By Greig Holbrook, Oban Multilingual: International SEO

Social networking sites have not only revolutionised the way we interact, but also the way that we view marketing. Whether you love them or hate them, it’s undeniable that they can do a great deal to raise the profile of a business.

Aside from the obvious cost-effectiveness of using social networking sites (SNS) as a marketing tool, they also allow businesses to engage with their customer and visa versa. When social networking comes into the mix, brands can listen to what customers are saying and interact with them, bringing the customer and brand closer together. It seems like everybody is ‘Tweeting’ or setting up a ‘Fan Page’, and social networking sites are quickly becoming the marketing tool of choice.

But what does this mean for businesses who want to market internationally? There were an estimated 917 million SNS users worldwide at the end of 2009. That’s 13.3% of the population, and it’s predicted that it could reach 27% by 2015. And in some parts of the world, SNS are visited more often than search engine sites. Although the leading contenders in the UK are Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, there are parts of the world where ‘Tweeting’ is unheard of, and where Facebook isn’t the ubiquitous phenomenon it’s become in the UK and USA.

‘Like’ Localisation

To target international markets digitally, businesses need to take a localised approach to their strategies, looking at the ways in which different markets use the internet. Cultural, linguistic, and religious factors can all come into play, and can create significant differences in how countries function online. And social networking is no exception. It is true that Facebook is the ‘global’ SNS, with a reported 400 million users worldwide by March 2010. However, the majority of these users are in Western Europe and North America. In many parts of the world where opportunities for ecommerce are ideal or that are showing signs of extremely promising growth, it is indigenous SNS sites which are proving to be more popular.

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