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How do you handle competing products in different countries in social media?

Social media marketing should be integrated within cross-country markets. From country to country, the popular social networks differ, as do languages and cultures. But there are other challenges for large global organizations. Such organizations can market different products in different countries, some of which could potentially compete with each other. In offline marketing it was a lesser issue. Advertisements were country specific. Now when advertisements are in social media, they can be accessed across borders. How do marketers respond?

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First, this isn’t purely a social media issue–it crops up for search marketing, e-mail marketing, and lots of other online marketing activities. But what’s the answer?

In some venues (Facebook, for example), you can target ads to people within certain countries, so you can continue to approach this problem country market by country market, as you have in offline advertising. When you can’t do that (Twitter, YouTube), you can sometimes segregate by language (if you post something in Norwegian, it’s likely no one in Costa Rica will look at it).

But you might have situations where you have the competing products in different countries with the same language. For that situation, what you do might depend on your business. If it’s a product business and you can actually bill in any country and ship the product, you might just let it all play out. If someone in country A wants to buy the product from country B and you can profitably do that, go ahead.

But if you are selling a product or service that can’t be so easily provided to the “wrong” country, then you might change the experience so that you ask people what country they are in and tell them that you don’t offer that product or service in that country, but here is a similar offering from our company designed for your market. It might sound lame, but customers are much more sophisticated about marketing than they once were. If you answer them honestly, they will understand.

But if you can actually sell that product in the “wrong” country, that’s a lot better.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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