A consistent theme across the Internet globally is cohesion between web users with similar interests. From online chat rooms to forums, the Internet has provided an ideal platform for connecting people anywhere globally with shared interests directly with one other. The growth of online communities and user-generated content has driven much of the expansion of the Internet over the last decade. Comments and discussions on user forums provide unique insight into public opinion on a range of matters. From a business perspective, users value community-based interaction very highly. Savvy brands have been able to increase engagement and reputation by communicating relevant content to communities within their target audience.
The objective of a user forum is simple: build a community on a topic or area of interest and develop a large following. From a visitor’s standpoint, it enables them to connect with users who share something in common. It is essential for a forum to be active and current in order to attract users; an inactive or out-of-date forum drives users away to fresher communities. This is where the language becomes important as the overall web audience grows increasingly fragmented by language. To appeal to the largest audience, forums must appeal to users by having content available in their native languages. Not only will this help attract new users to the site but it will also retain them.
Languages will play an increasingly important role in the development of the internet, the importance and prevalence of English online is falling which presents an opportunity for new and established forums to develop an international user base. Firstly, an owner of an internet forum has to identify the native or home country languages used by visitors to the site. An indication of this interest can be gathered from web analytic tools that show visitor demographics and browser language such as Google Analytics. Internet research to find out how much subject relevant content is available online in that language is useful to ascertain the likely interest in the topic by native speakers.
Developing a Multilingual Forum
Once a language or set of languages are identified for use on an existing forum, the process of multilingualization can begin. Translating navigation text strings across the site and existing popular threads to those languages is an excellent first start for taking a forum multilingual. With different language content on the website available, search engine crawlers will start indexing the site for relevant keywords in the foreign languages. As the site starts getting ranked for these search terms, web users searching for the keywords will find the forum and, if relevant to their interests, will start contributing more content in their mother tongues thus creating a snowball effect. Once content is available, promotion of the forum can begin through multiple marketing channels online such as social media and advertising.
The development of multilingual user forums can be very beneficial in the long-term. Global appeal is quantifiable through the level of engagement that occurs on a forum from an international audience. Foreign language web users are growing rapidly, even regional languages like Telugu, which has a native speaker base of more than 80 million users, is being encoded for the internet. User engagement in these emerging, uncompetitive language communities will likely be much higher. Easy navigation and local terms will further increase the sense of community for these web users.