Do you need multilingual social media?

Published on July 9th, 2014

A little known but interesting fact is that of the 200 million or so daily tweets worldwide, already by the end of 2011 fewer than half were written in English, and Arabic is the fastest growing language on Twitter.

Everyone knows how important social media is and it’s now an essential part of a company’s strategy. It’s not enough to simply be present though: global brands need to consider multilingual posts to effectively engage their global base. Social media allows organisations to react rapidly to markets and customers, so it’s crucial for brand perception. As usage further increases, multilingual social media will be essential for the world’s most successful businesses.

Many companies don’t have any processes in place for their multilingual social media – but for the savvy companies that do, the most important criteria are accurate translations, speed and increasing brand awareness. That’s obvious, right? However, what’s really important is to make sure that the meaning of the message is not lost. There are different ways of posting in other languages and you may need to decide what is more important: speed or accuracy – both will affect the brand’s image. When posts are translated using machine translation, it’s instant, but the end result is highly likely to not have the same meaning, which could cause major damage to a brand’s reputation.

Under normal circumstances and in a marketer’s native language, social media can already prove to be a highly volatile medium which can easily backfire if not carefully managed. Throw into the mix the confounding variables of languages, new markets and cultural differences, and the varying expectations of consumers as to what is “appropriate” for social media, and the need for accurate social media translation becomes very clear. While there may be a degree of tolerance for errors in the often-abbreviated world of social media, with its acronyms and hashtags, a low level of accuracy will stand out negatively to regular social media users. Machine translation does not take into account brand awareness, and any elements of humour, metaphor, or any other nuance of creativity or idiom, will probably be undone by the direct and literal translation provided by machine translation.

So you may decide that your priority is not speed, but accuracy – and for this you’ll have to look beyond machine translation. Importantly, how do you measure success if you’re not considering other languages? If your social media is only in one language, how do you determine success in different countries and territories? The results by default will be skewed and unrepresentative of the whole picture.

The answer to the question posed by this post is, quite simply, yes: if you’re an international business then you do need multilingual social media. Talking to your customers in ways that work for them will not only effectively promote products and solve challenges, but will really show that your company is doing its best to cater for your complete target audience.

Posted on: July 9th, 2014