Creating Multilingual Content on Facebook

English being the de facto standard of today’s communication, building a multilingual presence is quite challenging, particularly in the social media landscape. It takes time, resources and budget to ensure excellent quality.

Traditionally, a company is able to control its online presence by driving its customers and prospects to its corporate website. For over 15 years, companies have been able to host a website, build a community in the form of a message board and customize the online experience for visitors to the max. Personalization actually has become quite sophisticated. Content can be adjusted to a particular audience and language preference is a given – language is determined from the visitor’s browser or selected by users and saved in cookies for future access. Visitors tend to expect the same behaviour on these new platforms.

Social media sites develop rapidly to cater to a global user base; Localization is part of the feature added by Facebook. With over 40% of its community not using English, Facebook mainly relied on voluntary translation from its users to help translate the site into over 70 native languages. It is extremely important for businesses to be able to address their customers in the correct language on the largest of all social media sites. Also, businesses that operate in countries where two or more languages are spoken need to make sure they think about adapting their content, also on their social media presence. Amongst others, the following countries require businesses to think about their message and how they are going to deliver it to the linguistic minority, also. In the United States, 10.7% speak Spanish, in Belgium, 60% speak Flemish and 40% speak French, and in Canada, French is spoken by 21.6% of the population;

On Facebook, a visitor sets its language and will see most of Facebook’s template in his/her preferred language. A company can also customize its page to suit its audience and adjust to the profile settings.

Therefore, if you are a company that wants to address its audience in their preferred language, it is important, to decide the following:

  • Is your Facebook page going to be in one language, although your audience is muti-lingual?
  • Will you have one Page per language/country?
  • If you decide to address your visitors in their native language, do you have qualified resources able to customize and localize your content, including, updates and messages?
  • There is a good possibility that you will choose to develop a custom app, how will you address the dual languages requirement? Will your custom app display with the user selected language ?

The responses have a direct impact on the project implementation. It is essential to address them when budgeting for the social media program.

On Facebook, I have typically seen companies using different ways to post content and apps – whether it is by choice or because they do not know they are able to quasi-totally customize the visitor’s experience, or only because of budget constraint:

  • Companies such as Tim Hortons, Divine.ca, Maybelline NYC are addressing their audience in one unique language, whether it is French, English, Spanish, Flemmish…
  • Companies like Groupe Dynamite and Ben&Jerry’s Canada are just duplicating most of their content – so each post, every update and applications is displayed in both languages without taking advantage of Facebook API and targeted features.
  • The likes of Air Transat, L’Oreal Paris Canada, McDonald’s Canada are doing their best to tailor their linguistic content for each audience, it’s more than translating into another language, they are also taking into consideration the cultural uniqueness.

The third category of companies is doing it the best. They not only care about their audience languages preference but care about linguistic and cultural sensitivities. Building a community also starts with acknowledging specific users’ need

In social media, we know that strategy is paramount. Knowing who your audience is and how to address them will definitely help in building appropriate and relevant content on social sites. This in turn, will help with engaging with the visitor and build a community.

Wait, before you go, did you know that you can easily target your content on the Wall by doing the following for each update?

1) Choose the Custom button

2) Choose who your audience is by Location and Languages

3) Make your selection as granular as possible

If you have samples to share of good, bad and worst examples of the use of multilingual pages on Facebook, I would love to hear about them!

Karima-Catherine Goundiam

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3 thoughts on “Creating Multilingual Content on Facebook

  1. It seems that you are ignoring the fact that any update you make targeting the audience does only reach your current fans at facebook but not those just visiting your page at facebook. That reduces a lot the functionallity (as well as the fact that you can not do things like: “All the languages but not French” (in order to use for example English for all of the rest of your users who do not speak French).

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