7 Tips on Managing Social Media Marketing Content in Multiple Languages

One of the great things about social media channels are that they open up new ways for marketers to reach their customers and influencers all over the world. But for an international brand, the tricky thing about them is that you need to have a slightly different strategy when your brand communicates in more than one language. Here are seven quick tips to help you think through your multilingual social media marketing strategy.

1. Don’t publish machine-translated content on social media marketing channels.

For marketers with less experience with translation, it might be tempting to copy and paste your message in English into Google Translate, and then open up your favorite social media management tool and pop in the translations. No matter how great of a solution this might seem to be, please just don’t do this.

You want high-quality content that people can engage with, and machine translation is never something you want to use on any content where you will be speaking in another language on behalf of your brand. It’s just far too risky. It’s far better to have a human in charge of the exact message of each social media post.

2. Put a native speaker in charge of your social media presence in other languages.

Some marketing agencies can manage your social media presence for you in another language by offering you a native speaker. Or, you might have a native speaking employee who can do this. Ideally, it’s a marketer who speaks the language, knows social media tools, and has specific targets in mind as part of a broader marketing strategy. At the very least, it should be someone who can carve out a certain percentage of their time to work on this.

Generally, I advise that you not even think about doing social media marketing in another language until you have at least one marketer who speaks that language. Why? Even if you find an agency to manage it for you, there will be times when you need to interact, engage, and reply to people on social media in the other language. Also, you’ll need to understand the work the agency is doing anyway in order to properly guide them. You can’t really do that unless you speak the language yourself or have someone on your team who does.

3. Opt for native multilingual content versus translated content for brand-focused posts.

You want to share content with your followers that is helpful, not just content that focuses on your brand. When you do that, it’s important that it be authentic and can resonate with your audience. Ideally, you don’t just take posts in English and translate them into another language.

If you do, this is most certainly going to make you sound robotic and disconnected from the real subculture of Twitter among your language and target geographies. It’s not just about the content but about the message and tone you’re striking. Unless you craft each message with extreme care, many people can “smell” a translated message a mile away. It just doesn’t have the same impact as native content will.

4. Adapt core “global” messages sparingly and selectively.

There are times when you will want to translate some global “lazy tweets” and other pre-formatted, pre-written content that has been written in English because it might be the type of content that can be shared across multiple markets without risk. However, even in those cases, make sure to adapt it, not just translate it. You might consider using transcreation for those instances.

Although, hopefully you’re not doing these very often. You want your engagement with your followers to be authentic and not too focused on your own brand, so the number of posts you publish that are “consistent” across all social media identities really should be kept to a minimum.

5. Don’t just create identities for every social channel you use in the US market.

Social media channels and how they are used varies a lot by country. For example, LinkedIn is not very commonly used in Japan, but Twitter and Facebook are very popular and often serve the business networking function of LinkedIn. You’ll need to pay close attention to the local market you’re in and each language to understand what kind of social media presence you even need. Often, they won’t be the same in every market, and how you’ll use them will vary too. Make sure your market entry strategy is informed with country-level data.

6. Prioritize a multi-market social media strategy as opposed to just publishing multilingual content.

Remember, you should think about social media not in terms of languages, but in terms of countries. While it’s fine to use the same account for a single language spoken in multiple places, you’ll have better success if you’re in tune with local trends, local influencers, and local trending topics you can align with and engage with as a brand. Make sure that your social media strategy reflects this.

7. Make sure you really have the time to devote to social media in multiple languages.

Sometimes marketers fall into the trap of thinking that all they have to do is “clone” their presence in other languages, or that a single person can carry out this work across all markets. In reality, to manage your social presence, you’ll need to carve out time for it. For this reason, you might want to hold off until you have some other foundational brand awareness work done in a given market, and you have a content strategy in place to support it. Otherwise, what content are you going to share? What will your brand messages be in that market? How well do you even know your target persona in each market where the language is spoken?

I hope these tips help you think through your social media strategy in other languages. It can be daunting to think about how to scale across many languages, but my biggest advice is to not overcomplicate and keep a tight focus on your most important goals. Only then can you see through the haze to outline a very clear strategy so that you work on finding the right balance of quality and quantity in other languages, across the many challenges and investment options with your budget that you, and your marketing leadership, have to choose from.

To learn more about using localization as a marketing strategy, check out the following posts:

Nataly Kelly

Nataly leads localization at HubSpot and has previously held diverse roles in marketing, international operations and strategy, research, and product development. She writes for Harvard Business Review on topics of international marketing and business. Nataly works remotely from Donegal, Ireland, by way of New England, Ecuador, and rural Illinois where she grew up.

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