Social Media Marketing in Foreign Countries and Languages

Social media marketing is now a key strategy for any business’s global marketing communication strategy – online marketers understand the benefits of social and know how to deliver a good return on investment in their social marketing endeavours.

However, many English-speaking marketers are missing out on the huge potential of foreign-language social media marketing. There are a number reasons why this may be the case, the most obvious being a lack of knowledge about which social networks to target abroad and how to devise a social media strategy for foreign-language markets.

According to data published by Internet World Stats in June 2010, the top five countries with the highest proportion of internet users are China with 21.4%, the USA with 12.2%, Japan with 5.0%, India with 4.1% and Brazil with 3.9%.  This means that three of the top five internet-using nations are emerging (mostly non-English speaking) markets – the BIC out of the BRIC countries.

These countries are prime opportunities for export and for marketing online, particularly by using social media, but how can you go about reaching these overseas audiences? Read on for some starter tips below – we’ll begin by looking at the most popular social networks in China, Japan, India and Brazil.

China and dominate the Chinese social networking scene. Renren, a clone of Facebook, claims over 120 million users and is popular with students, although the company hopes to capture a wider demographic in the future. Qzone claims to have over 380 million users, although it’s likely many of these are dormant accounts opened via the company’s QQ network, China’s largest instant messenger service. China’s third largest network is, which is popular amongst white collar workers. Kaixin001 has developed popular networking games like ‘Slave Manor’ and ‘Happy Farm’.


The Japanese market is dominated by and Mixi is by far the largest with over 80% market share, which is around 30 million users. Twitter’s official Japanese site was launched in 2008 and has around 5 million active users. has an interesting revenue model whereby users can charge their followers to view their tweets, either on a monthly basis or per single tweet.

In Japan paying for content, particularly on the mobile web, is something users are willing to do. From a marketer’s point of view it’s interesting to note that writing in Japanese and Chinese characters enables Twitter users to squeeze a lot more content into single tweets than writing in English.


In India, Facebook has just edged ahead of Orkut in terms of monthly unique visitors, with Facebook now at 20.87 million, compared to Orkut’s 19.87 (based on July 2010 Comscore data).

These two networks are already well-known to internet marketers in the English-speaking world, which may help to make India an attractive market to target. BharatStudent is another popular network in India with 4.32 million monthly uniques. As its name suggests, this network is aimed at the younger demographic.


In Brazil, Orkut is the most popular network. In fact, over 51% of Orkut’s total traffic comes from Brazil. That’s around 20 million monthly visits. is another popular network, closely targeted to Latin American users, which has around 8 million members in Brazil. MySpace has been the third largest network in Brazil for some years, although it now looks as though Facebook is about to take the number three position.

To get started in foreign-language social media marketing, you need to decide which countries to target. One way to approach this would be to find out which networks in which countries most closely match the demographic profile you want to target. You could look at data from the likes of Nielsen and Comscore to gain this kind of insight.

Once you have identified some potential networks to target, you should probably enlist the services of a local social media expert within that country. This will help you to understand social media etiquette and online behaviours, which is particularly important in some markets, like China, where censorship and state control could have an impact on your marketing activities. For example, in China, there is a list of prohibited words, the use of which will trigger an automatic ban on your posts.

Most likely, you will also need the translation services of native speakers to copy write and translate your campaigns, ensuring your message is understood and trusted by local users. These modest investments in local expertise will very likely bring an attractive return when you consider the reach of foreign-language social networks.