Social Media and SME Internationalisation

In pre-Internet years (BI 1996), my main research and teaching interests were Export Marketing and International Business. Alan too is a ‘Master’ in International Marketing (University of Strathclyde). Given our roots, we often discuss the impact of social media on the ‘traditional’ approach to the teaching and practice of international marketing, especially in relation to the internationalisation of small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs).

Over the last three decades or so, extensive research has been undertaken concerning the main barriers or obstacles facing SMEs when ‘going international’. While some important differences exist between the various studies, the main barriers identified tend to fall within four main headings – Psychological, Organisational, Operational and Product/Market Barriers. We are strongly of the view that effective use of social media can help to overcome most of these barriers leading to the more rapid internationalisation of the SME sector.

In the attachment to this post, we have listed the main barriers to SME internationalisation most frequently mentioned in research studies and our initial thoughts on the role of social media in overcoming these barriers. We will more fully develop these initial ideas in future posts.

There is a very important public policy dimension to our thinking in this area. The encouragement of SME internationalisation is a key public policy objective in most developed and developing countries. A wide range of public support measures have been put in place to encourage ‘non-exporters’ to become more international in outlook; and for ‘passive’ exporters to become more ‘pro-active’ in their approach. Support measures include participation in overseas trade visits; strategic audits of ‘readiness to export’; country screening and export market research help; finding suitable agents and distributors; advice regarding export documentation, logistics, finance; and so on.

We have not undertaken a detailed audit of public sector SME export support policies. However, a quick search suggests that very little, if any, attention is being paid to the critical role that social media can play in the more rapid internationalisation of SMEs. Is this a major ‘gap’ in public sector support for SME exporters given the global market potential of new media?

As usual, comments and feedback on this post are very welcome. Is anyone aware of a ‘Social Media Supported SME Export Programme’? Is there a need for such a programme?

Jim, Alan, Vincent

Social Media and SME Internationalisation

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