Deloitte Digital Senior Community Manager Laura Anderson recently traveled to Portugal to help develop a business' social media strategy. Following are her insights on how social media behaviors change overseas.

Last month, I had the opportunity to go to Lisbon, Portugal to work on-site with the local Deloitte team. While there, I helped develop a social media strategy for a top energy and utility provider in Brazil, Spain, and Portugal. (Yeah, I was pretty stoked about it too.)

Having worked in the social media industry for almost five years, this seemed like a perfect match for my skills and experiences. But (and there’s always a “but”), as my first international project, I wondered how differences in social media behaviors and cultural habits outside the U.S. would affect my knowledge of what makes a sound social media strategy.

Here’s what I mean:

  • In Brazil, users often search for a brand’s reputation on a customer complaint portal called Reclame Aqui. Never heard of Reclame Aqui before? Me neither.
  • In Spain, the average age someone moves out of their parents’ house is 29 years old. Meaning, the online demographics of someone looking for their first energy provider tend to skew older compared to the U.S.
  • Portuguese social media users between ages 35 and 54 years old frequently use Whatsapp to ask for customer support. In the U.S., Whatsapp users primarily use it for talking. In fact, according to Statista, “customer service” isn’t even listed as an app activity.


Plus, when you consider more complicated topics, like what information international digital users willingly share online and how they might react to online privacy issues, it becomes a whole new social media ballgame overseas.

But (again, always a “but”), despite the fluctuation in how Americans typically behave on social media in comparison to folks abroad, my biggest takeaway from working with the Lisbon team is that although social media behaviors may change, business stays the same.

Here’s what I mean:

  • In social media marketing and communications, it can be tempting to focus solely on tactics. Mature organizations, regardless of whether they are located in Portugal, the States, or Timbuktu, make sure everything they do is rooted in strategy.
  • So, that’s exactly where the team and I started. We put thought and effort and time into answering the following questions of why this particular client should be on social media and, more importantly, the benefit it will bring to their customers.
    • Goal: Why do you want to be on social media?
    • Audience: Who are you trying to engage?
    • Channels: Where do you need to have a presence?
    • Content: What does your audience want or need to hear?
    • Style: How does your brand look and sound?
  • Focus on quality over quantity first. Although it may seem like a good idea to get on every social network (More exposure! Brand awareness! New prospects!), please remember you cannot do it all, all at once. For this particular client, they had Facebook pages, Twitter handles and YouTube profiles that hadn’t been updated for years. Sometimes a strong social media presence means scaling back and closing down pages, until you have a solid reason for being there.
  • Finally, understand your target audience. Know their social habits, their needs and wants as a consumer, and any existing pain points they have with your company. Study them inside and out, and those insights will be the backbone to justifying your recommendations.


Social media behaviors and habits undoubtedly change – geographically, demographically, and psychographically. But (final “but” here), the core tenants of a strong business model and social strategy do not.

Laura Anderson is a senior community manager at the Deloitte Digital studio, Deloitte Consulting, LLP in Seattle. She has a Master of Communication in Digital Media from the University of Washington. Follow her on Twitter.