4 Cultural and Linguistic Challenges for Social Media Managers in 2012

A couple of years ago, when social media boom was not the hottest topic; David Armano wrote a blog post on HBR (Harvard Business Review) website about expected social media challenges for the businesses in the near future. He mentioned integration, governance, measurement and ROI, human resources and culture as the potential domains, where social media would be a problematic thing for the enterprises to manage. Fortunately, in just 2-3 years, all of these challenges have started coming into the limelight and getting wider realization.

In this regard, people, researchers and enterprises are concerned about social media and plan every other day to manage it effectively. However, majority of the work has been focused on management perspectives or marketing domain of the social media. While, very few people have focused on cultural aspects of social media and possible challenges that an enterprise could face. Additionally, after Arab revolts, majority of the people highlighted the mammoth popularity and effectiveness of social networks; however, I found nobody talking about the cultural and linguistic factors that helped people get their social and democratic rights in those countries.

Cultural and linguistic factors are overly neglected in research as well as business practices on social media. The following 4 points are aimed at highlighting the cultural / linguistic challenges and their background.

Culture & Cultural Sensitivities Management:

The foremost challenge is the culture itself. Look, Facebook crossed 850 million users, LinkedIn has around 150 million and Twitter is about to reach 380 million subscribers. Primarily these websites were developed and launched in United States, but their users outside of the US are even more active than the local subscribers. Therefore, when the managers have to plan a social strategy aimed at marketing certain thing, it can not be applied across the board because some cultural, religious, ethnic, regional and linguistic sensitivities may arise as a result.

Look at the Facebook caricature competition that led to anger across Muslim world. Therefore, management of this diversity population base and using platforms keeping cultural and social considerations in mind is more than merely a challenge.

Content Management & Language Issues (UGC Concept)

While endorsing the role of social media in development of social lives and modern social fabric, one has to look at the usage pattern in the society as well. Majority of people use social platforms such as blogs, micro blogs, social networking sites etc. to develop and share contents of various types. With every passing day, volume and variety of user generated content is growing at unpresented pace, which has brought many opportunities for the businesses.

However, English is not the official or national language of every country on the planet. Therefore, users tend or at least preferred to share the content in their own languages ​​that could potentially be a problem for English centric social strategy. Majority of the people prefer to use the social network in their local language (Thanks to localization, as is listed below).

Localization Drive by Search Engines and Social Networks

Whether you look at Google, Bing or Twitter, you find them announcing and offering localized versions across the globe. Twitter is now available in more than 21 languages, Facebook has over 78, and so is the case with Google, Bing, LinkedIn and other leading social platforms. Particularly after the success of localized versions (talking about social networks specifically) in Arab revolts, the idea of ​​local version got solid grounds. Even today, Google and Bing have a separate index for local search engine results.

With the concept of localized versions by social networks and search engines has posed another challenge for the social networks managers as they also have to go local with their marketing campaigns as well. In this regard, either some smart translation service is availed or some electronic translation application is installed. In simple words, with the local versions getting popular, localized social strategy is also required.

Ultra-Diverse Population Base

Diversity is one of the main characteristic of social network's population. While widely considered as the platform for the youth, the networks have discovered a lot more age and gender diversity. People are getting married after forming relationships via Facebook, while the elders find it a better pastime in absence of any other social / professional activity. The diversity may be good for the websites but is a serious problem for the social media manager. He has to adopt a multidimensional approach to attract and address various corners of society and a wide range of social, ethnic and religious groups. This ultra-diverse base is a serious concern that needs to pay heed to.

Finally, as per the Facebook official statistics, it's 80% active users live outside of United States and Canada and so is the case with other social networking sites. Therefore a vibrant and comprehensive social network management strategy is required that may address the concerns of ultra-diverse and active population, while meeting their needs through forming social relationships.


Source by Muawiyah Haider

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Sanjay Tatwawadi
Sanjay , allthough an engineer by profession has varied interests in sales, marketing, sports, science and spiritualism. He coaches and specialises in training the new generation for betterment in life. A Rotarian to the core, he has excelled in adding value added program for enrichment of society at large Having lead the team to different countries in vocational and cultural exchange programs. An avid cyclist and badminton player, he is passionate in writing and promoting good reading habits in youngsters.

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