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Culture and the consumer fuel content strategy. Content strategies are the catalyst that fuel our digital, search and social efforts.

In part two of this series we take a deep dive into the differences in trends, habits and resulting digital strategies across the UK and US markets.

Presuming that both the UK and the US are the same purely because they speak the same language can prove fatal for many. Our dialectal differences may mean that we can confuse our tomato, data, and routers.

According to FT.com:

As the UK and US share the same language, there is often an underlying assumption that the countries make obvious partners. But this assumption can come unstuck when it comes to doing business.

95% of US citizens claim to speak English ‘well’ or ‘very well’. However only 80% consider it their mother tongue, with Spanish (12.4%) and Indo-European (3.7%) also being noticeably prevalent.

Considering the impact of that when it comes to the representative amounts of the total population means that 39,266,902 claim Spanish as their mother tongue, in other words 82% of the entire Spanish population (47,270,000).

Curiously, and perhaps in light of the diplomatic roots that America was founded on, no official language actually exists on a federal level.

Perhaps not so polarized as the US, the UK still shows a proportion of the population that do not speak English as their main language (4%).

The fantastic resource from the Guardian data blog (linked above, pictured below) shows the concentration of the non-English speaking areas of the country, determining the UK's patchwork quilt of languages, particularly when it comes to Greater London:

 

The UK and Europe: more than one market

Companies [from outside of Europe] looking at the UK sometimes fail to see how convoluted a market Europe is.

There are 23 official languages spoken in the current EU, and several more not included in these figures, taking the total to some 40 languages.

This presents a very different picture to that of North America where, other than the influence of Spanish, few other languages should be considered as part of the tapestry of languages covering a far wider geographic region.

In addition to this the proportion of ‘second language’ speakers is also something that differentiates the markets:

This poses two very interesting takeaways:

  1. By sticking to English as the primary language you still leave yourself open to the widest audience.
  2. While Europe possesses a broad and complex market the geographical resemblances are simple compared to the culture and language.

Content

Content marketing was top of mind and top of agenda for marketers in 2013. There is no shortage of articles, statistics, guides and tips out there on the web and we have no intention on covering all content bases. This is not a content marketing post. 

The Content Statistics Compendium provides you with over 120 pages of facts and figures you need that includes UK, US, and APAC markets.

Building a content strategy that fuels digital marketing strategy does not vary too much via country. Content marketers face similar challenges of production, scale and measurement.

However, strategy does differ with regard to consumer profiles and economic trends. Tactics can vary dramatically based on culture and buyer personas.

Confidence and uncertainty

In a recent survey from the Content Marketing Institute and the DMA key comparisons between the UK and US content markets provided interesting insights.

One of the key findings was that 48% of UK marketers consider themselves to be more effective at content marketing when compared with the US where 41% of marketers consider themselves to be more effective.

The biggest area of difference was highlighted when marketers where asked about documented content strategy.

Only 42% of UK marketers stated that they have a documented content strategy. 10% of respondents were unsure.

Search marketing

According to research from Kenshoo, paid search ad spend increased globally but decreased in Europe. There was a 24% increase in US search ad spend, while in Europe, UK paid search advertisers were spending 11% less YoY while the rest of continental Europe was spending 4% less.

The United States and United Kingdom tend to look very similar on the outside and Google often tests new initiatives first on these two markets.

Which market it chooses can be based on a number of factors such as size of market vs. risk and adoption factors, demand, and audience demographic.

Google normally releases beta opportunities to advertisers, generally, in the US first. The UK often follows as the second release group.

Source: Search Engine Land 

We managed to speak to Justin Hayward, CEO of Make It Rain, who has specific experience in expanding from the UK into US search markets.

Hayward stated:

There is a huge opportunity for US agencies to take advantage of international agency experience due to a more refined market in the UK and Europe and less reliance on technology.

The US has relied on a technology solution for search for too long which needs to change. With the huge emphasis Google places on quality content, it's time for more human search marketing to return to the US.

Social

No matter which way you cut it, social penetration by country is also incredibly similar.

When based on active users of the largest active social network in each country the results are:

  • USA – 56%

  • UK - 57%

When based on GlobalWebIndex survey of each of the countries' internet users the results are: 

  • USA – 75%

  • UK - 76%

Similar to the penetration figures, there is little difference when you consider the differences in platform popularity between the US and the UK. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn rule in terms of popularity.

The fastest growing network stats feature Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr in both the UK and the US.

In the UK, 87% of internet users own an account on a social network.

