Facebook Beyond Borders

Category: Marketing Translation

Facebook’s global user base hit the 500 million mark last month, the company reported, leaving marketers and advertisers in the U.S. and abroad wondering, how can I get a piece of that audience?

It makes sense: The purpose of social networking is to share information about yourself in an online profile, connect with others and communicate. Theoretically, fan pages on Facebook should be the perfect method for increasing brand awareness, and ads served to Facebook users should be highly targeted and relevant. At the beginning of the year, eMarketer even predicted a near-40% increase in Facebook advertising spend.

But what happens when you’re dealing with an audience that is not entirely native English speakers? How do you adapt and expand your Facebook strategy to make sure you’re not losing out on consumers in key language markets?

Granted, English-speaking users on Facebook outnumber the next group of language users by over 3:1. But the North American and Western European markets are nearing high saturation levels, while those countries that speak Portuguese, Arabic, and Spanish are still growing fast. In fact, some of Facebook’s fastest-growing languages aren’t yet even part of the site’s top five overall, InsideFacebook notes.


Unlike users in the Facebook-saturated markets, users in these fast-growing areas are less savvy in their attitudes and receptiveness towards ads, applications and fan page marketing campaigns. This leaves a big wide open space for Facebook marketing on localized ads, applications and fan pages.

As a global business, should you incorporate localized Facebook content in your social media strategy? Absolutely. If you are a smaller operation and don’t have the resources to build out Facebook pages for each language market, keep a global fan page and set up a filter for posts so that your foreign language content doesn’t clutter up your main feed. However, know that users will likely respond in their own language, which might confuse English-only readers.

The best way is to set up a dedicated fan page for each language market. Nike, for instance, has Nike Football France, with nearly a half million fans. They write posts in French, include links to local Twitter and YouTube channels, and most importantly, share highly localized information that is relevant to their French-speaking audience. (Region-specific giveaways, cultural events and so on.) 7-Eleven pays homage to its large presence and following in Asia with a Facebook fan page in Chinese.

How do you centralize your brand’s Facebook presence and make sure visitors know that all of these pages are connected? Simply create a tab on your global English page and list all of the localized pages and groups, much like you would do for a website via a language selector on your homepage.