How important is social media for expats?

  • group of young people using social media
Published on 2023-02-24 at 14:00 by Estelle
Moving abroad is a major upheaval in a person's life. Many use social media not only to make the transition smoother and for better integration but also for work or to become an influencer. Whether it is for keeping in touch with friends and family, making new acquaintances locally, or making oneself known, this means of communication has helped many of us.

Why do expats need social media?

There's a common belief that social media has changed the lives of expats, and many still wonder how they managed before the social media era. The truth is that expats need social networks for many reasons, both personal and professional, as almost anyone. In fact, social media has become an integral part of our lives over the past years!

The role of social media in personal life

Most importantly, it's the easiest way to stay in touch with your friends and family. You can comfortably chat with them and show everyone what you're up to, almost in real-time. In fact, it's a great way to share anything with your people back home. It could be a story, a reel, a picture of the place you're visiting, or the new food you're tasting. Your remote friends and relatives will be almost able to experience your expat life along with you.

But expats don't only use social media to keep in touch with their loved ones. It is also a great way to overcome loneliness, especially at the beginning: it can help fight boredom during the first days of your settling abroad and be comforting. Scroll through the news feed and the various types of content on Instagram, Tik Tok or Twitter, and you won't see how quickly time flies.

In case of a serious disaster, as it can unfortunately happen, social media can play an essential role in alerting your loved ones directly via Whatsapp or Facebook that you are fine and safe. They can also help find someone nearby too. These platforms can also alert you in real-time if a nearby neighborhood in your expat city is facing some issues. Social media can save lives and preserve people from anxiety and scares!

The professional importance of social media

Social media can open up the doors to new professional opportunities, not to mention those that are often seized by influencers (we'll get back to them later in this article). On top of that, it's the perfect tool to network and make new professional contacts through dedicated groups and pages, plus networking events. LinkedIn and Facebook top the list, although nowadays, professional networking and advertising is also done on Tik Tok or Instagram, depending on your business and area of expertise.

A useful tool for finding expat-related information

Are you wondering about the administrative requirements to open a bank account in your expat country? Searching for the best restaurant near you? Looking for a roommate? You're likely to find the answers to most of your questions on social media. They are indeed an infinite source of information for expats.

These countries have restrictions and bans on particular social media

As much as social media helps the expatriate community, some countries frown upon them. There has been bans or temporary restrictions on some or all forms of social media in many countries worldwide.

China, for example, has a very strict repression policy on this topic and has banned social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, and WhatsApp. Conversely, Chinese-made TikTok, for example, is allowed and even promoted. However, even though China is one of the most restrictive countries regarding social media, it is far from being the only one. Actually, some sixty countries around the world have either banned or restricted social media. The list may vary depending on each country's political situation, but it includes North Korea, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Iran, Russia, Pakistan and Vietnam. Some African and South American countries are experiencing or have experienced social media censorship.

Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, for their part, restrict calls made over the Internet via Whatsapp and Skype, respectively.

Becoming an expat social media influencer

Social media has given birth to a new breed of jobs that allow many to earn a living exclusively through these platforms. The social media influencer business is indeed gaining popularity. 

Many yearn to become social media influencers and experience the same lifestyle as those who currently live in Dubai or in Andorra (the two top influencers' El Dorado). And what better way than moving abroad to break into the business? Who else than an expat can have a fresh eye on the trendiest leisure and entertainment activities, restaurants and bars to try? And who can better find the boutiques and fashion trends not to be missed abroad? Professional advice and expat career coaching are other lucrative businesses for expats. Let's not forget the stories that only a person learning a new language or adapting to a new culture and lifestyle can tell.

But before getting started, there are a few things you need to know:

First, you will need to stand out from the crowd and be able to showcase yourself to beat the competition. 

If you want to make the most of your chances and if you are really motivated, consider taking digital communication courses, which are increasingly focused on the influence business. The training includes everything from video editing to photography and graphic design, not to mention marketing and digital writing techniques. Community management training may also be very useful when it comes to handling different forms of social media.

Do a thorough study of the competition and the market you are targeting. Feel the terrain and find the seam through which you could break.

Find the right people who will help you in the process and, more importantly, show you the way, like a lawyer or an agent. This business has grown so fast in the last few years that you will surely have no trouble finding help from a specialist. 

Finally, make sure you settle your situation according to the laws of your expat country. Although you are an expat entrepreneur, you will be automatically subject to a legal status that comes with tax constraints and rules about how to receive and declare your revenue.

Becoming an influencer is appealing, but it can be a long, winding, and bumpy road to success. Here are some mistakes you should avoid:

  • Plagiarism: Make sure that your idea is original. Research and check if it hasn't already been someone else's. Else, you could risk some legal actions.
  • Lack of creativity: Remember not to publish the same content on all your social media accounts; be inventive and target the type of followers you want on the relevant platform.
  • Disorganization: Do not post or publish randomly. Set up a schedule of all your publications.
  • Overdoing: Prefer quality to quantity. Too much content can be boring for your followers and damage your image. 
  • Naiveness: Don't accept any collaboration on receiving an attractive financial offer. Many companies take advantage of the economic appeal of social media influencing to sell anything. Be authentic and only accept brands that are in line with your values.
  • Arrogance: Never ignore remarks and comments that may not always be positive; they can be constructive and considerate. Of course, we are not talking about nasty and hateful messages. But pay attention and accept criticism to improve your strategy.
  • Disrespect: Many people will do anything for a photo that makes the buzz and/or gains more followers. Sometimes a picture can be deemed irreverent by locals and attract their wrath, especially when you seem to be unaware or ignorant of the country's culture and customs. Learn about your host country's cultures and customs first and show respect.

Social media is essential for expats for various reasons. They have a lot of potential to help, and they can offer many opportunities throughout your expat life. Just make sure to know the risks, and abide by the rules.