Brands On Facebook Need To Think Beyond English

Most of the top global brands have Facebook pages, but many are only in English, despite having people from all over the world following them.

Where brands only post in English, followers are all driven to post in English and their comments are limited to banalities like “I like xxx brand/product.”

The vacuum that exists because of this attracts all sorts of spam posts — from concert ticket sales in Paris to dubious ladies “looking for boyfriends,” so there’s nothing really of interest on the page.

Honda, which has almost a million followers globally, has one main page in English focusing on the U.S. market. While it has a lot of interesting posts, followers’ comments are mostly in English with the occasional foreign post looking quite out of place.

Nokia, with over three million followers globally, has a much better approach – - it has a Facebook opening page with 67 country flags and each flag clicks through to a page in the local language.

The posts are a mixture of centrally generated Nokia product information that is translated, and locally generated posts. Care has to be taken to make sure the centrally generated material is translated well and sounds local or it can give the game away.

The posts are moderated and followers’ posts are commented on by Nokia, making it an intelligent solution. It’s not the cheapest option, but then you don’t get to be a global brand by taking the cheapest route.

Another way of giving a multilingual aspect to a Facebook page is to do so via a dedicated application. Zylom, an online gaming site, has created a Facebook app in eight languages.

When users allow the Zylom app, their language is automatically selected for them, based on the user’s location. Since February this year when it was first made available, the app has been allowed by 300,000 Facebook users all over the world. The marketing team behind the brand is delighted.

Apple, which wants to control the environment 100 percent, doesn’t even have an English Facebook page — despite the fact that the Facebook generation tend to idolize the shiny things they make.

H&M, withj over 6 million followers globally, has only one official page in English, but people following H&M post in English, Spanish and German. And if you post a question about H&M on the page, the company will reply in the language you posted in (and normally within a couple of hours). But having different languages appear on the same page is messy and most followers will not understand the majority of what’s being said.

The Facebook “skin” is available in all languages and, as Facebook evolves, they are likely to offer brands better ways to talk to their followers — and we hope to see better ways of dealing with multiple language pages, too.

Guest writer Guy Gilpin is co-founder and managing director of Mother Tongue Writers.

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