When is it time to adopt a second language for your social media channels?The question shouldn’t be answered lightly, as you’re undoubtedly familiar with the energy and time required to build your social community and the reputation and voice that you’ve developed.Here are 10 key questions to answer when considering a second language for social media.
1. Do most of the speakers of one language understand the other language?
Celine Roque mentions that nearly all of her Tagalog (language of the Philippines) personal Facebook friends understand English, the reverse far from true, and in many cases, her English friends ask for translation and can feel uncomfortable with another language. Although she’s speaking about a personal application of bilingual social media, the base concept is still true – If nearly all of the speakers of one language can understand the other, perhaps a bilingual social media strategy isn’t required.
2. Do federal, state or other special circumstances require multiple languages?
Canada’s constitution, for example, states that English and French “have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada,” and thus, some public funding may be tied to requiring most printed material in multiple languages. Check with legal counsel or local officials on whether this extends to social media channels as well.
3. Can your social media, marketing or PR group communicate in multiple languages?
At one company I worked with, one team member spoke fluent Spanish so we started both a Spanish Facebook Page and Twitter Feed. This seemed to be a mistake, as I – the Social Media Specialist – needed to wait for a translation of any of our posts, leading to a backlog of posts on our Spanish accounts.
4. Will you be able to maintain a good stream of content in multiple languages?
Due to the situation above, our Spanish social accounts stopped posting while waiting for post translations, and eventually stopped completely. Be sure your company is able to post consistently and engage consistently in other languages before you commit to a secondary language for social media.
5. Do you need a separate channel for each language, or can you co-mingle them?
Perhaps the best example of a comingled social media channel is @CocaCola whose intense Latin American marketing and soccer sponsorships require a Spanish channel as well. Coca-Cola does a great job of comingling these languages into one Twitter stream, using ^Initials to indicate which community manager is responding.
6. Can you use filters and grouping to separate possible communities?
With location and language-based filtering, comingling languages on a single page may be possible with only the preferred language of your users being shown when they visit your page. Facebook reads the language preferences of users and will only show your post to those who have indicated a preference in that language. This also works geographically.
7. What language feels most natural for the voice of the company?
Is your website offered in multiple languages? It might be more appropriate to consider an additional language for your social media channels as well, but also consider what feels more natural for the company. It can be redundant at the very least to have a single post in multiple languages. Perhaps only offer localized posts in multiple languages, such as ones targeting Quebec if you’re in Canada, or posts targeting Texas, California, and Arizona in the US.
8. Will a bilingual stream detract from the community?
In some cases, an extremely outspoken minority may express so much prejudice that they may deter your organization from considering a second language. At least several people every year would contact our call center and express their complete astonishment that our phone tree would also allow Spanish callers an ability to converse in their native language. If this type of conversation were to be carried over to a social media channel, it might be disruptive to your community.
9. What languages do your influencers and top customers feel most comfortable with?
Are most of your influencers and customers familiar with one language, but prefer another? That may be a reason to consider a bilingual social media strategy to prevent alienating some of your most important social media constituents.
10. Will additional languages be expected from users?
Does working in one language start your company down the slippery slope to three, four or more additional languages? Once we started our Spanish channel, we considered one in Polish for the sizable populations in our target market outside of Chicago, but no one knew Polish, so that plan was abandoned – but does seeing other languages appear in social media alienate speakers in a language that you don’t offer? International shipper DHL offers twitter streams in English, German,French, Dutch, Spanish, Korean, and more, while US-based FedEx primarily communicates in English.
Carefully consider the implications and commitments required in creating a multi-language social media strategy. Even while fully intending to maintain a presence in each language, you may find that one lags behind the other and may eventually be completely neglected.
Have you considered a multiple-language social media strategy? Have you implemented one, or wished that one existed with a company you deal with? Let us know in the comments below.