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Marketing your exports: How to use social media

Choosing the right platform and positioning are key to success

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After years of planning, you’ve finally decided to go global. You’ve done your research, secured financing and connected with suppliers and retailers in your target market. Now, it’s time to get the message out to the world, but how?

A marketing strategy that’s helped you succeed in Canada will likely need to be revised to be effective in an international market. There may be language barriers to consider, as well cultural, economic and political differences.

You’ll also need to study the competition to figure out how you will differentiate your business in this new market. The strengths and weaknesses of your business may be completely different abroad, and your positioning may need to change as a result.

Companies that assess the global competition before entering international markets reported significantly higher export sales growth than those that didn’t, according to a 2017 BDC study.

Social media: A cost-effective marketing solution

With a clear idea of how you want to present your business in your target market, you’ll want to explore various ways of getting the word out about your business.

Social media is one of the fastest, most effective ways to raise awareness about your company and sell your goods and services in markets anywhere in the world.

Here’s a sampling of popular digital platforms in specific markets across the globe.

Social media around the world

While Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube are popular across the globe, these platforms are blocked in some countries. In other countries, competing social media platforms are worth exploring.

WeChat: China’s top social media platform

WeChat is one of the world’s largest mobile apps, with more than one billion monthly active users in 2018, according to the company.

What was originally a messaging app has grown to include video and picture sharing, games, stickers and the ability to share WeChat moments with friends. It’s also a major social commerce and payments platform that can be used to pay for a taxi, a movie or even a flight.

The messaging app is usually used as part of a content promotion strategy, where messages are regularly sent to subscribers, although there are a variety of other tactics that can be used on the platform.

WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, is also the owner of QQ, a gigantic social media network worth exploring if you’re trying to enter the Chinese market.

Weibo: A Chinese Twitter-Facebook hybrid

Weibo is a microblogging site reporting more than 400 million monthly users in 2018.

Strategies used for marketing on this platform aren’t much different than those used on Twitter or Facebook.

Mercado Livre: A Latin American e-commerce site

Although not strictly a social media website, Mercado livre is the go-to e-commerce site for shoppers in Brazil.

Taringa!: A South American Facebook competitor

Taringa! is a social network with a strong Spanish-speaking following in Argentina, Colombia, Spain and Peru.

Line, Viber and KakaoTalk: Facebook’s instant messaging competition

Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Messenger are the two most popular messaging apps in most countries around the world. However, in a few countries, other apps are competing head on with Facebook.

  • Viber is a popular messaging app in Eastern Europe, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.
  • Line is Japan’s most popular messaging app.
  • KaokaoTalk is popular in South Korea.
  • BlackBerry’s BBM is Indonesia’s top messaging app.

VKontakte: Russia’s Facebook

VKontakte, also know as VK, is the most popular website in Russia and the most popular social media site in Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Global marketing: Local thinking

Regardless of where you export, make sure to research the social media platform options popular with locals.

Maintaining a website is also important. You can use it to educate consumers, suppliers and manufacturers about who you are, what you’re about and why they should do business with you.

Customer service is key to success wherever you do business, but if you can’t speak the same language as your customers, communication will be extremely challenging. Think about the following solutions.

  • Hire local staff, even temporarily, so they can translate customer concerns and issues for you.
  • Build relationships with local influencers—marketing firms, distributors, commercial organizations—who have “on the ground” knowledge and experience about business regulations, customer expectations and buying trends in your choice country. Forming partnerships can help strengthen your market presence.

This article was written by EDC for use and publication by BDC. For more information, visit EDC’s website at www.edc.ca.

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