Social networking sites going truly global

Social networking sites are in the process of recognizing that global business doesn’t have to be Anglo-centric. A growing number of native-language sites are popping up, such as eConozco (Spanish) and Viaduc (French). These are not just local sites; they, too have global appeal—Spanish is the second most widely-spoken language in the world.

The international sites are getting in on the act, as well:

OpenBC, the first multilingual social networking site, has added a number of language-related features:
– User interface is currently available in English, German, and Spanish, with more on the way this year
– Profile includes a language field to specify which languages you speak
– Forums and public events can be assigned one or more languages so that you can filter out forums or events in languages that you cannot communicate in.
– Optional configuration to grey out users, dates and forums, with whom you cannot communicate because you do not speak their language.
– Ability to restrict search only to people who speak a particular language or languages.
– Ability to send join invitations in languages other than your primary language.

Orkut announced the ability to specify the primary language of a community. You can include the language field in your search for communities.

Ecademy is taking a different approach, focusing on building local support around the world, and global visibility for its local leaders as “supernodes”. While the site’s user interface remains Anglo-centric, its members certainly aren’t.
– They have local clubs started in over 200 cities worldwide
– They have created Trusted Networks (branded sites that provide a narrower, local view of Ecademy content) for Benelux, India, and Asia-Pacific.
– The Paint the World Blue Club aims to bridge social networks and create visibility for Ecademy worldwide by occupying the top most-connected spots on LinkedIn. They’re accomplishing this through a combination of inviting the most connected people on LinkedIn to join Ecademy, and by building the LinkedIn networks of Ecademists in the various countries. To date, Ecademists occupy over 50% of the #1 spots by country.

What does all this mean to you? For one thing, it means that globalization is now reaching small businesspersons and solo professionals, not just large organizations. You now truly have the potential to develop global business relationships affordably.

It also highlights the need for an appreciation of inter-cultural issues — differences in communication styles, relationship styles, business ethics, etc. What works in Houston doesn’t necessarily in Hong Kong. Hopefully, we go into it with a high degree of tolerance, recognizing that not everyone sees things the way we do. We also owe it to ourselves to learn more about, and then respect, the cultural practices of our new global friends and colleagues.