Have you left a favorite website because of an annoying or intrusive pop-up ad? Internet users are becoming more sophisticated – and are increasingly turned off by direct and invasive ads. A recent study found that a staggering 95 per cent of users don’t trust online ads – compared to only two thirds who are suspicious of TV ads.

It’s not surprising that more companies are turning to content marketing as a way to reach and engage users. The idea, of course, is to draw people in through engaging and useful content, indirectly promoting your brand.

This can be tricky to get right, even in English. Search engine optimization, tone of voice and placement are just some of the things to think about. But if your business is operating in other countries, then taking your content marketing global is an obvious next step.  It will probably involve more research and planning, but the benefits include reaching a much wider audience.

Do I really need to go multilingual?

While English is the most widely used language online, it only represents around a quarter of total usage.  And other languages such as Arabic, Russian, Chinese and Spanish are growing much faster, as more of the world gets connected.

If you’re already attracting customers from overseas – or are planning to target them – then it’s worth making the effort to get the language right. Even when customers speak English as a second language, research shows that they prefer content in their native tongue.

The Common Sense Advisory’s Can’t Read, Won’t Buy study this year found “a substantial preference” for local language content among 3000 respondents in 10 countries. Going multilingual isn’t essential, but it can be the most effective way to engage your target customers.

Research your market

Getting content marketing right requires a significant amount of time and resources. So it’s vital to do thorough market research before jumping in to new markets. If you don’t already have a presence in the market, then consider if your products will have genuine cross-cultural appeal.  It usually makes sense to concentrate on one or two new markets at a time, rather than try to spread your net too widely.

Develop your core message

Is your brand all about affordable luxury or a quirky, offbeat appeal? While your message might need some tweaking to fit different cultures, the core image of your brand should remain consistent. Global giants such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s might adapt their content marketing (and menus) to fit local cultures, but the basic look and feel is consistent whether you’re in New York or New Delhi.

Choose your channels

Video, social media, blogs – there have never been more choices when it comes to content marketing.  Which channels you choose will depend on your resources and target audience.  As with English language content, the aim is to provide useful, valuable (and preferably) shareable content, focusing on your audience rather than your company or products.

Ideally, you should integrate your content marketing – linking social media posts back to your blog, and linking videos to promotions on your website. And of course, don’t forget about mobile phones, with more and more users browsing the web on the move.

Localize your content

While automatic translation has its place, the results tend to range from stilted and jerky to hilariously inaccurate. Relying on it for your content marketing efforts is unlikely to get the right response. It’s best to use native-speaking translators or copywriters to ensure your message resonates with your target audience. You might want to go a step further and adapt your content with local cultural references.

Simplify content management

Content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla  can take some of the hassle out of adapting your content. They all support multiple languages with features to streamline the process. In Drupal, for example, the Locale core module allows you to present the interface in another language.  This can be an easy solution if you have native speakers managing your content.

Hiring locally-based social media managers can also help you keep your accounts up-to-date, and ensure a timely and appropriate response.

As with all content marketing, you’re unlikely to see impressive results overnight. Developing a multilingual content marketing strategy takes time and research to get right, but it can be worth the effort to connect with audiences around the world.