Leveraging Your Social Networks to Overcome International Marketing Barriers

Language is an obstacle for commerce. In order for businesses to compete globally for customers, they must ensure that the content they produce is readily available in each target market. Additionally, user/community interaction online produces socially produced content to be translated. It is not enough for this content to be merely translated; rather properly localized material (that is current and relevant to the consumers) is needed.  As websites have become the primary vehicle for companies to reach potential customers, most consumers are searching the web to find products and services.


Marketers must carry out localization projects to create compelling, significant content when entering foreign markets. Typically, because most SMBs do not have an in-house localization or translation teams, professional contractors or translation service providers become necessary. Because these language professionals are external, there is often a disconnect between them and the products and services. Often the produced content lacks core values and key messages. By leveraging current advances in technology what once was a time-consuming method can now be performed in less time.

The advent of social media on the internet has created massive user communities, many of which have created sub-communities and groups with targeted interests; some focused on specific businesses, products and services. This creates a unique opportunity for businesses to leverage their customers and user base to create relevant, localized, user-generated content produced by users (or interested parties) in foreign markets. By involving the end-user and removing the middle man (disconnected professional translators), marketers are guaranteed translated content that will resonate with new and existing customers.  The collaborative nature of a tight-knit community allows for productive discussions and high quality branding for the foreign market will inevitably be produced. The process of collaborating also builds tighter customer loyalty with users.

Barrier #1: Trusted Community Translations

Professional translators are experts in translation and localization, but they aren’t necessarily experts in your field. When you involve subject matter experts (distributors, sales reps, other employees) who are conversant in marketing messages and services then the translation will naturally be more accurate and trusted than a third-party translation vendor could provide.  These subject matter experts can tell your story better than you can.  Because they live in the target market among potential consumers, they can also provide invaluable insight into what works and what doesn't in their culture and language.

Barrier #2: Reduced Translation Costs

Engaging online social production, especially on a platform incorporating CAT (computer-aided translation) tools results in a dramatic reduction in price-per-word. This lowers the barrier to entry in new markets.  Lottery-style rewards provide monetary incentives at a fraction of usual localization prices.  However, recognition and reputation are more powerful motivations than money; the time of domain experts who volunteer translation is often far more valuable than even the traditional translation industry cost structure will support.

Barrier #3: Faster Real Time Translations

The translation process typically happens in phases; a professional translator will translate the document, and then pass it on to a second translator for verification. Communities can translate material faster than an individual, allowing for a quicker turn-around on messaging for each market and facilitating synchronous global launches. Additionally, with the community model, there are more touch points for verification of the document.  

Barrier #4: Community Loyalty

Collaborating with a user community on translation is also a powerful method of ensuring brand loyalty. It creates product advocates in the new markets through the co-creative process. These in-market bilinguals learn more about the company and products. This innate marketing benefit adds a profit center dimension to translation when previously it has been primarily a cost center.

Barrier #5: Needing more control over proprietary content

Sensitive information runs the risk of discovery, when it is passed between multiple hands. Selective communities allow for material control prior to public release.

Marketers spend countless hours creating and tweaking their message until it is a perfect fit for their native market.  Their expertise helps them generate a brand and message that they know will be most effective.  Community members in foreign markets are equally savvy when it comes to messaging and branding for their particular area.  Working together content can be properly translated that retains the necessary marketing message and can be delivered worldwide.

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About the Author

Calvin is a dedicated executive with over 18 years of experience managing products, sales, marketing, operations, and personnel. His experience ranges from work with a Fortune 500 company to small start-ups.