Translate or not: Should social media pages be bilingual?

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In recognition of International Translation Day on Wednesday, we thought it might be a good time to answer one of the most common questions we get during our social media workshops here in Dubai: Should you translate your social media posts and share both on the same pages/profiles?

Before we respond to this question, it’s worth remembering that there is no standard approach that all brands should be using – if only it were that easy! You have to get to know your audience really well and know what works best for them, and for your brand.

Thanks to the Internet and social media, marketing has moved on a great deal from the days when we used to use any platform possible as an opportunity to ram our messages home to whoever was listening/reading. Our audience are now much more well informed and selective, and there are a lot more people vying for their limited attention. In order to truly build a relationship and have any chance of influencing our audiences at all, we need to be able to give them what they want, where, how and when they want it. This means personalising your content and messaging for each audience, not trying to reach everyone at the same time.

There, generally speaking it is much more effective and engaging to have different pages/accounts for the different languages. People have a very limited time and attention span now and don’t want you filling up their feed with multiple posts containing the same message in different languages. In fact, they don’t want to see any posts in a language that they do not understand, and you may alienate them if you do so.

The other option of course, is to make each post bilingual, but then which language goes at the top? This may send a signal to your audience about where your priorities lie. The other downside with this approach is that it makes each post very long and people have to make the effort to expand posts to potentially get to the language they understand.

However you choose to share content across languages, as any good multilingual communicator will tell you, it’s not a case of simply translating posts – these snippet communications should each be drafted from scratch in each language to ensure any humour applies and the sentiment remains. Remember to review the images too, as not all images, graphics or memes will work across different languages – and some may even go as far as to cause offence.

Hopefully the thoughts shared here will give you more of an idea of how you want to approach the content needs of different language speakers, just make sure you research your audience well, and if you do choose to post in different languages, make sure that these are represented on your website (the hub for all online activity) and that you have speakers of the chosen language readily available and trained in communications, to enable them to respond timely and effectively to posts that you may not be able to understand.

If you have any questions about communicating in different languages, or finding people that can help with translations or copywriting, please do send me an email: sam@footstepcommunications.com

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