The key to a successful international social media presence: Lose the ‘bot

hand and many other hands

Today, most companies and organizations need a social media presence.  Most of us know it’s a great way to promote your service or product, and to connect with current and potential clients/patients.  But sometimes I don’t think people quite get exactly what having a successful social media account in another language implies.

Each language and culture is different, sometimes in ways that may not be immediately obvious.  That’s why I’m always surprised when I find out about a client or company using machine translation for their social media accounts.  Sure, a translation ‘bot might be able to translate text, but it’s always approximate, and even if it seems correct, ‘bots aren’t people; they have no way of understanding, let alone translating, things like figurative language, double-meanings, and the like.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this experiment I conducted, where I pitted myself against two well-known machine translators.

Even if you somehow found a translation ‘bot that could understand and translate this higher level of language, there’d still be something missing:  ‘Bots don’t have insight into particular cultures.  When you’re trying to reach out to potential clients or patients through social media, it’s essential to really “speak their language”.  This means you can’t just translate something – you have to know if it’s culturally appropriate, or even comprehensible.  Even the images you post have to resonate properly.  Take this example from a Forbes article called “Three Dumb Things Foreign Companies Do in China” by Shaun Rein: A Motorola ad featuring women with Mohawks was supposed to give an edgy or on-trend vibe (as it would in many Western cultures), but in China, many people found it utterly unappealing, and even downright puzzling.  A good human translator would not only take care of language, but issues like that, as well.

With social media, seeming like you’re “in the know” is essential, which is why this digital marketing firm praises companies like Coca Cola, which has completely different, localized social media accounts in several countries.  And then there’s McDonalds, whose localization and translation experts are total pros. For example, they knew how to successfully promote two different kinds of menus on social media – a vegetarian one for restaurants near holy sites, and a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian offerings in other restaurants around the country. Paying attention to these region-specific preferences, the article suggests, made Indian social media users feel like the brand not only respects, but also understands, their culture.  If you’re more into the bottom line, knowing how to tailor and market their specific menus has brought the Golden Arches more than appreciation – it’s resulted in a lot of success in the Indian market.

So here’s how to have a great social media campaign in many countries/cultures: Forget ‘bots and get real translators who are also experts on the culture(s) you want to reach out to.  This may cost more, but it can also mean more success and online popularity. After all, social media is about sharing, and if your translations are stiff, incomprehensible, or uninteresting, that probably isn’t going to happen.  And if things go really wrong and something you post turns out to be downright offensive, well, you might get some publicity…but not in a good way.

Our team at aiaTranslations doesn’t just have a way with words; we’re also localization experts.  Whatever culture(s) you’re trying to reach out to with social media, we can help make your posts, tweets, and pins as relevant and catchy as the ideas in your original language.  Click here to get started.

 

by Alysa Salzberg

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