Is a worldwide social media program possible?

It's now a bit of conventional wisdom that one of the keys to a successful social media engagement - or PR engagement, for that matter - is to assure that the content is localized for its audience.

It's now a bit of conventional wisdom that one of the keys to a successful social media engagement – or PR engagement, for that matter – is to assure that the content is localized for its audience based on geography. The assumption is that by identifying locals, and serving the right, relevant content to them based on their location, we achieve greater success with our communications.

But while this type of local, one-to-one interaction maximizes the potential of social media – meaning you can actually choose this model versus being forced into the one-to-many flow of the past – it also comes at a high opportunity cost.

Many brands are struggling with trying to determine what “local” means from a social media perspective. Here are a few questions marketers I know have faced when trying to reconcile a desire to succeed at social media with the reality of their budgets:

Do I need a local presence for every single social media platform? A local Twitter handle? A local Facebook group?

Do I need local representatives – members of my team, the sales team, or customer support teams – in each market?

Do I need local agencies? Can a single agency handle a multi-location execution?

Will these localized social media programs require their own local marketing support to make them work? Beyond what I have already planned?

How will I know if we're “doing social right” in a market if I don't understand the nuances of that city/region/country?

Say I build and execute a truly local social media strategy. What happens if it doesn't work? How will it look if we retreat from these markets? Will it generate more bad will than it did when our presences were active?

What are the specific location-based social networks and other local/social/mobile tactics I should be considering that I may not have employed on a corporate level?

These are all great questions, but they are highly tactical in nature. If you are a marketer considering a rollout of hyper-local social media programs as part of your communications strategy, start by asking yourself what you hope to gain by doing so.

Though no marketer likes to draw the ire of the sales team, going local is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Are there certain markets that need a bit more love than others? A great spokesperson or a set of highly influential customers in another? An upcoming regional event that it would be great to support with dedicated social media efforts? Be opportunistic when selecting which regions you tap to extend your program.

To flip the conversation around, how then does a marketer with all of these local strategies make sure they roll up into a program that can be national – and ideally global – in nature?

I think that it won't be long before brands demand global strategies – and KPIs – for integrated PR and social media programs across the world. I say that because I have the good fortune to work with global companies that are testing, and finding, clever solutions to these questions every day. A huge factor in brands getting local social media right is working with a team that brings shared values, reporting, and philosophy to the table – as well as an intimate understanding of what will fly in Madrid, versus Munich versus Melbourne.

While stitching together best-of-breed independent agencies in the US, EMEA, and Asia-Pacific may work in the short term, I sense clients hungering for a single, integrated PR and social media agency they can turn to in every market.

Leslie Campisi is US managing director of Hotwire, and is based in New York. For more of Hotwire's take on the issues that impact marketing and public relations professionals, check out Hotwire's 2012 Digital Trends Report.

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