Social media translation: what you need to know

Why it’s important to translate your social media

There’s no denying that social media has become a huge part of our lives, especially now we’re all stuck at home. 53% of the world’s population is on social media and it’s thought that 15 people join this number every second. It can be a source of entertainment, a way to socialise and a way to follow the latest news stories. For many, social media also presents opportunities for online shopping – leading to the development of Instagram’s prominent shopping feature. For businesses, social media marketing is a popular and cost-effective way to communicate with your customers and reach a wider audience.

Although the reach of social media does cross borders, linguistic and cultural differences still play an important role in how it works, which means that to target markets in other countries and cultures you will need to translate your accounts. To build a relationship with your customers, get them to follow your accounts and to trust your products – speak to them in their own language. Here are a few dos and don’ts to get you started.

Do your research

Any new venture requires research and translating your social media is no different. To avoid wasting time and money on mistakes such as targeting the wrong audience, inappropriate posts or using the wrong platforms, here are a few important things to find out before you dive in.

Research where your customers are located. Most of the bigger platforms offer analytics tools, including audience language analytics, which will help you to do so. This can help you to figure out which languages to target. If you have customers in Germany, but you only post in English, posting in German might help you to increase your reach in these markets. For a wider reach in the US, consider adding an account in Spanish.

The location of your customers also helps you to know which language variant to use. There’s no point translating into European Spanish if most of your followers are in Latin America. This can also help you to know when to post, so that you can avoid posting tailor-made content to followers who have already gone to bed!

This research can also help you to decide which platform to use. Facebook might be an obvious answer for the US but WeChat is more popular in Asian countries, or if you’re targeting a Russian audience, then VK would be the way to go. You probably already know the age of the audience you’re targeting, but this too can influence the choice of platform. Video-sharing app TikTok will reach a very different audience than a post on LinkedIn would – social media platforms aren’t one-size-fits-all!

Make a plan

Once you’ve done your research and pinned down which languages you’ll work with, and which platforms you should use, you can make a few key decisions. Most social media marketers advise a regular posting schedule, which means a regular schedule for translating your content, too.

It will depend on the languages and cultures into which you’re translating, but you will need to think about which posts and campaigns can be translated into other languages. There will certainly be some posts that are suitable for translation, but there may be some that aren’t. For example, your UK followers would understand and appreciate English wordplay, or a joke based on the latest trending topic in the UK. Such jokes would likely be lost on your American or Asian followers, and any effort to explain the joke would probably be wasted.

It’s also important to recognise when posts are required for your target language accounts, but not for your source language account. While you might want to skip translating posts about the American holiday of Thanksgiving into German, make sure that you haven’t missed any important holidays for your target culture, such as Chinese New Year for your Asian audience or Bastille Day for your followers in France. Creating a plan will help you ensure that you haven’t missed days such as these, which might not normally be on your personal radar.

Invest in the best

First and foremost, your audience will be able to tell if you’ve used machine translation. Don’t do it. It sends the wrong message to your audience and when you’ve only got 280 characters to work with, things like tone and register are important, and difficult to get right. For your clever pun or witty tweet, it’s best to leave it to a professional human translator.

If your strategy involves creating things like new words, acronyms or hashtags, a good translation partner will be able to help you check there aren’t any unfortunate homonyms or connotations in other languages that might be embarrassing! Hashtags can be tricky, but very beneficial – Tweets with hashtags get 100% more engagement than ones without. As with any form of marketing translation, hashtag translation can be difficult to get right, so it’s important that it is done by a professional.

Once you’ve found a translation partner you’re happy with – stick with them! Along with the usual benefits of staying loyal to a translation provider, such as ease of communication and translation memory discounts, using the same translator means that your brand voice will be consistent across different posts, including any direct messages or customer communication – 79% of consumers expect a brand to reply within 24 hours, so this might be more important than you think!

Create different accounts for each language

I’ll start with the exception to this tip: if your social media is only translated into one other language, you might be able to get away with using one account and creating bilingual posts if they’re not too long. However, this must be handled carefully as it could cause your bilingual followers to become bored with the repetition, as they’re essentially reading the same thing twice. Make sure to discuss this with an expert of the language you’re translating into, as not every post will be culturally appropriate for both languages and there may be some languages that won’t work as well together. It could also make things more difficult later if you intend to translate into a third language further down the line.

If your social media posts will be in more than two languages, then it’s best to have a different account for each one. The benefit of this is that your accounts and their posts can be tailored to the culture you’re targeting, which will allow you to communicate better and build more of a relationship with your customers.

Don’t expect it to work straight away

This probably isn’t what you want to hear, but it might take a bit of time before you start to see results. Even with a regular posting schedule, it can take a while to post enough content that your business doesn’t come across as brand new. It also takes time to build followers organically. It might take a bit of adjustment of what you post and how you post it.

Don’t worry!

Navigating the world of marketing translation can be tricky if you’re not sure where to start. Here are a few more tips on how to choose a translation agency for your creative content if you’re stuck.

Social media can help to build relationships with your customers and help you to introduce your business to more people. If done well, social media translation can really help you. If done badly, it can cause you more problems. At Planet Languages we use professional translators who are experts in their field to make sure you get high-quality translations every time.

Subscribe for the latest updates from the Planet Languages Knowledge Base
Your information will never be shared with or sold to any third parties.

To find out more about the ways Planet Languages can help your business, find out about prices or organise a free sample translation, call us on  +44 (0) 1252 713 444, email us at or click below.

Contact Planet Languages