In a press release from The Data Protection Commissioner’s Office in Germany, the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein ordered that all businesses in its area must cease using Facebook fan pages and Facebook "Like" social plugins.
The ultimate reason is because Facebook and the businesses using the platform are collecting data from it, which infringes on German and European data protection laws.
While this news is certainly unfortunate for businesses in Germany who want to maintain a social media presence, an important marketing lesson can still be learned: different global audiences still require different marketing approaches.
From the example with Germany, here are three lessons marketers can learn when dealing with sticky situations abroad.
1. Remember that different cultures use different social networks and websites.
Just because something's popular in America, doesn't mean it's popular abroad, too. As an example, Yahoo! is actually extremely popular in China and is used more than Google. German marketers should remember that there are other social networking sites out there besides Facebook like StudiVZ, a popular social media site aimed at students.
2. You have to be respectful of other cultures' policies.
Germany's banning of Facebook data is a reminder that we have to keep in mind other countries' values when we target their audience via email, blog posts, or even tweets. Always double-check and research your target country's culture before you start implementing a campaign. It may save you from a headache later on.
3. Remember that just because it wouldn't work in America, doesn't mean you can't do it abroad.
In addition, a new culture and new audience opens up an opportunity to try new things that wouldn't work with an American audience. Look at the glass half full if you're put in a less than ideal situation abroad. Think about what you can do more than what you can't.
What do you think of Germany's Facebook Page and "Likes" ban? What else can you learn from this particular situation about marketing to a global audience?