Last week, I published the ultimate guide to a perfect social media strategy. There is one issue to consider that might be added to that guide, which is social media translations. If your company is working on an international market, you have to decide whether you want to stay in your native language or adopt a multilingual approach.

My advice would be to use more than one language because you need to target the right people in the right place at the right time. You may be wasting your time and money if all your posts are in English when fifty percent of your customers are Spanish. In this blog post, you will find background information regarding social media translations, tips for launching a multilingual social media campaign as well as some considerations for social media translations.

Social media encourages communication

The MIT Sloan Management Review states that one key positive of social media and social networking is that it encourages communication. However, particularly among international organizations, there is one key drawback: language. MIT Sloan Management Review’s 2014 social business report identified an interesting paradox. While respondents from multinational companies indicated that social media often enabled their organizations to work more effectively across global boundaries, they indicated that it also introduced new problems. As it became easier to communicate with people using social media, the obstacles imposed by differing languages became more pronounced.

There is little a company can do but meet the customer in their own tongue, the authors say. Translation tools may aid in the response but they are still imperfect solutions, particularly in the unique context of social media communication: 280-character Twitter exchanges are sometimes difficult to translate, even for fluent speakers.

The authors urge you to make sure that your externally facing social media team is fluent in a wide variety of languages and not to insist they all be situated in the same geographic location. After all, it may be easier to coordinate a team across global boundaries rather than to find all the necessary skills in a central location.

Launching a multilingual social media campaign

Pangeanic offers five tips for launching a multilingual social media campaign:

  1. Do your market research.
    Identify your target customers and find out their interest and habits.
  2. Create specific campaigns for specific countries.
    Do not assume that one campaign can just be translated and will work for all. Sometimes this can work but it is not always the case.
  3. Keep up to date with local news and events to avoid pitfalls.
    Also, be very careful about trying to capitalize on big news stories unless you truly understand them. Think of fashion designer Kenneth Cole who used the 2011 political uprising in Egypt to try to promote his new collection by tweeting this: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online…”
  4. Make sure you are targeting the most relevant social media networks in the countries you are targeting.
    Do not assume that a Facebook campaign will work everywhere. For instance, Facebook is banned in China.
  5. Use a professional translator.
    It is a false economy to use a free online translation tool. After all, it is more likely to alienate your potential customers than to gain their patronage.

Considerations for social media translations

Sure Languages lists three important considerations for social media translations:

1. Plan ahead

Producing engaging social media copy can often be a difficult process. Add to this the character constraints of a media platform like Twitter and things start to get even trickier.

This is why it is always a good idea to anticipate any issues that may affect the translation. Think about any cultural complexities that may arise, any messages or social media buzzwords that are going to cause linguistic difficulties, the character limit for your target copy as the same thing can be much longer in one language than it can in another.

These are all ideas that are good to start thinking about even before your company writes the source text. By preparing yourself properly, you are sure to save much time when the translation process begins.

2. Hashtags

Creating a hashtag can involve a lot more than simply placing the # symbol in front of a word. You need to think about the role the hashtag is going to play. How is it going to fit with your brand? What reaction do you expect to elicit from your audience? Once again, preparations at this point will help you when it comes to the translation stage. Do you want to have this hashtag translated? Alternatively, do you intend to go live across different markets with the hashtag in one language?

3. Jargon

With the US at the forefront of the digital revolution, English has become the language leader in social media. The important question you need to think about is: what do I translate and what do I not? While certain languages and markets seem more than happy to adopt English social media jargon like tweet, like, and unfollow, others are keener to make up their own. Knowing when to translate and when not is a key issue for any social media translation.

Social media translation fails: funny or scary?

Bernadine Racoma is right when she says that translation facilitates communication but that there are times when translation fails from social media posts and other online sources can elicit various emotions. The list of examples in her article is both funny and scary. It is unfortunate that these incidents happen. However, it also shows that professional translations are needed if your company wants to communicate with an international audience properly.

Multilingual social media strategy

You know that social media is an important part of today’s globalized world. A structured social media strategy is important for businesses that wish to engage with customers and suppliers overseas. You may not have in-country specialists who can help with your social media translation, though. I can help you adapt your content for international audiences (well, me or my contacts in the translation industry). You can reach me here: [email protected].

Reading tip
You want to plan digital content efficiently but it can be a very time-consuming process. After all, you want to present your audience with high-quality content on a regular basis. How can you best do this? In How to Plan Digital Content Like a Professional, you will find several steps and tools that can help you.