Social media is about connecting with your followers. Many brands struggle with this task: how can my company create an emotional connection with the thousands of people out there? “Be local” is an advice you hear often, and it works – however you need to be believable. Don’t alienate your community by being lazy on localization!
Even though I can’t find the time to use my PlayStation3 anymore, I still sometimes visit videogame-sites to check out the newest reviews and gameplay videos. One of these pages is IGN.com. A few months ago IGN started to redirect me to their Dutch website – and every single time I visit the page I have to tell them that Luxembourg is not in the Netherlands, and that I don’t speak Dutch.
— Jerry Weyer (@jerryweyer) November 24, 2014
The problem with bad localization: it affects your bottom-line. Before I can watch a video at IGN, they play advertisement – in Dutch! As a customer, I am alienated, and as an ad-buyer, I don’t get true value for my investment. The same holds true for lazy localization on social media: if you invest in content localization without relying on sound research, you just waste your time and money.
When trying to localize your social media content (or website), pay close attention to your community. What are your followers interested in? What language do they speak? What tonality are they used to? When are they online? Where are they from? What is their cultural background? People identify with a community in different ways and it’s your obligation to understand those ties before you localize your social media strategy. Language is usually a strong indicator (so don’t expect Catalans to like your campaign in Spanish), as are geographical and political associations.
BMW doesn’t have a specific page for Luxembourg on Facebook, but a shared page for Belgium and Luxembourg. While it’s not impossible to make cross-country pages work, will you be able to localize content in a satisfactory manner?
Not only is BMW not using local languages (Dutch, French, German), it also doesn’t target their posts, which results in a messy mix of languages in their comments. Do their community managers speak French, Dutch, German and Luxembourgish? Probably not, so they cannot engage with their community, missing out on the most important aspect of social media.
Before you launch yourself into localized content, do your research. If you have decent community management in place1, you should be able to avoid the biggest traps of localization. And most importantly: ask your community. Your followers are your most valuable consultants, ask them what they want. There is no excuse for lazy localization!