Centralised vs Localised Social Media Presences for International Brands

When marketing an international company the old adage ‘think global, act local’ is often coined; but does the same ring true for social media? I was recently asked by a client to make some recommendations on how to handle their social media presence given their international audience; and I thought that I’d also share my thinking on this here.

Essentially the client was asking whether they should have a single central account, or have accounts for each of their individual markets. As with most questions of this sort, there’s not necessarily a single ‘right’ answer. It really depends on each individual company’s situation - for example:

Is there a compelling reason to suggest that more than one single social account on each platform is required?

Examples might include:

  • Language differences
  • Cultural differences
  • Deliberate differences in messaging / tone of voice
  • Differences in promotional activity
  • Differences in social media platform usage from country to country
  • Is sufficient resource available to maintain more than one presence?

If there’s not a compelling reason to justify a localised presence then a centralised presence is almost certainly the most appropriate solution.  However, I think that regardless of whether or not a company elects to run localised social accounts it’s a good idea to take ownership of all localised variants of their brand, and use the variants to push users to the centralised account.

If a localised approach is preferred clear signposting to all the other localised accounts is beneficial to help direct users to the most appropriate account for them.


Pros & Cons of Centralised vs. Localised Social Media Presences

Beyond these key considerations I think that there are pros and cons to both the centralised and localised approach, which I’ve outlined below:

Centralised Pros

  • Consistency of messaging
  • Ease of management
  • The potential to build accounts with high numbers of followers
  • Easier for users – i.e. there’s only one account to follow

Centralised Cons

  • Multi-lingual accounts may turn off users (and of course there are differences even with US and UK English so even if an account isn’t truly multi-lingual this may be a problem)
  • Localised offers / promotions are difficult to communicate effectively and as not all messaging will be relevant to your entire audience your community will likely be less engaged


Localised Pros

  • No language barriers
  • Easy to run local initiatives (e.g. country-specific promotions)
  • Assuming your audience is following the correct localised account all messaging will be relevant to them and this is likely to lead to a more engaged, healthy community

Localised Cons

  • As your audience is split across a number of accounts it can be difficult to build up accounts with high audience numbers (this is particularly pertinent on platforms such as YouTube)
  • Harder to control centralised messaging / tone of voice
  • More complex to manage
  • Potentially confusing for your audience – e.g. they may end up following the wrong account


Examples in the wild...

McDonalds – Localised & Centralised Accounts

McDonalds have elected to go with the localised approach (although they have some issues in that they don’t have control of the McDonalds UK twitter handle) and they also have centralised ‘McDonalds Corp’ accounts too.


McDonald’s USA

McDonald’s Canada

McDonalds UK (sad trombone)



McDonald’s USA

McDonalds Canada

McDonald’s UK



McDonalds USA

McDonald’s Canada

McDonald’s UK

I am aware that the world extends far beyond USA, Canada and the UK - I just picked these as examples :)


Plus the Centralised accounts…

In addition to their localised accounts McDonald’s also maintain ‘McDonald’s Corp’ accounts on YouTube; Facebook and Twitter which seem to be there to support global brand messaging.


Why all the McDonald’s talk? You after free burgers or something?

Free burgers are always welcome.

Actually though it’s because I think that overall McDonald’s are doing a reasonable job of managing their social presence (UK Twitter issues aside). The social accounts are fairly well differentiated – as such users shouldn’t find it too difficult to follow the appropriate account. Plus these localised presences allow them to tailor their messaging appropriately.

The addition of the centralised McDonald’s Corp accounts also allow for global messaging (although arguably this could be fed down and pushed via the local accounts instead).


Aston Martin - Centralised Accounts

Aston Martin have elected to keep things clean and simple with centralised social media accounts. This makes the management of the various accounts much easier, and of course it’s easier for their consumers, as there’s no danger of them following the wrong account. That said this approach doesn’t allow any flexibility in terms of ‘local’ messaging.





Lessons from Coca Cola

In sharp contrast Coca Cola seem to have themselves in something of a pickle.

They have a mish-mash of centralised, localised, campaign-specific and product-specific social accounts. The result of which is they are likely impacting their potential reach and confusing consumers.


In the UK on twitter there’s the UK account and a campaign specific account for Coke Zone. There’s also the centralised account which occasionally seems to have a US bias, although there are tweets in other languages via that feed too. Then there’s the Coke Zero account which you’d be forgiven for thinking was Global, but is apparently North America only. Oh dear.


It looks like they’re trying to tidy things up a bit here - but nevertheless they have a Coca Cola page, and a Coke Zero page simultaneously trying to target everyone, everywhere. Oh wait, then I found a page for Australia... It all feels a bit messy.


What’s this? At first I thought they had just one account.

But then I found an Australian version and a version for Spain... And I’m a bit lost again. It seems that UK and USA are targeted simultaneously, and yet Australia gets it’s own country specific presence. The Spain differentiation I understand completely, but the US / UK / Australia thing? Baffling.

In fairness to Coca Cola, they seem to have generated more engagement via YouTube than McDonalds with this, their main account, so they’re clearly doing something right.



Don’t make the mistakes that Coca Cola have and let your social media presence become too diluted with large numbers of accounts.

There’s a reasonably strong argument to be made for a single, centralised (and therefore strong) account on YouTube (or if you’re multi-language having language specific accounts only) to maximise reach.

If you are going with a localised approach make sure that you have sufficient resource to manage these accounts in each market. Also make sure your ducks are in a row with regards to social media policy so the brand ‘sounds’ and ‘behaves’ the same in each market.


And so dear readers over to you - did I miss anything? Are there other pros or cons to localised versus centralised social media accounts? Do let me know via the comments :)


Social Media Image credit - http://kexino.com


About the author
Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith

Hannah joined Distilled in September 2010 as a Consultant and is now on the Content Strategy team. Prior to this she spent over 7 years in offline marketing (point of sale, press advertising, direct mail & sponsorship), until her fairy godmother...   read more