For American business owners who may just now be catching up on the nuances of social media as a marketing tool, it may hard to come to terms with the fact that if they want to do business overseas, they’ll have to learn everything all over again.

 

A common assumption is that the Internet in general and social media in particular have made the world smaller — that the remarkable unifying power of Facebook and similar networks have connected formerly isolated people and cultures.

 

And that’s true — sort of.

 

The Global Social-Media Divide

 

When doing business in the United States — even across multiple languages — your social-media presence can be concentrated into a nice, tidy package consisting of the familiar four: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn (perhaps supplemented with second-tier networks such as Pinterest).

 

In the United States — like the rest of the world — there is Facebook and there’s everybody else. With one-seventh of the world’s population — a full billion active users — Facebook is the granddaddy of the social-media world. From there, it drops off to second-place Twitter with 560 million active users, followed by third-place Google+ with around 400 million and fourth-place LinkedIn with 240 million.

 

But consider this.

 

If you look at the stats for the world as a whole, the only recognizable element is that Facebook is still in first place. From there, everything changes. Internationally, Google+ comes in fifth, Twitter comes in ninth and LinkedIn doesn’t even crack the top 10.

 

So which networks are filling in those huge gaps in between?

 

The Other Facebooks

 

When meeting the rare technophobe who still isn’t on Facebook, it’s easy to think they’re the last person alive who isn’t plugged in. But they’re actually in the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. Six out of seven people on the planet do not have Facebook accounts.

 

So what are they doing?

 

Have you ever heard of QZone? Probably not. It’s the social-media site of choice in China, home to more than one-and-a-quarter billion people and the second-largest economy in the world. In 2014, QZone reached 644 million users — about a million more than Twitter. Right behind QZone is Sina Weibo, which boasts 500 million users and 200 percent year-over-year growth after major expansions from China into Indonesia and Singapore.

 

Combined, they’re bigger than Facebook.

 

How about V Kontakte? That’s the Facebook of Russia — and the second-largest social-media network in all of Europe.

 

The World is Big, Localities are Small — Think Local

 

So what does all this mean?

 

Yes, Facebook still dominates the Americas, Europe and much of the world, but there is essentially no chance of successfully taking your U.S.-based social-media marketing strategy and applying to the global business you hope to achieve.

 

You secured an international phone number in the region where you want to do business so your customers there could have a familiar, comfortable method to communicate with you that is second-nature to them. Your social-media strategy must also be specific, tailored down to the local level.

 

Translating your Facebook page into the local language is not good enough, and issuing new hashtags on Twitter won’t cut it. It is up to you to determine which social networks in your market country are the most-widely used, and how they can be cross promoted with the social-media content you currently own.

 

Search-Engine Optimization

 

Search-engine optimization — or SEO — is a strategy by which owners of web pages attempt to persuade search engines that their content is worthy of being placed high up in the search results, where the vast majority of people click first.

 

You can have the best website selling the best products in the world, but if it’s buried deep in the search-engine listings, no one will ever see it.

 

Google wants to give their users the most relevant possible results. They do this by working to weed out automated content, stale content, old content, irrelevant content and content derived from unscrupulous “black hat” SEO practices designed to trick the search engines.

 

“White hat” SEO uses a combination of precise keywords, quality links and diverse elements including video and photos to create authoritative content that is designed for people searching, not for search engine algorithms.

 

The Realities of International SEO

 

Search-engine optimization not only requires business owners to construct their websites in a way that the engines recognize as authoritative and credible, but it requires back-end analysis of metrics and data to determine what changes need to be made along the way.

 

The essence of SEO is the choice and placement relevant keywords. This can be difficult even if your first language is the same as that of your target market. When you move into global business, however, the precision required of a credible SEO strategy becomes infinitely more difficult to attain. It requires locally searching relevant keywords and meta-tags in each locality and language, and analyzing their relationship to the dominant search engines in that country.

 

In short, unless you really know what you’re doing, consider farming out your SEO needs to a specialty firm. Look for global SEO and multilingual SEO companies that have direct experience in your target market. The same rule of thumb established with social-media marketing applies to SEO — look at the world not as one big “international market”, but as a series of localities.

 

One size will never fit all.