When social goes global

Translating social media is more than just a linguistic transference, it's also a cultural transference, creating a meaningful conversation and addressing brand values at local level.

When social goes global

Consider the markets where your posts, tweets and articles will end up. Consider the people and the possible permutations in culture, religion and humour. It is important to realise that products are not necessarily perceived the same way in different countries – something acceptable here can come across as strange or even disrespectful in another culture.

The domestic market leader, for example, may be very much a niche player in other countries. Conversely, products that are considered mass market in their home countries may play on their foreignness to give them the cachet of a premium brand here (think Audi with their strapline ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’).

Try to put yourself in the shoes of your overseas audience

The set of associations that a thing or person has in the English-speaking world also has to be considered.

For example, social media campaigns for Italian food in the UK are often based around the idea of the Mediterranean lifestyle, where people enjoy a healthy diet, relaxed pace of life, beautiful weather and a natural sense of style.

You may well find that a similar set of associations exists in other Northern European countries. However, if you post articles on the superiority of the Italian lifestyle in Spain, it may not work as well, and if you tried to push a product on its Italian-ness in Italy itself – well, clearly that is not much of a differentiating factor there!

In markets such as Japan and China, with few or no traditional ties to the Mediterranean, you may find that the proposition has no resonance at all.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of your overseas audience. You won’t necessarily appreciate all of the cultural issues, but it’s a good starting point.

Meaningful conversation

You need to engage people in conversation that they can understand and relate to. If it sounds like a translation, it won’t pull people in. One way to create an engaging and authentic dialogue is to use idiomatic expressions.

While they don't always translate directly, it’s often possible to think of an equivalent idiom that does have the right impact, and with it a vivid cultural reference which brings the idea to life. A good post will use colloquialisms and contemporary expressions to add the colour and tone that the conversation needs to keep the reader engaged

Local brand culture

Many brands have not reached the same levels of awareness, market position or advertising sophistication across different countries. The amount and nature of advertising that has been conducted historically is also something that needs to be considered. For example, Carlsberg's ‘Carlsberg don't do flatmates – but if they did, they'd probably be the best flatmates in the world’ TV commercial relies on a knowledge of the long-running ‘Probably the best lager in the world’ strapline.

In markets where this line has never been used (or has been used, but without attaining the widespread recognition it enjoys in the UK), the response to any posts referring to this campaign would obviously be different.

Again, if your article depends on this recognition factor, you need to check that the touchstone campaign a) existed and b) entered the popular consciousness in your foreign markets.

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