Going global with social: getting the local and global balance right and why it is so important

How often have you heard the phrase ‘global versus local’ in marketing?

It’s a phrase built on opposition. But when it comes to building a world-class social-first marketing strategy, it’s much less of an either/or proposition. It’s more about global PLUS local.

More often than not, global brands will admit they don’t achieve this balance with their social media communications. Local communications on social have often evolved organically, and this creates cut-through because local teams understand and adapt to local cultural nuances well. But it can also bring inconsistency, waste and brand risk.

By contrast, a global-plus-local strategy creates a balance between building the brand globally and supporting sales locally.

So how can brands transition their social-first strategy from a ‘global versus local’ into a ‘global-plus-local’ approach? How can they get the balance right in such a way that local teams, rather than feeling global is imposing a strategy on them from above, not only embrace the strategy but actively contribute to it? And how can they do this in a way that optimises resources and spend?

AT THE STARTING BLOCKS

It may come as no surprise that it starts with an audit of what you are currently doing and how you are performing across all markets and platforms.

But most critically, before the audit, you must gain the buy-in of local stakeholders, says Kinda Jackson, MD of Social, Digital and Influencers here at Brands2Life.

“Local teams know their market and its nuances better than anyone,” says Kinda.

“Gaining their involvement right from the start helps you to understand who they are, their challenges and all the local insights that will help you later achieve a global-plus-local strategy.”

Once local teams are ‘onboarded’, the audit should include each owned social channel, your social media people, structures, subscriptions and resources, your competitors, where customers are and what they care about, who the influencers are in your space, and so on.

Armand David, Managing Director, Applied Innovation at Brands2Life, adds, “Remember that during an audit, social mustn’t stop. You have to repair the aeroplane’s engine while it’s in flight.”

Describing the breadth and depth of recent audits, Kinda says, “We have pooled data to understand what worked, what didn’t, what the brand has been talking about and to whom, what customers are saying about the brand, category, competition and conversation affinities, and identified opportunities to make space for the brand. It’s also an ideal time for us to get to know the local social leads well – it’s an opportunity for us to gain insights from them and they soon realise the project will help them to gain new, valuable skills.”

Inevitably, part of this process involves in-depth social listening in each market. But doing this across multiple markets can become complex and expensive. So at Brands2Life, we have developed effective methodologies to reduce the burden.

Kinda says, “In-depth listening in 20+ markets is a huge piece of work, especially in multiple languages. So we create hypotheses based on one or two markets then stress test and validate them with each local market.”

Armand points out that the audit also offers immediate benefits.

“It very quickly lets you triage the issues and/or markets that need urgent review,” he says.

RUNNING A GLOBAL-PLUS-LOCAL SOCIAL STRATEGY

With the audit completed, buy-in across the network remains key. So work-shop the audit results and the global strategy with local teams to fully validate findings before you implement anything.

“If something doesn’t work for them, we need to know why and make adjustments,” says Kinda.

The model for delivering the new global-plus-local social strategy is a ‘hub and spoke’.

At the hub sits the strategy gatekeepers, brand guardians and a social toolkit: a repository of images, content pillars, purpose and positioning, storylines, and everything you could possibly need to deliver the social strategy.

On a monthly basis, the hub team produces content that local teams can choose from and make relevant to their local market.

Armand says, “It’s about levels of autonomy; we want the markets to be free to operate within the broad constraints of a brand framework. And they need to be equipped to identify the moments of risk and opportunity as they emerge, through the lens of the company as a whole as well as their local market priorities.

“You also have to monitor regional channels at the hub and if a good story comes out of local markets, the hub will share it with the group. It becomes a point of pride if a channel is run really well.”

It does take time for everyone to become comfortable with the new processes. The pay-off, however, can include developing new, career-enhancing skills as well as performance improvements. In fact, the process can become a virtuous circle.

Armand says, “If you build a good global-plus-local framework, there is a real opportunity for fostering a culture of creativity spanning across markets that can lead to really good things. Your teams around the world will draw upon each other for inspiration and this in turn leads to better content, engagement and team cohesion.”

In our globalised world, social media has become central to many customers’ experience of brands. And as borders gradually re-open, getting this right will doubtless be a core priority for brands everywhere.

Written by Kinda Jackson, MD of Social, Digital and Influencers an Armand David, MD, Applied Innovation

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