Previewing the 2011 Web Globalization Report Card

I’ve begun work on the 7th edition of the Report Card. To produce this report I individually review more than 200 global web sites across more than 20 industries. Needless to say, I’ve got a busy month ahead!

I’ve already done a first pass on a number of web sites and have some initial thoughts to share:

  • As regular readers know, Google and Facebook finished in a dead heat for first place last year, with Google having a slight advantage. Both companies made significant changes over the past twelve months, changes that promise to make this another photo finish.
  • I’ve noticed an increase in the number of sites using geolocation for navigation. Unfortunately, some of these sites are not using geolocation as well as they should. As I’ve noted in my book, geolocation should never be used without a visual global gateway in place. Geolocation is an excellent tool, but it presents a number of edge cases that only a global gateway can solve.
  • I’ve seen some amazing global gateways so far, and, in some cases, demonstrating vast improvements over previous global gateways. I’ll be documenting a number of these gateways in the report.
  • Companies continue to add languages. After initial analysis, Indonesian is hot, as is Russian and Turkish. Last year, the average number of languages was 20. I suspect we’ll see increase again this year. Keep in mind that this is just the average. Companies like Cisco, Apple, and DHL are well above 20 languages.
  • For last year’s report, I began measuring “community localization” — the integration of social networking platforms into local web sites. I wasn’t just looking at Twitter and Facebook use around the world, but at how companies are fostering communities. I’ve noticed quite a lot of Facebook integration around the world. Below is a home page visual from Samsung Italy:
  • Samsung also promotes its Twitter feed on the home page of its Brazil site. And Samsung is far from alone.
  • Finally, I’m noticing lots and lots of web site surveys.They’re popping up everywhere and in many languages. Somebody please make them stop!

Here is the link to the 2010 Report Card. All companies included in this report will be included in 2011. We’ll have a page for the 2011 report up shortly.

Twittering in Tongues: How companies are going global with Twitter

Over the past six months, Twitter went from mostly serving people based inside the US to mostly serving people based outside of the US.

Source: Twitter.com

Today, 60% of Twitter’s 105 million registered users are based outside of the United States.

And half of all tweets are in a language other than English.

This is a remarkable trend, particularly since Twitter has only been localized into five languages so far.

A few months ago, I set out to better understand how large, multinational companies are using Twitter to reach users around the world.

I studied more than 225 companies across 21 industry verticals (representing 80% of the Interbrand 100). And I interviewed a number of people who manage Twitter feeds in different markets.

This work resulted in the report Twittering in Tongues. This report is a first stab at a phenomenon that is very much in its early days, so it’s hard to draw any sweeping conclusions. But there are some clearly emerging trends, which I discuss. I also highlight a number of Twitter’s inherent international limitations and provide some recommendations for companies considering localized Twitter feeds.

Here are a few findings/recommendations from the report:

  • Most companies have yet to launch international Twitter feeds. Only one-third of the 225 companies studied support one or more Twitter feeds outside of their domestic markets. What makes this ratio interesting is that every one of 225 companies studied supports two or more localized web sites. So these are all companies that do business in three or more countries. A number of companies that support more than 20 local web sites still only use Twitter for their domestic markets.
  • Sony leads the pack with support for 20 international Twitter feeds, mostly through its Sony Music division. Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and PricewaterhouseCoopers are also out in front with support for 10 or more country specific Twitter feeds. CAVEAT: Counting feeds is a tricky business. Not all corporate feeds are actively managed (which I did not count) and not all local feeds are easy to find.
  • Brazil rules. Brazil is by far the most popular Twitter market outside of the US. Nearly half of the companies that support one or more international feeds have targeted Brazil. Not surprisingly, Brazilian Portuguese is the second most popular language used on Twitter.
  • Local Twitter success depends on local web site promotion. It’s also no surprise that the local feeds with some of the highest numbers of followers also had high visibility on their local web sites. Companies such as Dell and Samsung lead in this respect. Below is a screen shot from Samsung’s Brazil home page; Twitter gets prime real estate.
  • Twitter is local by design. Based on my interviews, most of the in-country Twitter feeds have been launched without any central approval process or even awareness. This also applies to local Facebook and YouTube pages. The evolution is local Twitter feeds is similar to the evolution of local web sites in the 1990s. Back then, local offices often created their own sites, with their own designs and platforms. Over the years, the central offices reined in these disparate sites — sometimes going too far and dampening local enthusiasm. The key challenge I see executies facing now is balancing local control with global consistency. While consistency is important, it should not come at the expense of local enthusiasm and innovation. In the end, the success of local Twitter feeds depends on the local offices.

For more information: