Over the past several years, U.S. market conditions — including consolidation, a changing regulatory environment, and other economic factors — have lowered attendance at many trade shows and conferences. As a result, some organizers have begun investing more in international marketing as a way to achieve sustained growth for their domestic events. Irina Anthony, mdg’s international digital marketing specialist, shares how she uses digital tools and techniques to reach attendee prospects from foreign countries.
First, tell us a little bit about your background and how you became knowledgable about international digital.
I was born and raised in Russia, speak three languages, and have traveled extensively around the world. I studied computer programming at Samara State Aerospace University in Russia and have digital marketing certifications from General Assembly and Georgetown University.
The world is a big place. How does one even begin planning a global online campaign?
Thankfully, I’m collaborating with strategic minds that have already researched, ranked, and prioritized the countries with the most potential to impact attendance. Once those priorities and the unique value proposition (UVP) of an event are established, I start by researching the local competition, learning more about their events, how they are marketed, and how we can competitively position our events against them. From there, I research the channels, including search engines and social-media platforms, that are most popular in the selected countries and how to best use them.
Finally, I live by two important rules: Use a good translation service (not an online translator) and ensure the event website is appropriate for international visitors. Digital campaigns will be more successful with landing pages that are in the native user’s tongue and focused on the event’s most compelling features and benefits.
What other advice do you have for organizers in relation to creating internationally friendly websites?
Avoid tight layouts to take into consideration the average length of words and sentences in a given language and be aware of any cultural considerations — from color choice to imagery. Also, remember that many countries are ahead of the United States in mobile usage and prospects might be using mobile devices exclusively for web viewing.
When it comes to international search-engine optimization (SEO), I try to optimize outside of Google. As examples, in China, the most popular search engine is Badu; it’s Naber in South Korea, and Yandiz in Russia. Each has its own optimization criteria. I use the relevant keyword planners to broaden keyword lists and see which terms get searched in relation to an industry. Link building is another great way to strengthen domain authority.
Have you been successful reaching international audiences on social media?
In a word, yes. Social media is a great place for international marketing, but it is important to understand the country’s cultural and political issues so that you can write customized messaging that feels country- and industry-appropriate. As is the case with search engines, some countries have their own social-media platforms; by only using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube, you may limit reach in certain countries.
What advice would you have for organizers wanting to attract attendees from China?
China has very strict policies when it comes to what is available on the Internet — Google and Facebook are not. China has its own version of most of our popular platforms. For example, Weibo is its version of Twitter; Ren Ren = Facebook; Tudou = YouTube, and WeChat is not only its version of WhatsApp but used for virtually everything from restaurant reviews to financial transactions. So having a presence on WeChat is essential. Since the platform can only be accessed through China, I work with a partner in China to execute our clients’ WeChat campaigns.
What other international social platforms should we know about?
Some other big ones are VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, which are similar to Facebook and LinkedIn in Russia, and in Germany Xing is a popular tool similar to LinkedIn.
Any final advice for event organizers thinking about exploring a digital-marketing campaign for an international audience?
International campaigns take time and budget, but more importantly, an understanding of regional cultures, laws, and online behaviors. Do your research and work with experienced partners. While executing a successful digital campaign abroad can be time-consuming, the rewards can be significant.
Link building — when a website links out to other relevant websites, or even better, those websites link back to yours — is an important SEO tactic. You’re more likely to have your content rank higher in Google for keywords you are targeting if you can get external websites to link to your pages.
For international-optimization purposes, mdg’s Irina Anthony said the company finds websites “related to the relevant industry in our target countries and simply asks them to link back to our site.” A strong link-building strategy takes time, in-depth research, and personalized outreach to partner sites, she said, but “it can be one of the most effective ways to improve SEO internationally.”
To learn the basics of quality link building, visit wordstream.com/link-building.