Global vs. local: the multilingual social media conundrum

What language options do platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook offer international companies? Should you create a different profile for each language region you operate in? Or is a single global presence a better option? A brief guide to multilingual social media management.

Companies operating in multiple markets need a multilingual social media presence. There are two main ways to do this: a unique profile for each market with content in the relevant language, or a single global site that places less emphasis on the individual locations. In this post, we’ll explain the factors that go into this decision and the linguistic features offered by the main social media platforms. Though we’ve already discovered that the automatic translation feature usually isn’t much help.

LinkedIn

The largest B2B platform offers a practical targeting feature: each organic post can be restricted according to language, geographical region, and other target group characteristics. This allows you to filter your followers right down to specific criteria such as job, industry or career stage. All you need to make it work is at least 300 followers per filter option.

You can also use LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager to allocate paid posts to a particular language region, and even to target particular companies or exclude your competitors. Your company description can be displayed in more than 20 languages, so if a user is browsing in, say, French, your posts and profile description will also be displayed in French. If you haven’t added any details in their language, LinkedIn will use a predefined default language – usually English for international companies. This means that once you have a certain number of followers, it’s easiest to maintain a single, global profile on LinkedIn while still publishing individual posts locally. Unique profiles for each language are only worth it if you want a multilingual presence but your audience is too small for you to use the filter function. Or if you want to emphasize individual locations over your global brand.

Facebook

Facebook also offers options for multilingual profile management. The easiest way to get started is with the Post in Multiple Languages option. Once you’ve activated this in your settings, you can manually add different versions of posts for each language. Your fans will only see the version in their own browsing language. Meanwhile, likes and comments will all be displayed together, as they’re reacting to the same content.

However, this solution doesn’t work if you want to post different content in each language – and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you’re localizing attached media or links. So this is where the second option comes in: activate News Feed Targeting in your settings. This lets you restrict posts according to your followers’ location, as with paid campaigns. There’s also an option to select the language, but this won’t restrict your audience in the same way. Instead, it will display the post in your chosen language in your fans’ feeds. However, the post will still be available in multiple languages on your company profile page. This solution is helpful for those with a broad target audience who occasionally want to publish a post for a specific country.

If you want to make individual posts exclusively available to speakers of a specific language, you’ll need to set up a local company page. You can also schedule organic posts via the posting options – helpful if you’re managing profiles in various time zones. What’s more, really large accounts have the option of a Global Page – a main profile with multiple associated brand pages. Here’s an example from Coca-Cola. You can recognize it by the @ symbol beneath the company name. A Global Page gives you the advantage of a single URL and a unified, centrally managed brand presence, while still letting you create individual posts on the sub-profiles. However, it’s the most time-intensive option for managing your brand, and Facebook won’t reveal how big your budget and reach need to be before you can access it. You can find out if you’re one of the lucky few in your business settings.

YouTube

Subtitles are the best option for making video content available in multiple languages. YouTube lets you manually upload multiple subtitle files and make them available as open or closed captions, as do the increasingly popular streaming services Vimeo and Twitch. If your video contains little or no speech, consider using a voiceover or kinetic typography to get your point across, regardless of which platform you’re using. And watch out: social media is frequently consumed on mute, so make sure that subtitles are always activated when you upload videos to platforms such as Facebook.

Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter

Unfortunately, these platforms don’t offer language or targeting features for organic posts. Many companies solve this problem by creating a separate account for each language region, e.g. a single German account for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. However, if you’re setting up a paid campaign, you’ll have access to plenty of targeting options. Twitter also offers a feature for scheduling organic posts.

Of particular interest for companies operating in multiple language regions is the automatic translation function on Instagram and other platforms. We tested them out for you. The verdict: they’ve still got a long way to go.

Know your options and strike the right tone

So, should you opt for individual, local social media profiles or stake it all on a single global presence? That depends on your aims, the size of your company, and the resources you have available. Not every company has the budget or capacity to manage multiple individual profiles with varying content across a number of sites. And not every company wants to give all of its locations equal focus. Once you’ve answered these strategic questions, you’ll be able to select the appropriate options on your chosen platforms.

But whatever you choose, having a clear plan for your multilingual brand presence is essential. And cultural awareness is just as important as linguistic expertise. Are your posts striking the right tone and taking into account the norms, taboos and limitations of the country or region in question? And do the topics you’re posting about also cover a mix of local and global issues? We’d be happy to help you answer these questions – just get in touch with one of our project managers.

Cover image via Unsplash



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