It's often pointed out that the bulk of Facebook's 500 million users are outside the U.S. But how much are marketers using the world's largest social network to reach consumers globally?
Only a third of companies with revenues of more than $100 million each are using Facebook to connect with customers in local markets around the world, and 43% of all companies, according to a new study from Harris Interactive commissioned by social media marketing firm Buddy Media.
The findings were based on a survey of 105 brand managers in June, with 60 from companies with sales in excess of $100 million and 36 below that level. The study suggests that businesses view social media as a potentially valuable tool to reach customers in specific global regions but haven't fully embraced it for that purpose. The focus is still on the U.S. as the world's biggest ad market.
Social media ranks roughly in the middle of different marketing tactics adopted by companies to reach existing or potential customers internationally. For instance, 45% have set up social media fan pages, compared to 69% creating localized Web sites, the most common approach for tapping into overseas markets. (Only 30% had tried paid media on social sites.)
Likewise, 81% rated a localized site either somewhat or very effective, compared to 54% for fan pages and 51% for paid social media.
The biggest obstacles cited by brand managers in using social media outside the U.S. include tracking or measuring success (48%), managing and maintaining information (45%), engaging audiences (42%) and identifying influencers who can carry brand messages (39%), and keeping region and country-specific content fresh (32%).
In regard to Facebook specifically, brand managers not using the site in global markets pointed to factors such as a lack of company commitment (27%), the need for more metrics to justify it (27%), and a need for more education about Facebook (23%). The bulk of executives (76%) rated their companies' social media strategy to build business outside the U.S. as "somewhat" effective.
For its part, Buddy Media said the majority of its clients' social media efforts are still focused mainly on the U.S. To help them expand into international markets, the company in June added a geo-targeting service called +Global that allows brands to maintain a single Facebook presence across multiple countries and languages.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts is among the clients that have already adopted the +Global offering, and Buddy Media said it plans to introduce similar programs in the coming months.