Since Thomas Friedman wrote “The World is Flat”, going global has an added charm to it. And while there are plenty of opportunities at home, Indian companies are increasingly looking to acquire a global footprint and establish their leadership in other countries too.
But isn’t going global really expensive? How do I know whether there is a market for my product outside? How do I find the right kind of partners to talk to? I don’t even know their language, how do I setup my team? These are just some of the questions that come to mind as soon as you start thinking about a global company.
Thankfully, social media has changed the world and provides answers to some of these questions. While there is no perfect solution, no way to completely avoid the risk, here are the 5 ways in which you can leverage social media to your advantage if you are thinking of going global:
1) Test the waters
Before you make any decisions, understand more about the market you are looking at. Find out the names of your competitors in the target countries and set up twitter search alerts for them. Identify the keywords that define your business and setup twitter alerts for them for the target country.
Listen in to conversations on these channels for a few days to understand the intricacies of the market and the key problems that the users of existing product face. This is a quick, free and easy way to see whether your product will fly in the market or not.
2) Connect with potential customers
Users on twitter are extremely candid and will typically rant about something they don’t like and praise something they like. Once you have an understanding of the market, the next step is to talk to some of the people who are reporting problems about existing products.
Assuming that your product solves the problem they are talking about, briefly suggest your solution to them and see if it interests them. If you are able to establish a conversation with someone, you may also want to ask them to try your product ( assuming it is accessible over the internet ).
This is an extremely effective way of having conversations with your potential customers and getting some real feedback about your product.
3) Network, network, network
Every market, in every country has a few people who have a great reputation – when they speak everyone listens. These are typically industry experts or domain experts. In addition, there are a lot of independent bloggers who are very influential in their sphere and are extremely well networked.
Find out people like these in your market and start talking with them. Get one of them interested in trying out your product. If they have feedback for you, listen to it carefully and go back to them after you’ve implemented their feedback. What is important here is to establish a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the other person, so that when you have something worthy of being showcased, you have someone who can spread the word for you.
Remember, there is a thin line between networking and spamming – don’t cross that line otherwise you will have them on the other side. Also note that this is a time consuming process that generally takes a few months – make it a part of your daily routine.
4) Build your channels
So far, we have talked about speaking with customers and industry experts. In addition, social media is a great way to find prospective partners. Almost every business has some identity on twitter and facebook, be it large or small and by using social media, you can get in touch with them without physically being present there.
So find your potential partners there and have conversations with them. If a mutually beneficial partnership is possible, you can even sign all legal agreements by passing around scanned documents over email. This way, you can actually start doing business in another country through a partner without spending a lot of money.
5) Build positive reputation, but don’t ignore the negative
We have already talked about listening in to what customers are saying about competition. Now that you are doing business in another country, wouldn’t you want to listen in to what customers are saying about you? Setup your social media alerts and pay attention to every conversation where you or your business is mentioned.
Its unlikely that all the conversations will be positive, so it is important to pay more attention to the negative conversations and alleviate their causes. Remember, internet has a long memory, so handle the situation gracefully, solve the problem being discussed, have a conversation with your customer about it and you will most likely have a happy ending there.
Originally published on the NILF Blog.