As part of the social media generation, it's probably a given that you're already using it to further your business efforts. Those little 'likes', follows (and more recently +1s) can really get your business known.
It seems simple enough. Set up your relevant accounts and off you go. But for those businesses trading internationally, it's becoming ever more important to speak with people all over the world in their own language.
According to Econsultancy's 2010 Social Media and Online PR report, 8 in 10 marketers said they would increase social media spend this year, but just over a quarter said they would run a multilingual social media campaign.
Why is this? It can seem like a lot of work to implement a successful foreign language social media campaign, which may be putting off marketers, but at a time when foreign language use on the internet is rapidly rising, it's more important than ever. And it's easier than you might think.
Do your homework
So you can navigate Facebook like a pro, and you've honed the art of squashing your message into 140 characters without losing any meaning, but are you concentrating on the right social networks?
One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make when taking their social media global is to forget that their favorite social network might not necessarily have the same influence (or even be heard of) overseas. In China, for example, where Facebook is famously banned in many areas, the leading social network is QZone. With over 480million members, it's an opportunity you just can't miss out on if China is in your hit-list of target markets. And don't be fooled into thinking it's only Eastern countries that shun the big social networks. In Europe, Latvia's leading social platform is Draugiem and over in The Netherlands, the badge of honor goes to Hyves. A quick search on Google can tell you all you need to know, and we can't stress enough that this part is essential. If a multilingual message is broadcast across a social network where there's nobody to hear it, does it still make a sound? Nope.
Once you've discovered where your target market hangs out, you'll need to decide how you're going to translate your message. A free tool like Google Translate can work wonders if you're starting out, but be warned: it's not perfect. Machine translation has a habit of mistranslating, especially when it comes to slang terms or idioms. The best way is to hire a professional translator who lives in the country of the target language. Not only will they be au fait with any linguistic nuances, but they'll be able to keep on top of any trends or relevant local news that you might have missed out on.
Before you go translating all your English updates and Tweets into foreign languages, have a think about whether your message is relevant to your overseas readers. It's likely that a Russian client won't really care about the opening of a new San Francisco office, but they'd love to hear about your amazing seminar in Moscow. So remember that while some of your messages may translate across to other languages, not all of them will. By making your content relevant and local to readers, they'll feel looked after and will be more likely to trust your brand or business.
As if you haven't got enough to do already, managing your multilingual feeds is an important factor for global social media success. It can be a tricky business, but separating your accounts into language is a crucial starting point. Technology juggernaut, Sony, for example, has at least 20 different Twitter feeds for its foreign language audience. While you'll probably target fewer languages, there are a number of ways in which you can manage your accounts. Connecting them directly to a translation service (human or machine) can be the easiest way to keep them up-to-date. Or consider drafting in a multilingual social media guru to help for a few hours a week. Tools like Hootsuite can let you schedule updates in advance, allowing you to post at any time of day or night. Don't forget that while you're eating your breakfast, those in Australia are just heading to bed.
Interact and engage
We don't want to preach to the converted, but part of getting social with social media, is to be, err, social. You've got all the tools at your disposal to interact with others, be it customers, clients or other experts in your field. And part of this involves talking to them in their own language. The innovative lot over at Pringles regularly respond to their foreign customers on their Facebook page in French, Spanish, and German. It's a popular move, and with over 15million 'likes', it's certainly one that has paid off. What's more, with the correct approach, you can make it pay off for you too.
Christian Arno is the MD of global translations agency Lingo24, which was started from his parents' bedroom when he was 22. Read more about Christian here.