A client is getting ready to launch their products in the UK and inquired how to handle their international Facebook presence (they’ll remain anonymous to avoid leaking their plans for global domination). They have a very active US Facebook fan base, so on the one hand, it seems a shame to not be able to leverage those tens of thousands of Fans outside the US. But on the other hand, there are going to be key differences in product terminology, promotions and fulfillment, so the US and UK audiences really demand distinct messaging.
So, we took a highly unscientific look at what some of the “big boys” are handling this conundrum. Facebook doesn’t allow for any pooling of Fans (in which, say, Fans of a product- or country-specific Facebook page are counted towards, or associated with, the company’s main page). But, we did find several companies with smart workarounds:
Starbucks is, of course, one of the most recognized companies on the globe. Their solution is a custom tab with a map-based interface guiding visitors to local Facebook pages. Smartly, the International tab is distributed across all their pages, so it’s as easy to get from Starbucks Costa Rica to Starbucks International, as it is from International to Costa Rica.
Mercedes-Benz takes a similar approach as Starbucks — a custom tab with a map-based interface — but includes links to their local websites as well as local Facebook pages.
Intel also divides their Facebook pages by country, but puts a map-based selector right on their main Facebook page, making their global reach a central message.
My personal favorite solution comes from Nike, which maintains Facebook pages for nearly 100 countries and sports (and combinations therein). To make it easy to find all these pages, they added a custom tab to their main page with links to each. Best of all, you can Like any one of the individual pages directly from this tab. And, they leverage their gaudy overall Fan count by adding their own, manual tally of combined Fans along the top.
Disney takes a similar approach, but overall I found Nike’s implementation to be more elegant and usable.
Don’t have the budget or resources to create a custom tab (though they’re not really expensive nor difficult to build)? The easiest solution comes from Google: keep a clean, concise list of Likes on your main page, populated by your other Facebook pages.
Finally, I have to point out Apple’s, uh, unique solution — a big ol’ middle finger to Facebook! No international pages, no custom tabs, not even a single Wall post. And, being Apple, they’ve still amassed over 1,000,000 Likes!?!?