Online global social media business development is here. Jump on board! Social media presents a host of new opportunities for online savvy businesses to grow their sales, brand and business. That growth is not confined in any geographic or national sense; the only limitation is access to the internet.
Social media is proving to be the ultimate route for business globalization. This is the paradigm shift that has been understood, harnessed and embraced by the accolade-winning unicorns that operate globally (think Uber, Airbnb…) currently numbering some >200 companies with a combined market valuation of >$650billion. Their record breaking business growth (speed, size, scope…) and leadership demonstrate that social media platforms represent the greatest rising tide upon which successful businesses can float their respective international boats.
There are many excellent reports collating the social media and successful business development story. There are considerably fewer about social media and internationalization. One organization that looks regularly at such issues is the European Commissions’ Business Innovation Observatory (BIO). Charged with examining innovative business models for competitiveness, PwC authored for them the ‘Social Media for Internationalisation’. This is a strategic review from the BIO with insights and findings that hold true with time.
The executive summary states the obvious, but often ignored reality: “Social media platforms allow companies to improve their international market presence and reach potential clients all over the world. As a result, more companies, both big and small, start to utilise them in their internationalisation strategy. Companies can perform various business functions through social media, including marketing, market research, and online retailing”. Despite the business development opportunities that social media affords, corporate uptake has been slow, confined to larger organizations and geographically restricted. This will change when SME's catch on and scale up - we are just at the start of the social media for globalization business model. The report identifies three key reasons why social media is extraordinarily effective and important for companies developing their global markets:
- First of all, for new customers in an international market to buy a company’s services or products they have to be aware of their existence.
- Secondly, social networks perform a market-research function. Business to consumer (B2C), business to business (B2B) and consumer to consumer (C2C) communication provide valuable insights into an international market’s response to products and services.
- Thirdly, social media is a sales channels… a web shop, allowing businesses and consumers to directly purchase products and services.
To some savvy internauts, the three key reasons cited above state the obvious. For others, it brings a new awareness, reasoning and justification for allocating limited corporate resources to an entirely new cost center in their business. And talking of cost, again and again, social media savants tell us that social media provides the lowest budget means of establishing and building a sustainable business presence in new global markets. For social media to be successful in multiple markets, building sales, brand and business development, you do not need deep pockets. The global spread of social media platforms enables companies to exploit a single medium, cost effectively adding country specific pages, supported by native speakers, communicating with and through local key opinion leaders, to defined targeted audiences.
For the savvy SME, the social media globalization business model, provides support for and alternatives to the traditional routes to market. Yesterday, see image #1, it was always, “lets all go to a trade fair, find agents/distributors and open an office in a target market”!
Today, see image #2, direct social media communications are changing globalization business models. It is now a customer-centric online world, your target consumers and businesses (think the C-Suite, managers, engineer’s individuals within the business) are online and able to gather information directly about your company, products and services.
Figure 8: Company-centric versus consumer-centric logic. Source: European Commission. Innovative Business Models for Competitiveness. Social media for internationalisation.
We recently blogged on Social Media Coming of Age, warning businesses not to ignore the social media globalization opportunities. The article also listed the major global social media platforms. So we will not dive into that today, but rather focus on the considerable competitive advantages that social media can bring you in your business globalization. Starting with prioritizing which market to target: will it be China, Japan and Germany (big markets), Canada, UK, Australia (English speaking markets) or Mexico, South America (similar language and proximity). Once those decisions are made and implemented, this is what you can expect to achieve for your brand and business:
- Market research and insight
- Promotions, around trade events, fairs on and off line, product launches and special offers
- User experience, feedback and engagement, directly and measurably
- Brand awareness, knowledge and understanding by targeted audiences of your company, products and services
- Sales, direct transactional platforms or links to your own e/mcommerce site(s)
- Loyalty, commitment, leading to referrals and communities
- Business development, support, informational, sale and technical
Below are two well know examples of businesses that have rewritten the go global rule book. Both Airbnb and Uber deployed online global social media to spectacularly successful global business development effect:
Launched in 2008, “Worldwide Accommodations Leader”, Airbnb “connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users” . Having served >150 million guests, Airbnb is a reference on its own, awesome in its utilization of global websites and social media success across all platforms, as well as its own impressive blogs. Nowadays, we all know that "Unforgettable trips start with Airbnb".
Founded in 2009, Uber states that they are "helping cities (more than 575 of them worldwide) to thrive” . Without the Uber's >80 international web sites and use of the global social media platforms (including Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and, of course, Twitter...) as well as their own newsroom, we would not enjoy "safe rides for everyone" where ever we go!.
So what about your business and social media? How are you doing using social media to grow your sales, brand and business globally? Is it time for you to catch the online global social media rising tide?