Social networks are by definition global. If you are hoping to expand your business into new international markets, social networks offer opportunities that didn’t exist before. The secret to success is regarding social networks as global channels.
Even if you’re operating in a local market you still need to understand its international potential. Still, there is one prerequisite to success: if you are dreaming about international markets, the core language on your social channels should be English.
1. It’s the network’s network
To grow your international business through social networks you must gain access to your network’s network. Work on the assumption that all your potential international clients are already linked to your existing clients. The content we share online is obviously meant to inspire our current network, but the people and companies that constitute this network are also the gate to a larger, wider audience. Some companies are obsessed with targeting their existing clients and prospects with online content. Don’t get me wrong, staying in touch with your current client base is a good thing, but in the online world it’s smarter to focus on growing your network’s network. The ‘six degrees of separation’ rule applies more than ever.
2. Grow your online reach faster
Too many companies are just ‘waiting’ for their online reach to grow. In the online world, reach is still very important. The more reach, the better. Find ways to actively grow your reach. Quick wins include a modest investment in Facebook’s sponsored stories, increasing your Twitter activity, following more people yourself, using popular #tags or proactively inviting everyone you know to join your LinkedIn network. There are so many cheap and fast ways to grow your online reach. All you need to do is use them wisely. On the next dreary Sunday maybe you can invest some time and money in these quick wins. Their impact will surprise you.
3. Discipline in content creation
Online success comes through online storytelling. Sharing your vision and stories with the world is the key to making an impact. The content should be about your personal adventures, your opinion and your vision and not about you making a sales pitch. Content creation is not a one-time investment. It is an ongoing process of creation and sharing new insights. Most people lack the discipline that ultimately leads to success.
4. Create your own social ecosystem
Try to use social networks intelligently. Boosting the impact of your content requires a channel strategy. Posting your key content on your own site/blog is a smart thing to do. This allows you to increase your SEO impact. While many international clients won’t know you, they should still be able to find you when looking for information on your field of activity. Sharing content only on social networks and not on your site is like fishing without a hook. The content platform is the hook that will help you heighten your impact. Also, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the perfect sharing channels. Broadcast your content on these channels to start the sharing process and use them to answer any questions and reply to suggestions people may have. It is also a good idea to store your visual content on sites like YouTube, Pinterest and Slideshare. These sites can serve as a visual archive of your thought processes and you can use them for visual thinking. Companies need to develop their visual thinking skills and these sites are great learning platforms.
5. Observe, facilitate and join the conversation
Sharing content is not enough. A successful online company has the ability to listen to others (observe). It knows how to make it easy to share its content (facilitate). And it also understands the importance of joining in the conversation. Companies that merely broadcast content do not have the same impact as those that are part of an online community. Listening to others and reacting to comments strengthens the emotional bond with your audience. They are much more likely to remember you and that’s the ultimate goal: being remembered in order to generate international business.
Oh, and the last thing you need is patience. Don’t give up too soon.
Most people and companies are looking for instant success. The truth is that it takes time and discipline to generate the international success you are aiming for. Most people give up before they have the chance to be successful. Check out this graph and remember it for all time. When you launch this strategy, you will feel you are working hard and investing heavily without any return. It takes a while before you hit the tipping point but once you’re there, the power of this system becomes obvious. How long does it take to reach the tipping point? I guess it took me about two years. It all depends on the quality of your work, the amount of time and money you are willing to invest and your ingenuity in building your network.
Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is a digital marketing expert and sought after speaker. Follow him on twitter @StevenVBe or visit www.stevenvanbelleghem.com