Insights October 15, 2020

Navigating social media in a global yet local world

By Living Word

You know that a strong social media presence is more important for businesses than ever before, as that’s where most consumers spend most of their time – on social media.

Perhaps you’ve read that cultural relevance drives engagement according to a Google study, or that over 70% of consumers are much more likely to make a purchase if they read about the product in their mother tongue language (we’ve written more about all of the above right here). And it’s hardly a surprise that while, yes, we live in a global world and English is a widely spoken language, there are other big languages out there on the world wide web.

So how does an international brand tackle its multilingual social media presence? Here are a few pointers to get you going in the right direction:

Use data to reach your target audience

It can be tempting to assume that Facebook and YouTube are the platforms to reach any audience – but not so quick. Facebook is banned in some parts of the world, and a quick Google search will tell you that sites such as Weibo (similar to Twitter) and Youku (a video streaming platform) are some of the go-to platforms in China. And while Facebook may be huge in some countries, how it ranks and is used in others can very well differ. So first of all, work out which platforms are the most popular and engaged with in the markets you’re looking to reach.

Chances are that your brand is already on several social media platforms, so another good step is to use the built-in social media analytics to understand where your current following is based and which languages they speak. This will help shape your social media content strategy and decide which markets and languages you should focus your social media efforts on. This kind of digging can also offer insights about underserved audiences. If you’ve got a big US-based following, but the percentage of US-based Spanish speakers is proportionally out of sync, it might be a sign that you are missing out on a huge Spanish-speaking potential following.

Multiple accounts versus multiple language captions?

You’ve got your brand, and you’d like your target audience in your key markets to be just as excited about it as you are – ideally without relying on the somewhat dubious built-in auto-translation feature. But what is the best approach when it comes to talking to your target audiences in their own languages? It depends.

One approach is to stick to one social media page or account per platform and write several language versions of the captions for each post (but if it’s long, make sure to note in the beginning that a quick scroll will reveal another language version). The downside? Some users are not keen on multilingual posts and lose patience. It also leaves little room for visual localisation, so this approach is best for very culturally similar markets.

Many big international brands have market-specific social media accounts that are managed by local teams. Not quite there? Having one page or account per target market with content tailored to each market can be an equally good approach. Just make sure the content is localised by a talented linguist who lives and breathes the local culture and language so that it resonates with the target audience.

Use social media as a customer service channel

Gone are the days when social media platforms were just for staying in touch with friends and family. As social media are turning into platforms for just about everything – shopping, entertainment, product research and much more – their potential for offering outstanding customer service should not be underestimated. It is therefore important to be prepared to engage with and respond to questions and comments in the audience’s local language. It’s something to factor in when you decide which language services to outsource, but also a sure way to win over the hearts and social approval of your target audience.


Using the right hashtags can be a game changer as people increasingly use hashtags on social media platforms to do product and brand searches. But be careful to not just translate the hashtags. Research and linguistic knowledge go a long way when establishing the best and most relevant hashtags for your respective markets.

Different language, different culture

Knowing your target audiences and markets is your best shortcut to creating a roadmap that will take your brand wherever you want it to go. But don’t underestimate the impact of showing your audience that you see and understand them – wherever they are based. Outsourcing the content localisation to linguists who know exactly which buttons to push in order to get your brand message across makes it much more likely that your followers in turn go on to click the ‘purchase’ button.

When content is adapted to resonate with the target market, you are much more likely to make meaningful connections that last – and that’s what social media is all about.