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Social media translation – Why is it important for your marketing strategy?

Posted by Anne Quach on November 22, 2019.

1. Why you need social media translation?

Social media networking sites are no wonder a powerful way to promote your business and reach your target audience. With the constantly increasing number of users, social media’s visibility is vital to almost all companies in a wide range of industries. Let’s see some figures. According to Statista, As of April 2019, there are over 2.30 billion active Facebook accounts. The figures for Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are 1 billion, 330 million, and 303 million users respectively. It is quite clear that social networking sites will help you reach a huge number of target customers all around the world at an affordable cost.

Number of people using social media

Although each social networking site has its own automatic translation systems, you shouldn’t rely too much on them. You may wonder why. It’s a machine, not a human who translates your content. Machine translation might be quick but it cannot understand the context, thus it makes serious mistakes sometimes. Below is a “bad” translation that gets a man arrested by police. A man posted a picture of a bulldozer with the caption “يصبحهم” which means “Good morning”. Somehow the automatic system translated it into “Hurt them” or “Attack them”. The police suspected he was planning something bad and questioned him for hours.

So to guarantee no costly mistakes are made by an automatic translation system, make sure your social media posts are translated carefully by a native or experienced translator.


2. Considerations when translating social media posts

(1) Word Length

The length of words should be the first thing you consider. To name a few, Vietnamese words are likely to be 1.5 to 2 times longer than those in English while one English word is about 1.8 to 2 times shorter than the equivalent words in Japanese. The differences between word length result in a change in the whole layout of the post. What’s more, if the posts are too long after translated, it might affect the reading interest of the audience. No audience wants to read too many words and they won’t spend too much time reading it either. So you might miss out on many audiences just because of the post length.

Length of translated words google translate

Some social media platforms also limit the number of characters in a post. Twitter, for instance, allows only 280 –character-post. So make sure your post includes all important information yet short enough to fit in one tweet.

Twitter characters

(2) Jargon

SMH (Shake my head), IRL (In real life), or TBT (Throwback Thursday) are some of the commonest English jargon used on social media, especially Instagram and Twitter. But are they familiar with the audience around the world? What does TBT mean anyway in non-English speaking countries?

So don’t forget to translate jargon on your social posts. You should use relatable or trending jargon in the audience’s native language to increase the engagement, not just put some random jargon they can’t understand.

(3) Emoji

Emoji is the fun part of social media, but to business, it can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, emoji makes your posts more eye-catching and easy to read. On the other hand, using the wrong emoji costs you more than you thought. One emoji can carry a positive message in this culture but in others, it can be offensive.

Facebook emoji

Peace sign emoji is one of the most commonly used emoji in the world. Yet you never should send it to a British friend. In the UK, the peace sign is far from a friendly gesture. It actually means “The F-word” or “Screw off”.

Just remember that emoji is somewhat like body language, so make sure you check it twice before posting on social media.

(4) Hashtag

Hashtags, to some extent, are similar to keywords used for search optimization. Using hashtag is a powerful way for customers to find all your posts on online channels. It helps your posts visible to your audience or be a part of the trend. But the trend in each country varies. So should you translate the hashtags along with the content? There’s no best answer, to be honest. Whether to translate it or not, you need to do some research on what’s trending and relevant to your company and your posts, then make the decision.