Personalizing your marketing is a powerful, competitive advantage in today’s online--and, thus, global--marketplace. And what’s more personal than conversing with someone in their native tongue?
Twenty percent of Americans speak a language other than English at home (mine included), and 73 percent of the global online population is non-English native speakers. So why aren’t more U.S. companies--large and small, B2B and B2C--using language as an extension of their brand-building capabilities to connect with target segments?
Well, frankly, until recently it has been a pain the arse.
But it’s not as hard as it used to be, and it’s the best way to connect with global Web visitors.
(Local) Social Connecting Globals
The early days of social media was strictly a close friend-to-friend relationship. Now we can see friends of friends, casual professional acquaintances, brands, and everything in between in our social stream. Let’s take Twitter. You likely have Spanish and Japanese content in your stream; in fact, users were quick to point out the desire for a “translation device” in this Twitter infographic regarding how Twitter could be better.
How about Facebook? Facebook had a very successful community translation effort to localize the platform for millions of fanatic users. And this month it launched a new “Translate” button for the feed.
If you’re not personally feeling the world flattening online, then consider Mary Meeker’s recent Web 2.0 Summit talk. I don’t know what can bring this to life more vividly: Eighty-one percent of users of the top global Internet properties are outside of the U.S., which only ranks 12th in hours spent on the top social networking sites.
Devices That Talk And Translate
With the launch of Siri, we see a very visible example of what the SoundCloud CEO meant when he said, “... ‘Record’ is the new QWERTY.” With the proliferation of smart devices, the opportunities to leverage sound and audio recording are just beginning to be exposed. For example, language education providers like Rosetta Stone have been able to exploit the amazing usability features on the iPad that take full advantage of its UI.
For Droid fans, Google Translate’s “Conversation Mode” was recently launched as a new Android App for live, audio translation. My first test in Italian was not bad; my Ukrainian colleague was also impressed with its quality to ask him, “Where is the train station?” on my behalf. The potential for my phone to help me connect on a human level--using my voice--with foreign-language speakers is an extremely powerful force for good and for global learning.
So where do “digital” and “global” collide?
The answer: on your Web site. And, by extension, your apps, Facebook page, Foursquare offer, Scribd content, etc.--anything that connects you to your online audiences. If you add the two trends together (social going global plus devices that talk), then what do you get?
Translating your marketing content is the new "having a Web presence” for your brand.
But how do you do this? I suggest you view your Web site as the mothership, the head of your brand octopus, and localize it for your target markets and languages as step one. Then extend that messaging and content distribution to all of the relevant digital properties that make sense for your brand.
In today’s online, global economy, every company is a Web 2.0 company. Your site or app is not an online brochure. It’s a money-printing machine. If that’s not true today, then you could be out of business in the next decade. As Forrester Research’s Tim Walters recently wrote, “Maintaining a consumer-oriented Web presence in a single language today is akin to selling only to left-handed customers.”
How To Apply The Translation Workflow To Your Business
Here's how to rethink and reapply the “translation workflow” into your Web 2.0 marketing approach and content distribution model:
1. Build (or rebuild) your Web site and infrastructure with translation in mind. Take your CTO out to lunch and talk to him about what this would mean for your company. Start moving all of your marketing content to digital-only format. (It’s good for your bottom line and our planet). Be wary of using elements that could encumber your translation workflow. Find a language service provider partner who eats and breathes technology. This is not so easy, but options are increasing.
2. Get found globally with MSEO (multilingual SEO). You don’t have to hire a new vendor or buy new tools to do so. What you do need is basic knowledge and skills about SEO, and great (native-speaker) translators who understand your brand and understand about local search in your target regions. All of your on-page SEO elements should be translated in context by a native speaker who also understands the value of having consistent and thoughtful translations for these important elements (e.g., page title and description).
3. Apply your translation workflow to integrated online marketing as appropriate. You might not have the budget or resources to translate every bit of content you create, but you should determine which are the key tiers of content that warrant localization and distribution. For example, I don’t yet do international press releases, but I add the releases to my site and have them translated to optimize local-language search results. Our Facebook page is currently only in English, but that will change very soon. Our Twitter feed is becoming more multilingual by the nature of our product and having our site in various languages.
Adding languages to your Web site, app, and/or marketing content is a “low-hanging fruit” way to grow your online top line: traffic, conversions, and sales. With more than 1.4 billion non-English speakers online, these audiences represent massive, new-business opportunities. And who in marketing today doesn’t want to be a revenue-generating group, rather than a cost center, for the business?