If you’ve conducted a successful social media campaign in one country, it should be easy to replicate that success in another country, right? Not necessarily! Marketing approaches differ widely from one country to the next, as different audiences respond in various ways to particular styles of marketing. A campaign that works brilliantly in one location provides no guarantee that it will succeed in another.
In this article on translation and social media, a number of strategies are proposed for getting multilingual social media campaigns right first time. If you’ve tried to implement a campaign in another language and it has nose-dived, there could be several reasons. As such, we explore some of the most common reasons for multilingual social media failure in depth below.
What is social media marketing?
Social media marketing is the use of social networks to create interest in your brand and convert that interest into sales. If you know how to do social media marketing in one language, the same broad principles apply in other languages. However, the sites that you use will differ from country to country, as will the marketing tactics and the content of your posts and images.
Using machine translation for social media campaigns
If you’re on holiday somewhere and don’t speak the language, machine translation can be a godsend. It can mean the difference between ordering a dinner that will delight your taste-buds and one that you’ll remember forevermore for all the wrong reasons. Machine translation is also handy for looking up the occasional word, but that’s pretty much where its use ends. It certainly shouldn’t be used in a professional context. The poor grammar and suspect phrasing that machine translation produces simply aren’t good enough for business purposes yet. Perhaps they will be in the future, but right now, only the human touch will suffice if you want to produce professional content in other languages.
That doesn’t mean that plenty of businesses haven’t tried using machine translation. Google Translate is perhaps one of the best-known computerised translation services. According to this article on its first decade of use, Google Translate now has more than 500 million users, for whom it translates more than 100 billion words every day.
Of course, the key attraction of machine translation is the cost, or rather, the lack of cost. There are multiple free online translation services that you can use, which is why many companies fall into the trap of trusting machines to translate their social media campaigns. After all, how much can computerised translation really get wrong when the copy in question is only a sentence or two long?
Actually, an awful lot. A single misplaced word can turn your carefully crafted post into nonsense and make your company a laughing stock in the eyes of your potential customers. Yes, machine translation can save you money upfront, but if your cost-cutting efforts result in reduced levels of engagement and conversion further down the line, along with reputational damage, then using machine translation for social media campaigns quickly becomes a false economy. Would you actively engage with a company that posted poorly written nonsense on social media? No – and neither will your potential customers.
If the above all sounds familiar, then it could be that using machine translation is the reason that your multilingual social media campaign is failing. Thankfully, it’s a fairly easy situation to rectify. Simply stop using computerised translations and opt for a real-life marketing and social media translation specialist instead.
The importance of localisation
Another key mistake that many companies make with even the best marketing campaigns is not localising the campaign’s content. The age-old example of this comes from the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign that did such wonders for the California Milk Processor Board. The question was translated for Latino audiences, but without using a localisation expert. The result was a campaign that asked Latino milk-buyers, ‘Are you lactating?’ Strangely enough, the humour of the original campaign didn’t come across quite so well in the translated version.
If your social media campaign isn’t working in translation, it could be due to a lack of localisation. Localisation services work alongside professional translation services. They exist to help your messages connect culturally as well as linguistically with the target audience. When it comes to social media, direct translation isn’t enough. Instead, you need to craft your social media campaign to suit each particular audience, from what you say to the way that you say it and the images that you use to accompany it.
Localising your content will help your readers feel that you are talking directly to them and thus increase their level of engagement with your social media campaign ideas. Not localising your social media posts risks leaving your audience feeling disconnected and unvalued – hardly the recipe for a successful campaign!
When to use trans creation
Sometimes, translation services and even localisation services aren’t enough. That’s when trans creation comes into play. Imagine, for example, that you’ve done everything right in terms of your approach, but your social media marketing plan still isn’t panning out the way you had hoped. Then it’s time to look at more fundamental elements of the campaign – and this is where trans creation comes in.
With trans creation, everything is up for grabs. The idea is to evoke the same feelings and responses as your original social media campaign, but the messaging can change entirely. Even your company name and logo could change as part of the trans creation process. After all, even an incredibly carefully planned campaign can fail if your company logo is an offensive symbol in the target country!
The value of using a translation specialist
When you work with a translation agency, they won’t just offer translators by language pairing (for example, those who translate English to Spanish), but should also offer you subject specialists. A website translator, say, will have a very different skill set from a poetry translator. However, many companies neglect to focus in on the specialists that they need, which can have a notable impact on the quality of the translations that they receive.
If your multilingual social media campaign is in trouble, could it be that you’re using the wrong type of translator? A general, all-purpose translator won’t be able to help shape your posts in the way that a real social media guru will. You’re bound to be using specialists in other areas of your business, so why not as part of your translation work?
Whether you prefer to recruit freelance translators directly or to use a translation company, be clear that you need a translator with a strong track record of working on social media campaigns and marketing materials. While a translator with more general experience could do a perfectly competent job, a social media specialist will be far better placed to ensure that your campaign has the impact that it should. If you haven’t already found such a specialist, there’s no time like the present.
Tips for multilingual social media success
Avoiding machine translation, localising your content and engaging the services of a social media and marketing translator will put you well on the path to rectifying your multilingual social media campaign mistakes. Of course, there’s plenty more that you can do to ensure you have the maximum possible chance of successfully engaging customers overseas.
Most importantly, don’t assume anything about your target audience(s). Market research exists for a reason and social media provides plenty of scope to test the water with particular strategies, services and products. As such, be sure to connect in a culturally appropriate way and to ask for feedback. Hearing what your audience wants first-hand gives you an immense advantage.
Remember, too, that it’s important to use only native speakers of the target language(s). Those who speak a language natively will have the best grasp of slang and informal use of words and phrases. This can be particularly important when posting on social media, where many businesses opt for a more chatty and user-friendly tone that they would on their website or in emails. Native speakers should have more of an instinctive flair for this, so be sure to put that talent to good use.
A final word on social media translation
If you’re certain that you’ve got all of the above in order but are still struggling to get the engagement levels you expected from your social media campaign, bear in mind that you can always ask your translation agency for their advice. Those with multilingual marketing translation experience may well have some insights based on your specific campaign and be able to offer advice that can help you to achieve the impact you desire.
Building your business into a global empire isn’t always easy, but with the right approach and the right expertise behind you, it can be done. There is often more to learn from failure than from success, so don’t be disheartened if your first attempt at multilingual social media marketing didn’t go as well as you had hoped – it just means that it’s time for your next attempt!