  

In the USA, 92% of internet users own an account on a social network:

  • More than 40% of UK businesses use social networks. [Source: ONS, December 2013]
  • Roughly 81% of US SMBs are using social media. [Source: Mashable, Feb 2014]

Spending on social media by global companies by region shows a big difference between North America and Europe though, as is demonstrated below:

Source: TCS, October 2013

Having said that social media has taken center stage irrespective of geography, the developed regions of North America (66.6%) and Western Europe (61.5%) both demonstrate below average social media penetration.

It appears that the social media habits of the US and UK seem overall fairly aligned. Where one network makes up ground in the US this is often counter-balanced by another in the UK.

A very newsworthy point here is the recent acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook for a staggering $19bn.

Many commentators have stated that the main reasoning for this was to tap into a huge user base primarily in emerging markets and, interestingly enough, Europe.

In particular the importance of acquiring this user base by Facebook in this recent acquisition, although a vast some of money, is demonstrated in the image (below) where the European penetration of WhatsApp far outweighs that of Facebook messenger. 

Example: Twitter differentiation for the UK and USA

When conducting research for this study we floated the ‘differences between the UK and the US’ on Twitter Dan Barker weighed in with the following opinion/analogy:

 

SEO

Search engine market share and strategies vary dramatically across UK and US markets. Culture, language and location are the key drivers of differentiation.

US


 

Noticeably, Bing commands some 18.2% of the US search market, far ahead of it’s traction in the UK. 

UK 

The UK, on the other hand, is a very different picture, with Google taking up some 88.71% of the total UK search engine market share.

Image Source: http://gs.statcounter.com/

Taking a broader view we can see that Europe on a whole is more closely associated with the UK than the US when it comes to overall search engine market share, with Bing only really being a sizeable enough proportion to be a real consideration in the US.

Image Source: http://gs.statcounter.com/

SEO and language

One consideration that is central to this report is understanding which language to cater for when optimizing for SEO. 

Many marketers default to English as a catchall. However, this should be very dependent on context and also your target market[s]. Language penetration across the US and the UK can differ. Marketers need to consider international SEO techniques to employ as part of web presence strategies.

For example, perhaps you’re a company based in the US, but targeting certain areas that have shown that having a Spanish language alternative to your site, optimized and appropriately marked-up for international SEO best practice, could significantly increase your conversion rate amongst this target market.

While international SEO can sometimes be overcomplicated, important aspects that are often overlooked should include the following key considerations:

  • Target audience: Should you consider language targeting or regional targeting?

  • User experience (signposting): Clearly show your user where they are (flags work well for this) as leading international SEO Aleyda Solis points out in the image below:

  • Technological considerations: IP redirection (generally bad practice), however a simple option for the user to select themselves is good practice:


Mobile

Central & Eastern Europe leads other global regions for mobile penetration.

UK

The UK has the highest smartphone penetration in Europe and is way ahead of its neighbors France, Germany, Spain and Italy, although in line with its Scandinavian counterparts Norway and Sweden.

US

The US has three times as many smartphone users as the UK has people, however both markets show vast smartphone penetration rates.

Similarities

Growth in overall online commerce has been represented by the increasing growth in investment in ‘omni-channel’ offerings (often by large retail chains) due to the high penetration of mobile in both markets.

Driven by intrinsic motivations, the much-referenced study 'Google: The New Multi-Screen World' demonstrated that both US and UK citizens utilise:

  • Computers: to keep us productive and informed.

  • Smartphones: to keep us connected.

  • Tablets: to keep us entertained.

On a cultural basis consumer habits are also developing in a similar way, many individuals are ‘second screening’, switching between screens/devices to perform a multitude of tasks:

 

End note: a global talent gap

Most digital marketers now operate in a multi-dimensional, multi-functional and global environment.

The convergence of content and digital marketing and the rapid growth of data has meant that 'siloed' talent sets are becoming obsolete.

This creates a significant challenge for companies, globally, who need to attract agile digital talent. Take the US for example, it could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep data analysis skills by 2018.

Regardless of your market, location and digital discipline, with growth and scale comes challenge. In our next series we will go into email and marketing automation in more detail. Stay tuned for more.

This series is co-authored by Andy Betts and Ned Poulter, Copenhagen based Digital Marketing Consultant and Co-Founder of AvitaDigital.

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Published 18 March, 2014 by Andy Betts

Andy Betts is a digital marketing strategist working with agencies and direct advertisers. He blogs here, and can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn

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