pages, with Vietnam recording the most growth (102%). Our multilingual website enjoyed a stunning six-fold (516%) increase in website traffic. In total, we reached one million potential customers across all six Pages.
Localized social marketing is the use of commercial marketing principles to cut through the noise of social media and speak the language of your target audience.
There are a few key reasons why localized marketing is almost always better than standardized marketing: first, it allows you to better target your audience and speak to them in a way that resonates; second, it builds trust and credibility among potential customers in the local market; and third, it can help you to better understand the local market and how to appeal to its consumers.
However, localized social media must be executed in the right way in order to be effective. This means understanding the cultural context and customs of the target market, as well as using local language and media channels. If done correctly, localized social media marketing can be an extremely effective way to reach and engage new audiences in foreign markets.
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