Challenges and quirks in translating social media content

“My dog ate my homework.” 19 characters.

“mein Hund aß meine Hausarbeit.” 26 characters.

“Mi perro se comió me tarea.” 22 characters.

The above numbers may look similar, but when you’re trying to plan out a tweet in translation, the number of characters needed to say the same thing in multiple languages becomes one of the many challenges of multilingual social media.

Preparing to meet the three main challenges of social media marketing in translation:

1. Length restrictions

As you’re preparing your content for translation, here’s a tip to speed up the writing-to-publishing process: Let your translator know if there are length restrictions! We often see this challenge come up with media translations, but in social media, your post won’t make sense if the ending is cut off.

Character counts are the hallmarks of networks like Twitter, which require special handling when it comes to effective communication. If you’re translating a message from English to Japanese, for example, you’ll find that you need far fewer characters to communicate your idea. In fact, you might want to take advantage of the shorter character count and add something more. But, if you’re translating English into Spanish or German, you’re going to have to be very pithy indeed.

2. Jargon juggling

Every social media platform has its own accepted vocabulary and acronyms, and you’ll have to master most of the list to be considered fluent. Each population will also have their own jargon and acronyms, which might not translate outside of those groups. “LOL” is just the tip of the iceberg—how about trying to say “posting to your wall” in Tagalog? Translators can often refer to how social networks translate their lexicons, but it helps if you provide the context to ensure your translations are natural, instead of literal.

3. Geo-diction

Your challenge is to make social media posts across multiple channels and geographic locations simple and effective. To do that, you’ll need to put your resources in one place. Emerging translation platforms let you fully automate social posting so when you publish in one language, it triggers translation (and publication, but only if you approve it) to all of your associated feeds through one easy interface. Research to find the best translation platform for your company.

Uneasy in your jargon-juggling skills? Want to avoid having your brilliant idea cut short? Let us help you choose just the right words—in just the right character lengths. Give us a call, or read more of the finer points of multilingual social media by downloading our free Guide to Social Media, produced in collaboration with Fliplingo. This guide introduces 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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