I run a small company and I have found that social media is fantastic for generating interest in my business. But someone told me that most of the online population doesn’t speak English as their first language. I only speak English and my marketing budget amounts to two moths and a ball of pocket fluff. So tell me – how can I use Twitter and Facebook to target foreign markets?
This is a guest article…
Well, first of all, congratulations on using social media to generate interest in your company. That’s more than half the battle, believe me. You certainly don’t want to look at international markets if you haven’t even figured out how to send a Tweet in English yet!
And you are right, the online population is increasing at breakneck speed across the foreign language internet. I could probably talk about it all day and throw all kinds of stats at you to prove it but, alas, that wouldn’t answer your question. And it may actually bore you, if I’m honest.
So to get down to brass tacks, you firstly need to choose the right platform for your target country. Facebook may rule the roost where you’re from, but it is far from top-dog in every country. In fact, it’s even banned in some countries.
So if you’re looking to engage with consumers in China, you’ll need to consider local Facebook equivalents such as RenRen, Douban or Kaixin001. If Microblogging’s your thing, then forget Twitter – you’ll want to use Sina Weibo, Zuosa or Digu. And YouTube is banned too in China, so you’ll want Tudou or Youku if video’s your thing.
The same applies in Brazil and Russia, where Facebook is outgunned by Orkut and Vkontakte respectively.
But if you’re thinking along the lines of the local Hispanic market in Miami, or even Central or South America, then Twitter and Facebook will be key tools for you. And this is the same across much of the world.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “he’s really not answered the big fundamental question here: how do I communicate with people in other countries when I’m stuck with English as my mother tongue?” Be patient, I’m getting there.
Yes, you do need to talk the language of your target market. And if Twitter is your social media tool of choice, for example, you will need to set-up a separate feed in your desired language. It’s not a good idea to mix languages on a single Twitter feed as you’ll simply alienate people.
So, armed with a Spanish, French, German or Latin Twitter account (actually, don’t do Latin…not many people speak it) you’re ready to start Tweeting. You now have several options, some are free and some are, well, almost free.
The free option is to use Google Translate. Yes, that’s right, Google Translate. Copy/paste your English text into Google Translate and convert your Tweet to your desired language. Google Translate isn’t as bad as its reputation suggests, but you do have to be careful about how you write your English Tweet. Slang, abbreviations and colloquialisms don’t go down well with machine translations. So you must use your 140 characters wisely – write your English tweet in plain English and use a URL shortener for links, this will get you even more space for normal words.
Another free option is to do nothing. This sounds simple…and that’s because it is. Twitter is currently rolling out an automated Tweet translation feature, which means your Tweets will eventually be legible to people in other countries, without anyone really doing anything. This should be available to most Twitter users within a few weeks…so be patient.
The cheap option involves college students, and this is probably the most effective solution. Nearly every language will be represented by the many hundreds of thousands of international students across the US. I think many would be willing to put their language skills into use to help fund their studies – a part-time social media manager for your desired language helps keep your international campaigns fully localized.
This option also allows for a richer social media experience. They can set your company up with a great Facebook and/or Tumblr page and update it regularly. A lot of tweeting, facebooking and, erm, Tumbling can be done in a couple of hours, costing you 20-30 dollars per week…if you can spare it.
And any foreign language social media campaign should really be backed by a foreign language website. The last thing you want to do is promise your international customers good things in their native language, only to then direct them to an English website they can’t understand. That’s a bit like giving your 7-year old kid broccoli encased in a candy wrapper – it’s just cruel.
Hope this helps…that’ll be two moths and a ball of pocket fluff, please.