You may have heard this before, but the digital age revolves around the concept of engagement. (And in reality, that’s just a more appealing name for plain ol’ talking.) That’s why a multilingual presence on social media is key.
The term ‘engagement’ is most relevant when it comes to social media. That’s because building a strong presence online means you need to create a “brand” that people actively pay attention to. It’s not enough to have 100,000 followers — if those people don’t react to your posts, reply to your tweets, or share your content, then you may as well only have 10 followers.
A big key in that process is taking advantage of multilingual features. Social media platforms aim to be successful around the world, and that means they invest in ways to help people connect with each other. In many cases, that means allowing for a multilingual presence on social media.
Shared language builds trust
One Facebook study showed that Hispanic consumers have a better opinion of American brands that advertise in Spanish. That’s because seeing something in our own language establishes a sense of understanding, trust, and respect.
If you want these people to engage with you on social media, you’ll need to establish a relationship first. This is true whether you manage a corporate account, a client account, or your own personal brand. And regardless of which of those applies to you, there are a few steps you’ll need to take in order to build a multilingual presence on social media.
Know your target audience
This may sound obvious, but the truth is that growing an audience means a longer list of expectations.
Every social media platform and website hosting service offers user analytics. This gives you information on who is checking out your content, where they live, and any known language preferences they might have. This can be invaluable in both growing your audience (understanding who follows you) and engaging with them (speaking directly to them).
Trust translators, not web tools
It can be convenient for someone to use Google Translate and feel like they’ve done enough to engage a new group of people. But the reality is that these free tools have significant limitations that you can overcome when you invest in a legitimate translation service.
Native speakers will know if you copied and pasted text into a free, basic translation tool; very few of them capture the nuances of conversational language. And that’s especially true when it comes to things like hashtags, which rely on an understanding of the language as well as cultural/regional influences.
Hashtags are a complex topic with different rules and expectations depending on the platform. But if you use them correctly, you can make a strong statement and build trust with a new group of people more easily than ever.
Keep the content relevant
Remember that Facebook study from earlier? Well, those results also showed that the same group of surveyed users — Hispanic people living in the U.S. — often see translated content that is either too literal or too loose. Finding the sweet spot makes all the difference.
Many factors contribute to a piece of content’s relevance. Timeliness is one major factor and obviously speaking to someone in their native language is another. But tying in culturally appropriate content is more than just good hashtags or the occasional joke.
There’s also the creative side to think about. For example, are you using background music that works across cultures, like royalty free lofi hip hop?
Think through a localization lens
Localization has become increasingly important for most business sectors. And that’s because it’s more than just translating: it is workshopping and tailoring something for a specific audience. And since more than 80% of localized ads outperform English versions, it’s safe to assume international and non-English audiences value this approach.
It’s worth noting that localization and the technical side of translating content is usually something that a professional translation agency provides. That particular skill is something that’s worth paying for because it serves as a vote of confidence with a multilingual audience.
Multilingual presence on social media means multiple accounts
The downside for translating content on social media is that you can’t post something 10 times in 10 different languages. And it’s not enough to reply to comments in someone’s native language, although that certainly can help bridge the gap with a multilingual audience.
To really capitalize on localization and all the benefits of a multilingual audience, you’ll need to invest in multiple social media profiles. That means different Facebook pages, different Twitter handles, etc. (This is a common thing for marketers, but it can also work for personal brands.)
This provides a much more seamless way to localize content without having to repost something multiple times. As an added benefit, you can create a sense of community where people can engage with you as well as others who speak their language and share their culture.
Understand the available tools
As previously mentioned, different social media platforms offer different language tools. If you take advantage of Pages on Facebook, you can post something in multiple languages and Facebook will default to showing that content in a user’s preferred language (if available).
However, you won’t find a similar, built-in feature on other platforms. Unfortunately, the language capabilities of these platforms don’t make it as easy to, for example, add music to a video. While social media sites support dozens of languages, the only way to take advantage of that is with paid ad campaigns that target users based on language.
But banner ads don’t help you build your social media engagement: they’re used to generate conversions and sales. If you really want to build a multilingual presence, you’re going to have to take advantage of some third-party resources to help you translate content, manage your accounts, and make sure you’re using user data to keep improving over time.
At the end of the day, translating content is a specialty job, but it’s a pivotal part of building a social media plan that resonates with people from different countries and linguistic backgrounds.
As communication and engagement continue to become central pillars of any good growth strategy, language will only grow more important. And a good translation service — along with other social media-focused tools — should be the foundation for you to build your multilingual presence on social media, whichever one you choose.