The basics of multilingual social marketing

How would you feel if you walked into a party, and everyone else was speaking to each other in Spanish—but you only spoke English. Uncomfortable, right? Any good host would make sure you were included in the conversation.

If social media is like a cocktail party (as many have claimed), then you can begin to see how important it is to include everyone you want at your party in the conversation.

As of 2015, two billion people (out of three billion internet users) were active on social media. That’s a very large potential guest list, and your job as host is to make sure everyone who comes to you gets what they need and has a good time. Sharing content in the language appropriate for your target group goes a long way in achieving both of these goals.

Social media defined—it’s more than just Twitter

Before we go into our tips for using social media effectively in foreign markets, let’s define the term. “Social media” encompasses:

  • Networks: websites and apps that allow users to communicate, comment, send messages and more with updates appearing on a single feed. E.g. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn.
  • Microblogs: built for shorter-form content, microblogs work like network-style activity feeds with one update after another. E.g. Twitter, Medium and Sina Weibo.
  • Blogs: built for longer-form content, blogs—and their comments sections—are a powerful method for building a community of engaged users.
  • Messaging: created to make one-to-one conversations and group chats possible, often as a part of microblogs. They might include text messaging, voice or multimedia messaging. E.g. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, WeChat and LINE.


Our best social media tips for engaging foreign markets

Each type of social media, even each platform, has its own rules, community, and set of expectations. Essentially, they all have cultural differences, even when all users are in the same country. To effectively use social media as a marketing tool, you’ll need more than translated words. You’ll need to understand how each community works, and engage with those communities in the ways they most appreciate.

As with any marketing decision, your social media plan should begin with your buyer persona or target audience. Where does that specific group tend to congregate? What types of content engages them the most?

Then, decide which mix of social media sites you want to use. Contrary to popular belief, no company has to be on all social media sites. It’s more important to concentrate on the sites your target demographic uses most and develop strong followings there. Check out our list of the top social platforms by country.

Whether your target demographic is on Twitter or Sina Weibo (China’s Twitter-like microblog), Facebook or Renren (China’s Facebook-like network), each type of social media comes with its own set of opportunities:

  • Networks: tend to have highly sophisticated posting and ad targeting, which can help you faster reach your target audience in new markets. You’ll need to create your own brand page for each network and each country to which you’re expanding, and be prepared to publish translated longer-form content, pictures, links to blog content and offers, and deals which will show up in the feeds of subscribed users—or as an ad to prospects who meet the brand’s target criteria.
  • Microblogs: have immediacy in their favor. They move fast and users expect equally fast responses. This gives brands the opportunity to publicly display their customer service and customer success initiatives, engage directly with consumers, and publicize deals, offers and content marketing campaigns—but only if they’re prepared with culturally-fluent language users who can respond in real-time.
  • Blogs: your brand’s and other people’s blogs—are among the easiest, most cost-effective ways to position yourself as a thought-leader in your industry. Claiming that distinction helps give your brand credibility, which is vitally important when moving into foreign markets. Guest-blogging, or writing for an already established blog, can be a very good way to introduce yourself in a new market, but it’s not an accepted practice everywhere. Understand the culture of your target blogosphere.
  • Messaging: is a relatively newer form of social media that many marketers haven’t tapped into yet, which means it’s ripe for innovation. Playful tactics play best, so our advice is to have fun with it.

In any language, the goal of social media is the same: to drive users to your site, boost your credibility, and build brand recognition. This takes several different types of content to achieve—along with a plan for distribution on social media channels. Your website traffic is fueled by content marketing, which reaches the public most directly through social promotion and sharing. Therefore, you not only need perfectly translated high-quality content your foreign users will want to share, but platform-appropriate translated messages to promote it.

Social media is a vital way for your brand to reach its audience—but are you maximizing your impact? Our social media guide, produced in collaboration with Fliplingo, introduces you to the key strategies for successfully expanding your brand to global audiences.


Lauren Van Mullem

The author

Lauren Van Mullem

Lauren assists in content production for Gengo's marketing team. As a former food and travel writer, she has experience communicating with all kinds of people from around the world and believes in celebrating different cultures through understanding them.

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