How to develop a multi lingual content strategy

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), over 40% of the world’s population has internet access. This number is rising by around 1.2% every year.

For digital marketers whose content strategies are at the top of their priority list for 2016/2017, there is a huge opportunity for capturing interest of a global audience. It can be all too tempting to have an English language website to serve a global audience, especially as English is one of the most widely used languages online. However, to truly reach new audiences around the world, brands need to connect with users in their native language.

Many companies are already adopting multilingual websites, but is this enough? To have an effective content marketing strategy, companies need to be appropriately adapting their messaging across all digital channels.

Challenges for multi lingual marketers

Jo Gifford, founder of Killer Content Academy, an online toolkit for small businesses to kickstart their digital content and get visible online, says:

“the challenge for multi lingual marketers is around cultural nuances and how ideas and concepts translate across different languages. Of course, the issue of creating multiple versions of content can be problematic, so marketers need to build in quality checks and approval processes to ensure the execution makes sense.”

Sinéad McNamee, Senior SEO Content Executive with iProspect reiterates this challenge, saying:

“Although the language may be absolutely correct if it doesn’t ‘sound local’ in terms of colloquialism, slang or humour it is unlikely to resonate with a local audience. This is why iProspect would always recommend localising rather than translating when it comes to content creation.”

Poor translation can cost a lot for businesses and individuals. Not getting the messaging quite right is one thing, but risking the use of auto translation tools, machine translations, for example Google Translate, where localisation and colloquialism aren’t considered can result in a disaster. Popular translation agency, Rosetta Translation, have put together 10 examples of advertising translations going horribly wrong.

I’m sure these examples are something we all want to avoid. If you’re not sure where to start with your multi lingual content strategy, read on for a few tips from the experts to guide you through the planning process.

Top tips for developing a multi lingual content marketing strategy

Sinead McNamee

  1. Have a simple but strong core message: use this as a basis for your content no matter where it is being published
  2. Localise rather than translate: have someone in the target country localise the content – it may cost more but the content is more likely to resonate so it will be worth it in the long term
  3. Research: researching the market you intend to distribute content in thoroughly. There can be vast differences in the best way to engage with an audience from country to country. For example in China the most popular social media is Renren so it may be important to have a presence there if that is your target market.
  1. Cross research your target audience adding to the equation pertinent differences in cultural and social milieu.
  2. Do not scrimp on your translation budget: hire the best translators you can find.
  3. Once you have professional translations in your hand, consult with a localisation expert.
  4. And then put the result to a sample number of your designated target audience and monitor their reaction.

Jo Gifford

For a multi-lingual strategy, leveraging video and visual content will be key; videos and imagery are shared 80% more than text based updates, and can be produced in a way to convey information that transcends language barriers. Building a mix of visual and video content that works across the languages will help to gain organic reach and also reduce the risks and overheads in producing many versions of text based content.

Where extra input is needed, building a reliable, flexible team to create and check translations and cultural references will be key, too.

Did we miss any vital multi lingual content strategy tips? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Written by: Lucy Kirkness, Director of Little Digitalist, who has a wealth of digital marketing experience working with designer, luxury, travel and lifestyle brands.

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