The Internet has irrevocably changed how brands communicate and present themselves. Corporate websites, blogs, and social media channels provide new ways for companies of all shapes and sizes to connect with their customers using multilingual content marketing.
The Web’s global nature has made international audiences more accessible than ever before. In theory, your website or content can be viewed by anyone with an Internet connection, from anywhere in the world. In practice, however, it usually takes a little extra effort to reach across linguistic and cultural barriers.
According to the latest figures from Internet World Stats, English remains the most widely used language online. However, it only represents around a quarter of total usage, and many users who access English content aren’t native English speakers.
In 2014, Common Sense Advisory conducted a poll across 10 predominantly non-English-speaking countries. It found that 60 percent of respondents said they rarely or never make purchases from English-language sites, and 56 percent either spend more time on sites in their own languages or boycott English-language URLs altogether. For those with limited English skills, the preference for content in a mother tongue rises to 80 percent.
Surveys aside, it seems obvious that it’s easier to create content capable of actively engaging a viewer in his or her own native language. As Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
Even if you consider your product or service to have genuine global appeal, it usually pays dividends to concentrate on one or two new markets at first. Google Analytics and similar tools can point you in the right direction by identifying the particular regions your website is already attracting.
Your products might naturally appeal to a certain market, or you might harbor ambitions of tapping into huge, emerging markets in Latin America or Asia. The most appropriate target markets will vary depending on the nature and circumstances of your business, and thorough market research is essential.
Content marketing revolves around creating and disseminating valuable, relevant content. Goals include boosting SEO and traffic to your main website, improving your brand’s visibility and reputation, and ultimately converting that interest into new sales.
The key words here are “valuable” and “relevant.” Remember, what’s valuable and relevant to one set of people might not be to another. It’s vital that you speak your audience’s language, both literally and figuratively.
Your company’s website is usually your most important online asset. A fully localized site can go a long way toward establishing your brand in a new market, and hosting on a country code top-level domain (such as .fr for France or .br for Brazil) can improve your SEO in local searches. However, your blogs, social media posts, and other content should also be adapted to your target market. This can be done in three basic ways:
1. Translation. If you have great evergreen content, then you can simply translate it. Using automatic translation is the easiest way to do this, but it can be prone to contextual errors and will likely appear stilted and unprofessional to a native speaker. In contrast, translators who are native speakers can help you avoid errors and achieve a natural feel.
2. Transcreation. Getting your message across involves more than just nailing the lingo, so you may want to go one step further. Transcreation involves taking your content’s core message and themes and adapting or rewriting them for a new audience. Native translators can help you strike the right cultural balance and adapt your content in an engaging way.
3. A complete multilingual content strategy. Finally, you can create a unique multilingual content marketing strategy for your target market. Michael Korkia and Malte Bunjes, marketing managers for Hotels.com, report that they “tread a middle ground between localising English content and creating targeted content for particular markets.”
“When launching a new point of sale, we start with a localised version of the English site,” they said. “As soon as we see that the market is growing, we invest more in tailoring content to the local language, culture, and individual consumer’s needs.”
Where you spread your message can be almost as important as what you say. The big social media sites all have international audiences, but local competitors might be more effective in some markets.
In Russia, for example, Vkontakte (also called VK) is the leading social networking site. And even though Facebook and Twitter remain banned in China, big Western brands like Coke, Nike, and Calvin Klein engage with Chinese consumers through local giants such as RenRen and Sina Weibo.
By linking your localized websites, blogs, and social media profiles, you can plan and execute multichannel campaigns that reach the widest number of people and talk to them in a language they understand.