Graphic ranking online media channels
A ranked list of the website types consumers use to research products. (US data;

How do you generate more sales? The big buzz is always social media but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Especially for expatriate products, more purchase interest seems to come from online channels other than Facebook and Twitter.

Expat purchases are normally ‘high involvement’ products such as health insurance coverage, personal finance, or real estate. Interestingly, a study by Joann DeLanoy explains that for high-involvement products, people use web search before using Twitter or Facebook.

High-involvement product purchases are defined as those which cost more, are less frequent, and require more research. This rings true with many transactions that go along with relocation.

According to the study data, this would mean expats first search Google looking for product ratings, service reviews, news articles, and corporate brand pages. Much hyped social media channels such Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, seem to have very limited influence on more complex expat purchases.

Online Marketing Channels for Expats
Purchase intent is more likely present when consumers utilize search, brand websites, and review sites.

Research only starts with Google

Does this mean you should spend all your money on search? Not at all. Consumers might use Google for starting their research, but they want to find additional product ratings and service reviews before making a decision.

Information about your products and services can be found many places, so you need to be aware where your customers go to learn about your brand. You can also incorporate reviews and ratings directly onto your brand page. Whatever you do, focus your energy on the most influential online channels – and remember Facebook and Twitter don’t even make it into the top five!

Outsource Facebook and Twitter?

So are you just wasting your time on your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts? One way to find out is to consider how much time you’re spending with them.

According to the Social Media Examiner, only 30% of companies are outsourcing all or part of their social media marketing, slightly up from 28% in 2011. But if more purchase intent comes from web searches, expat marketers should focus on SEO and limit their hours scraping for more ‘likes’. The outsourcing of social media might be an untapped strategy that frees up your time for other tasks.

Social media list for Dow Jones
Dow Jones promotes a range of products and services through social media.

However, don’t completely abandon social media quite yet. Its recent growth as a platform for consumer reviews and recommendations has given consumers more influence regarding brand perception (you might remember the Gap logo case). More companies such as Dow Jones and HSBC International are using expat-focused social networking to engage expats and better control their brand’s image. Brands are also getting involved in discussions on expat forums to encourage signing up to monthly subscriptions for products and services.

To understand how consumers find you online, you must be aware of which web pages link to yours, and on which pages people are talking about your brand. Companies such as can map webpage linkages giving you deeper insight into how consumers find you.

Ultimately, all digital channels play a role in your brand’s expat marketing strategy. An understanding of which online channels have the greatest influence on your social consumer will lead to an increase in your digital return on investment.

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Brock Price says:

I appreciate the kind words, Robert! Now how did you know I’d linked to you? 😉

Great post, Brock! Thanks for the mention!