Using Social Media Internationally: How Not To Get Lost in Translation | Beth’s Blog

Using Social Media Internationally: How Not To Get Lost in Translation

Guest Post, Tips

Flickr Photo by John K

Note from Beth: Social networks allow to connect with people from outside of our community and it is easy to have your conversation get lost in translation.  Here’s some good tips when your network is global.

How to Approach Social Media Internationally Guest Post By Christian Arno

Hands up who’s got a Twitter follower from Japan? How about Facebook friends in India? Does that mean your social media is international? Probably not. Connecting with fans and followers – or customers – around the world on a handful of social networking platforms isn’t the same as engaging with them and being part of their online world. Just because you can translate a Facebook status update from English into Cantonese using a Google tool doesn’t mean that you should, nor is it an effective part of an international social media strategy.

The significance of social media around the globe is the ability to build relationships with your fans and followers. That means understanding the platforms they are using and finding out where they are spending their time, rather than assuming if you set up an account they will simply flock to you.

Here are some tips:

Know your audience

The first step in marketing is to understand your audience. Once you know who you’re talking to, what they are interested in and motivated by it becomes much easier to tailor your message. This is the same if you’re talking to a consumer in Missouri or Marrakech.

Who do you want to connect with? What areas are you going to expand to? Once you know that you need to start learning about that target market and then working on what platforms and messages you should be using to engage with them and build a relationship.

What language are you speaking?

You would never presume that every person who speaks English is going to respond to a brand in exactly the same way. For example, there are many differences between US and UK English. The same is true for many other languages.

If you know the message you want to put out there to reach your target market then the next step is to make sure they can understand it. Translation isn’t an easy step. It isn’t as simply as putting a phrase into Google Translate and sending it out.  Automatic translation programs are prone to errors and contextual mistakes, which can result in putting off your target market rather than engaging them. A professional translator will ensure your message doesn’t get lost in translation.

The next step is finding your audience online, or more importantly helping them find you. Keywords are a vital tool for this and will be different in each of your target locations. Choosing a keyword means pre-empting the words your consumers will choose to find you online. Whether it is through a search engine like Google or Baidu, a hashtag via social media, or a tag to use in a You Tube video then it is making your work more visible to your target market.

Be chatty

Do you ever write a social media update in formal language, the same as you might use in a report or presentation? Probably not. It’s a place for colloquialisms and slang. Being chatty and informal, however, is not the same the world over. A native speaker will help you translate and coordinate your message so that you know what you’re saying to a 50-year-old consumer in Asia is hitting the right tone, compared with an update for a 15-year-old in Australia.

Use the right platform

Not everyone in the world uses the same social network. Orkut, for example, is still popular in Brazil, while Renren and Qzone dominate the Chinese market (where Twitter and Facebook are banned). Not every network is text based: Pinterest is primarily image-based, while some focus on video. It’s a reflection of culture and online practice and by understanding the audience you will understand better how they talk to each other.

Facebook and Twitter are still the biggest social networks in the world but you still need to set up different accounts to target each market. Liverpool Football Club in the UK for example, uses a separate account to talk to its fans in Thailand, and another to talk to its fans in America. The messages often overlap but they are always targeted.

Be relevant

Trends in technology change quickly. The power of social media is that users are in control. Success involves responding to new technology and adapting it to fit users’ needs. Vine is the perfect example, a social network that responded to more people wanting to create videos with their smartphones. It’s important to reflect the trends of how your consumers are talking to each other and make sure that you stay relevant.

Respond

Social media isn’t a one way conversation. You have to send messages out but also answer questions and be there for your audience when they want to talk to you. Brands that fail to do that can end up feeling as if they are not relevant or able to engage. Geographical distance can make consumers in foreign markets feel a step out of touch; they know you’re an American company, for example so your Korean audience feels like they’re far away from you. You can bridge that gap by talking to them and responding to their queries and concerns via social networks. It makes you seem more immediate and connected.

 

About the author:

is the founder of Lingo24, Inc., one of the world’s fastest growing translation services. Launched in 2001, Lingo24, Inc. now has more than 200 employees spanning four continents and clients in more than 60 countries. Follow Lingo24, Inc. on Twitter: @Lingo24

 

13 Responses

  1. Megan Keane says:

    Thanks Christian for the great guest post! I don’t see this topic covered much in social media tips/guides and it definitely needs to be as more organizations connect globally. What are some good ways nonprofits can start going about seeing what keywords/platforms are appropriate for different international audiences? I definitely hope this is a conversation topic that continue in nonprofit tech circles.

  2. [...] Note from Beth: Social networks allow to connect with people from outside of our community and it is easy to have your conversation get lost in translation. Here's some good tips when your network is global.  [...]

  3. Thank you for bringing this topic up in this great post. I would add to the list “respect culture differences”, including different holidays, different social values and different sense of humor :-)

  4. samzey says:

    social media is like a circle, which is helping people to catch interaction, create new ideas in virtual communities, share and exchange information and all. Thank you Christian for such informatioanl post.

  5. samz says:

    Thank you Christian, bascially! social media is vast circle where people interact each other through this circle in all over the world, they have an opportunity to learn about different communities,culture and their values. keep it up :)

  6. Friederike says:

    Thank for for this great article. I like this topic a lot and collect facts about it in my own blog which is in German. I completely agree with the advices you are giving in your article. People/ companies need to understand the cultural background and run an in-depth analysis of the social media landscape for the branch in the specific region in order to run social media in the right way. Most importantly, intercultural understanding needs to be included into this process too.

  7. [...] Using Social Media Internationally: How Not To Get Lost in Translation Hands up who’s got a Twitter follower from Japan? How about Facebook friends in India? Does that mean your social media is international? Probably not. Connecting with fans and followers – or customers – around the world on a handful of social networking platforms isn’t the same as engaging with them and being part of their online world. [...]

  8. [...] highest success, global brands need to analyze where its audience is and who these people are.  Understanding your audience is the first key to success.  An American brand can’t expect that a Facebook message will resonate with someone from Brazil [...]

  9. [...] popular networks worldwide, but in some countries they are banned and in others just irrelevant. Brazilians and Indians, for instance, use Orkut. The 200 million Chinese network users can mostly be found on RenRen and [...]

  10. Bojan says:

    Hi Christian, thank you for these comprehensive guidelines.

    I very much agree with you and think that the term “glocalisation” describes best what multi-national companies should do when communicating inter-culturally. On the one hand, they need to conceptualise their communication campaigns on a global level: who are the audiences, what are our key messages, what is our strategy and what are our goals. On the other hand, for the realisation of the concept they need to adapt it to local conditions.

    With social media, the importance of cultural aspects in communication seems to have gotten lost. Many companies launch worldwide campaigns by prompting one video clips on Youtube and hoping for it to become viral. However, this will never work for all audiences as each of them bring different cultural backgrounds.

    It is important for companies (and PR) to become aware of cultural differences among their online audiences. In order to reach diverse communities, they have to speak their languages and use their cultural references. For this, however, the company needs first to engage in identifying cultural differences by objectively analysing as well as listening and interacting with online stakeholders.

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  12. [...] Source: Using Social Media Internationally: How Not To Get Lost in Translation Did you like this? Share it:Tweet [...]

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