Week 11 | Consider Cultural Differences for Social Media

The use of social media sites are exploding across the globe.

I enjoyed Thatcher’s Understanding Digital Literacy Across Cultures. He laid the chapter out well, first defining digital literacy (“accessing, understanding, and appropriately using in specific communication situations”) and ethnocentrism (assuming that another culture will use digital media the same as your own), p. 169. He then presented an excellent example where he had to make adjustments in an email that was presented to two different cultures in the U.S. and Mexico. He then discussed the background for understanding how digital literacy relates to cultural conventions (through I/Other, Norms/Rules, and Public/Private degree of involvement). Lastly, he discussed how technical communicators can make adjustments to communication practices for other cultures through five strategies (determining the purpose of the communication, determining the audience, determining the information needs, determining organization strategies, and determining style preferences. Thatcher illustrates his strategies for transforming the Texas Tech University homepage into something that would be more suitable to an audience from Mexico.

Thatcher’s email and website examples are very thorough, and I agree that technical communicators should adapt their digital communication to account for cross-cultural differences. How, though, can technical communicators adapt digital communications for social media, and do these strategies apply?

One company’s blog, Global Partners International Translation Blog states that marketers must localize content for different cultures. Communication through social media in other cultures means determining what local social media networks to use, what languages to use, what topics are trending, and information about the culture. I think this is only the starting point because as the use of popular social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are exploding worldwide, technical communicators should realize that using social media effectively means more than just knowing which medium to use or translating words into another language. I think that Thatcher’s strategies apply to social media. Let’s say Coca Cola wants to have a presence on China’s most popular social media network. The company would have to think about its purpose, audience information needs, style preferences, and maybe to a lesser degree its organization strategies (as social media sites tend to have already set structures).

Posted on November 14, 2011, in Social Media, Society and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Natalie,

    When I look at the results listed in your chart, my first impression is to “think like an American” and assume that all of those countries have internet available the same way we do. With that being said, the HUGE rise in twitter use could be attributed to a cultural revolution that is beginning to include a new media.

    I just don’t see that as a correct viewpoint tho. I wonder just how many of the countries listed with huge increases have this activity because of new availability of the internet.

    I am not trying to downplay your data, actually I am supporting your ideas that relate to a growing world of online media users with different cultural viewpoints and expectations. I wonder where this will all lead?

  2. We can’t ignore the 44.6 million users of Facebook worldwide compared to 27.8 million in the U.S. I’m just saying there will be cultural differences. Plus, in addition to Facebook, there are other social media outlets–some that we’re not as familiar with to consider.


  3. I’m going to leave more comments tomorrow, but I wanted to mention that your question in purple is an ideal one to try and answer in the final paper. 😉

  4. I can honestly admit that I was guilty of ethnocentrism before taking this course. I am rather naive as far as the lifestyles of other cultures, but I never realized how much I just assumed other countries merely modeled after the US’s advancements. I feel foolish for ever feeling this way!

  5. I also liked the idea of “locializing” content to speak to each specific culture. I think communication tatics need to be applicable to a specific culture in order to gain readership and maintain interest.

  6. Hi Natalie – I found this piece fascinating as well. I think that the localization of content is one that affects us deeply as technical communicators. A lot of people in the industry are worried about all of our jobs being sent offshore. While that is true for a lot of content, there is so much that can’t be done by people who are not native speakers.

    The colloquialisms that we use, and our regional slang sometimes give us away when we’re talking with people from the same state. For instance, over in the eastern side of Wisconsin, the term is “bubbler,” while in western Wisconsin and Minnesota, it’s “water fountain.” In Wisconsin (and Saskatchewan – I checked), we play “Duck, Duck, Goose.” In Minnesota, they play “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck”. It’s the little things that people pick up on, and they make people uneasy.

    As for forming relationships with others from a different country, I think it is good that we at least learn the baseline differences in communication styles so that we can be effective. It just makes good sense. I know and have met people who think everyone in the world should act like we “Ah-mur-kuns” but I don’t think I’ve met anyone who has traveled abroad who still thinks that. Besides, if everyone were like us Americans, we wouldn’t have hot British accents to eavesdrop in on. http://pinterest.com/pin/190136415487573172/ Hope the link works 😉

    • It’s wild that even within the same state, there are “cultural” differences. My fiance seems to have no Midwestern accent growing up in Eau Claire, but since I grew up near Milwaukee, I have one. I think it’s an influence from Chicago. When I was young, in school we called the drinking fountain a bubbler, too!

      There’s a guy from Austrailia in a club I belong to. Everyone just loves to hear him talk!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.