Managing Social Media Translations

If you are a Social Media Manager (SMM) responsible for a global brand then you will be familiar with localisation of your product or service. Localisation basically means leveraging your brand so that it is identifiable with each local market. In the unlikely event that your brand is only promoted in English speaking countries (lucky you, I’m jealous) … well  … you can pretty much stop reading now! If, however, like the rest of us your brand needs to reproduce its social messages in Arabic, Chinese and a whole host of other languages you need to come up with a good strategy!


Before you do anything do some research! Which countries are you targeting and which languages do they communicate in? Don’t assume that because the national language of a country exists that they do not prefer to communicate in English. A great example of this is Pakistan whose official language is Urdu but whose people are fluent in written and spoken English. Pinpoint the countries you are targeting and which languages you will need in order to correctly leverage your brand. Remember also, that different countries use different networks – for example Facebook is blocked in China so you will need to research which networks to use and how to use them effectively.


Now, here’s where it gets tricky because to provide accurate and engaging social media in a variety of languages you will need some additional resources (unless of course you are fluent in ten languages and have a lot of spare time!) For languages such as French and Spanish, Google translate is ok to begin with but for Romanian, Arabic and Chinese don’t do it! I once translated a business phrase into Chinese which my Chinese colleague later told me meant “shall we have global pregnancy together”! If you have colleagues who speak the languages of your target markets then utilise them and ask them to translate your social media updates for you. If you do not then you should look into a professional translation firm but ensure you pick a good one with a fast turnaround time… if they take anything longer than 24 hours it will be too slow for social media.


Remember that social media is all about engagement and as a SMM it is not enough to simply post an update and walk away. The aim is to encourage debate, interaction and brand interest and so you should be prepared for responses in a language you cannot understand. If you do not have local social media staff then this can be tricky because you will be responsible for translating and responding to all the comments on your networks. Again, you can utilise your internal colleagues but assuming they have other work to do you may need to find another long term solution such as an international agency or localised team members. I recommend that you start small with international networks, particularly if you do not have the resources to fulfil them. Take on one page (Facebook, Twitter or G+) for each language and keep the updates to three per week to begin with. It is better to provide interesting, accurate and unique content that you can manage rather than to have a whole host of out of control networks.


As a SMM you are responsible for your networks even if you choose to outsource translations, administration and design. Visitors to your international profiles should not be aware of any internal difficulties and their experience should be just as enjoyable as those visiting your English language pages. If you are running a contest on your English page then you will probably need to run it on your international pages so make sure that you carefully coordinate each campaign to ensure an effective launch across all languages. If you outsource, make sure you maintain control by remaining a silent admin and conducting spot checks on the posts… you are responsible for your brand message regardless of the language it comes in.


Yes we want to replicate a consistent brand message but that doesn’t mean translating word for word. This is very important because English phrases directly translated into other languages usually don’t sound good! It is also important to localise your message so make sure that your local social media staff understand that you want them to produce a relevant and meaningful translation. If this means changing the sentence or even changing the campaign then it is important that you do so. Remember to be considerate of local customs and cultures and localise your products and services to appeal to each market… one size does not fit all!

How do you manage your international social media networks? Tweet me and let me know!