Businesses of all sizes, from large to small, now make use of social media to interact and engage with customer communities. The sustained growth of social media has altered the way businesses connect with their target audience providing them with a platform for swift and direct engagement. Some of the world largest businesses, which feature in the Global Fortune 100 companies, are active on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to harness the benefits of social media interaction. In Wave 5 of UM’s social media tracking study showed that, over the last 2 years, internet users are increasingly using social media with an average growth of 35% in users globally who now manage a social network.
The global growth of internet users and the subsequent linguistic development of the internet to support a multilingual audience is a precursor to a linguistically harmonised environment online. Languages have already played a vital role in the popularity of online utilities and localized websites have gained popularity in markets where English isn’t commonly used.
The Multilingual Web
Thus far, the bulk of social media engagement, by businesses, has remained English centric. All the while, web users from foreign markets increasingly use their native language on social networking sites. The use of foreign languages on social networking sites has become increasingly significant with native English language speakers now only accounting for 26.5% users on the internet. Social media content is being created in many different languages and, to engage effectively with multilingual communities, an international social media strategy has to be developed.
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Researching Social Media Markets
The differences that exist amongst users from different countries are not only restricted to languages, but also on how they like to engage online and where they are concentrated. Understanding the specific characteristics of a market, its consumer demographic and their behaviour will allow a company to create a tailored plan. Research is vital as it will allow a company to locate popular social networking sites in a market and how to engage through these sites. A company expanding into China will have to use Sina Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, because it is the most popular micro-blogging service in the country.
An online social need of users is satisfied by high quality content that is relevant to their particular culture. For this reason, country or language specific accounts are recommended; large brands like Coca Cola have country specific pages for e.g. Coca Cola Egypt on Facebook to engage with customers with a local flavour.
Multilingual social media monitoring is vital in order to interact and engage with multilingual web users. Cross-platform publishing and monitoring tool like HootSuite or Sprout Social can be used to manage social media activity on an international scale.
Apart from using local language to engage with web users in foreign markets, knowledge of local trends and use of colloquial words and terms will have a positive impact on a company’s image. It is recommended that a native language speaker is used for social media engagement in foreign markets to connect naturally with an audience.
Content being published across a range of social networking sites has to be translated or transcreated for international use. This again requires the use of native language speakers as they can adapt the content for an audience.
The need for multilingual social media engagement will only grow in the coming years and getting a head start will be very beneficial in the long run. Customer engagement is vital for continued success and having an online conversation with a global audience only enhances a company’s reputation worldwide.