Guest

Invisible Boundaries: Expats and Social Media

By: Guest | April 11, 2011 | 
17

John Falchetto, the serial entrepreneur, has worked on three continents helping other expatriate entrepreneurs to start-up, grow, and succeed in challenging environments all around the world.

Having lived in repressive regimes in the Middle East for more than a decade, I am a big fan of freedom of speech. I first discovered Spin Sucks when Gini Dietrich wrote Why Brogan’s Bigger Ear marketing is wrong, and loved the way she treated Martyn Chamberlin, her critic.

Rules regarding how to deal with others, online or off, are essential. Especially, when many small business owners and multinationals are getting mixed up on what to do online. Once you go abroad what happens?

The bubble

When you live abroad you expect to be out of your comfort zone but with the rise of social media, expat business owners can sometimes think they live in a bubble; a comfortable bubble of friends who understand you and share your views on life, until it all goes wrong.

When I first came to France, I remember feeling slightly awkward holding hands with my wife Ameena in public. An old reflex, but a good example of how the bubble warps your sense of reality in thinking that everyone behaves a certain way.

Can a U.S. blogger living in a foreign country, still claim first amendment rights or should she follow local rules which can restrict your freedom of expression?

Global rules for a global game

While borders disappear for bloggers they also seem to have disappeared for court cases. Bloggers are getting sued globally, a British blogger is taken to court in Australia by a U.S. firm , a Lebanese blogger is sued in Kuwait by a U.S. franchise.

In many cases the state is not the one going after people on social media. There is an increased incidence of global brands suing bloggers for libel. Many countries have now decided that if you can view or download the content locally, there are grounds to sue for libel.

So although you might be protected in the U.S., once you are abroad whose rules should you follow?

Global brands, local rules.

Unfortunately business like politics is local, and global brands follow the local legal culture.

So when a global corporation is using local laws to bully a blogger, is it being ‘sensitive to the local culture’ or just taking advantage of a the local criminal code?

Small expat business owners and large global brands need to define their rules towards interaction on social media and create global social media policies.

A firm or person’s values shouldn’t change depending on their geographic location.

Redefining community rules

Global brands need to recognize that those who are vocal on social media are more important to their market share than another aggressive multinational moving in. Trying to shut them down is not the solution.

Expat business owners navigating social media abroad should be aware of where they live and never forget that behind the social media tools are very real people with cultural sensitivities. Treat readers well and critics even better.

What are your rules for social media behavior?

John Falchetto, the serial entrepreneur, has worked on three continents helping other expatriate entrepreneurs to start-up, grow, and succeed in challenging environments all around the world. As a trilingual, who has embraced more cultures than many ever experience, he provides a unique perspective on succeeding in foreign countries.  His blog is the Expat Life Coach

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