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A Guide: Content Localization on Social Media for Global Audiences


Guest article by Pauline Farris.

If your business needs to reach a global audience, your challenge goes beyond content translation. To create engagement in every market, and to spread your branding message with social media content, you’ve simply got to embrace localization. In fact, according to the American Marketing Association, companies have increased investment in localization strategies by billions of dollars in the last few years.

Localization Defined

Localization involves adjusting your content and messaging so that it is meaningful to audiences with different cultural backgrounds and experiences. Content localization involves more than translation. It requires cultural understanding in addition to language fluency.

The Value of Localization

 Take a moment to think of the social media content that has resonated with you. This means content that entertained you, amused you, touched you emotionally, or motivated you. Think about the content that made you remember the person or brand that posted it.

Chances are, that content was impactful because it was meaningful to you. There were things that you knew or had experienced in the past that allowed you to ‘get it’. For example, if you saw a funny video about the typical, long-distance, family road-trip, you might relate to that because it’s familiar to you. Even if you’ve never gone on such a trip, it’s familiar and woven into your culture.

The video might remind you of silly fights between siblings, comical tourist attractions, eating at roadside diners, and family togetherness. Now imagine having grown up somewhere that this experience was completely uncommon. Not only have you never experienced it, but you’ve also never seen it on television, and you don’t know anyone who has.

Now the video is completely meaningless to you. Nothing in it connects to your experience. Whatever message the person or brand was going for is completely lost on you.

Localization can change all that. With localization, you take the initial message in the content, and you ensure that it is communicated in a way that new audiences understand it. Sometimes this requires making a few adjustments. Sometimes localization means making very significant changes.

By making your content meaningful and memorable for all audience members you:

  • Provide your audience with proof that your content is focused on their needs
  • Avoid cultural offense
  • Present content that is meaningful and relevant to your audience
  • Create an environment of inclusivity on your social media pages
  • Effectively promote your brand and products in meaningful ways

Things to Consider When Evaluating Social Content for Localization

When you plan to localize your social media content, there are several things you’ll need to consider.

Slang and Idiomatic Speech

Depending on your target audience, your content might be sprinkled with various slang terms, regional phrasings, and sayings. These make content more interesting and can add personality that reflects your branding. That’s great, but when it comes time to localize content, this can create a challenge.

Part of the localization process is identifying these phrases, determining whether they have the same meaning for new audiences, and then adjust them if needed. Here are some steps to follow.

  1. Analyze content for phrases that might not be globally familiar.
  2. Determine the intended message.
  3. Identify a word or phrase that can substitute.
  4. As an alternative, restructure the post to omit the reference.

Pop Culture References

Content frequently references sports teams, celebrities, historical events, movies and television shows, even holidays. These are used to evoke memories, emotions, and to provide meaningful context. If the audience isn’t familiar, these references are meaningless.

To effectively localize your content, you’ve got to find references that are familiar but also retain the same meaning. To do this, you have to have significant cultural and historical understanding of the audience you’re trying to reach. In many cases, you might need professional assistance to get this done. The Word Point translation and localization services can assist by acting as a single source provider of qualified localization professionals.

Symbols and Units of Measurement

Many people consider changing symbols and units of measurement to be part of the translation process. It can be, but it’s also an integral part of the localization process.

Here’s something to remember. Even though they are often used together, translation and localization can and do happen independently of one another. For example, if you expand your business into a country where English is spoken by most people, you may choose not to translate your content to the native tongue. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t localize it.

Part of that process is taking currency, units of measurement, and other symbols and switching them to whatever your target audience uses. By doing this, you make your content significantly easier to read and understand. More importantly, you send the message that you care about your audience enough to take these steps.

Respect for Cultural Values

When you localize your social media content, you take into consideration the cultural values of the people you are trying to reach. Your primary goal should be to reach out to your audience in a way that shows respect for their history, values, and culture. Second to that, but also extremely important, you want to avoid sharing things that are offensive or insensitive. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Different cultures have different standards of modesty.
  • Certain attitudes and ‘voices’ may not be well-received in some society (e.g.: a wise-cracking teenage mascot).
  • Not all historical events are remembered in the same way or celebrated in all cultures.
  • Holidays that are important in place may not be as important in another.

It may help to take a positive, proactive approach. Don’t simply eliminate what might be disrespectful or offensive. Actively seek out ways to show respect for those cultural values. This includes:

  • Prioritizing representation in your stories and images.
  • Acknowledging the holidays and events of that culture.
  • Demonstrating knowledge of current events that impact your target audience.

You can do this by sharing images that include people from your target market, sharing holiday wishes, and expressing sincere concern over news events on a global scale.

You can also use tools like AddThis, who are connected to over 200+ networks around the world, to customize your social sharing buttons so they align with your audience. For instance, you can show the KakaoTalk share button for your South Korea readers or LINE for your Japanese visitors. Make it easy for your audience to share your content around the web!

Final Thoughts

No matter who your audience is, your goals on social media are the same. You want to increase brand awareness, get more followers, boost the number of shares you get and drive traffic to your website. When your content is relatable to your audience members, you are better able to reach those goals. Localization is the process that makes that happen. With the spending power of ethnic markets increasing significantly, embracing this only makes sense.

Author Bio

Pauline Farris is a translator, interpreter, a voting member of the American Translators Association (ATA), and content writer. She works with online B2B and B2C businesses from around the world and helps them create engaging and useful content for their blogs and digital marketing campaigns. She learned the art of translation and writing at the York University and the Federal University of Pernambuco.