Social media can make or break a brand. Unlike stuffy corporate brochures, or expensive, well-planned commercials, Tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagrams can be quick one-offs, often hastily done when an idea strikes. This can be great, or it can be disastrous. Often the company uses social media to show a sense of humor, poke fun at itself, or highlight a charity that it supports. This can be a great way to build a brand following. However, because social media is tapped in to local culture, relies on less formal speech, and plays off of local goings-on, it's critical that companies give extra thought to how they use social media in other languages and cultures.
One difficulty with social media, is that it does not work to translate each Tweet into Spanish and hope that your customers in Madrid will catch the references. Depending on your product, you may even need to create social media posts in several languages just for your local U.S.-based market. In any case, you need to have someone who is current with the local culture so that your message is relevant to what's going on and the humor is appropriate. When crossing cultural divides it can be easy to offend. Having a local person involved in your social media strategy will help you avoid those pitfalls.
Additionally, pictures and videos are key to getting your message widely shared. The more relevant your pictures, the more they will resonate with your target audience. This means that you may not want to use a picture of a New York city street if you're trying to reach a Paris market. Again, by having someone familiar with the local market work with you on your social media strategy, you can identify images that spark understanding or help convey the humorous message you're trying to get across.
Don't forget to localize your website too. Research shows that people are more likely to buy from companies whose websites have been translated into their languages. There's no point in building a solid global social media following if they tune-out when they hit your English language-only website. Take the time, do it right, and the sales, loyalty, and buzz will follow.