Managing multiple languages in complex social media campaigns

We know from our research into top global brands that managing complex social media campaigns across multiple countries, cultures and languages can be overwhelming. Getting the balance right between sticking to the brand voice (managed centrally) and being relevant to local audiences takes careful management.

As part of our series on managing complex social media, Richard Simcott, our languages director and resident hyper-polyglot (he has studied an incredible 50 languages), has this advice for brands.

  1. Don’t overreach. Global brands may be tempted to over-promise on their language provision – and find themselves quickly overwhelmed as a result. It’s far better to take a conservative approach to the languages used. Start your project using only the most essential languages; expand the provision later if the demand is there.
  2. Know the culture. The brand needs team members who are both fluent in the language and in how it’s used (we call this cultural fluency). Are they steeped in the local culture? An Italian American who hasn’t lived in Italy for decades may be more adept at creating content for an American audience than for their native Italian market.
  3. Think in languages, not just locations. Some countries (for example, Belgium, Canada, China or India) will need more than one language to cover them. Others may not need a separate language capability but will need cultural fluency (think UK and Ireland – you may not need a Gaelic speaker in Ireland, but you might want a Welsh speaker in Wales).
  4. Localise content, don’t just translate it. Working with people who live the local culture will enable the brand to localise content rather than just translate. It will help make the content more engaging and contribute to the campaign’s success.
  5. Focus on resources. I’m a firm believer in having three people on hand who are have cultural and linguistic fluency in the required language. The brand needs at least three people to allow for vacations, sickness, varying shift patterns and to carry out quality checks. Before deciding on delivery of content in any language, ask if you can provide three people to cover it.
  6. Focus on time needed. Brands should look at the campaign’s objectives and the projected traffic per territory. How many hours will the team need to cover? If it’s only needed for one hour a day, do you really need to run the project in that language?

Global brands will see the most success with their campaigns if they can localise content to the appropriate culture and language. However, providing content and moderation in multiple languages and across several territories is no small undertaking. Brands need to carefully consider if they have the ability, or the need, to serve content in a specific language before they make the commitment.

For more advice on managing multiple languages in your campaigns, see our guide to Managing Social Media at Scale, and for help with simplifying a complex social media environment, see our guide to Simplifying Complex Social Media.

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