The 8 Dos and Don’ts of Multilingual Social Media Marketing


Média social, Mitjà de comunicació social, Media społecznościowe, 社会媒体:




“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”

‒Nelson Mandela


The global numbers of multilingual speakers are growing, with the number of people speaking more than one language outnumbering monolingual speakers drastically. As of 2012, in Germany 67% were bilingual, 88% in Denmark and 99% in the Netherlands, with the European Union in total having 56%. In the USA the percentage of the population who speak another language at home has almost doubled since the early 2000s.


Targeting a bilingual online audience is a daunting task but one that is definitely worth it. In the US there are over 54 million Hispanics, representing approximately 17% of the population, making them the largest minority in the country. US Marketers ignoring such a large percentage of potential consumers are missing a huge opportunity. One of the best ways to reach bilingual speakers and to target audiences more effectively is by entering into the overwhelming world of multilingual marketing.


Coca-Cola has often applied multilingual advertising campaigns to global events such as the Super Bowl and Olympics. The company also uses both Spanish and English on their Spanish Twitter feed.

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DON’T – Market in multiple languages for the sake of it.

If the majority of speakers of a language also speak fluent English there is no need for bilingual content. Providing content in two languages is time consuming and a drag on resources. You should also consider whether you would be able to keep up with content in more than one language. Remember that conversations happening in relation to a post in one language may have changed drastically before it can be published in the other, you will need to be fast!


DO – Filter, filter, filter!

On most social media platforms and search engines language can be selected as a filter, both by users and marketers. Although the majority of platforms do allow marketers to target potential consumers by language, Baidu PPC arm ‘Tuiguang’ doesn’t have any filtering features.


On Facebook, users select their language preference when initially setting up their account, this means Facebook advertising can specifically target a user based on the language set in their profile. Twitter has language filtering available in 20 languages, determined by both the users selected language and the language of their activity on Twitter.


In Google AdWords language can also be set as a filter. For example, if your target consumer’s Google interface language settings are set to Russian, filtering your AdWords campaign to Russian and using Russian keywords your campaign will show when searches in Russian are made. You can also filter for more than one language or all languages, which is useful in targeting potential consumers who would search in more than one language. Google not only detects a users language through their default-selected language but also through their search history. For example, someone who has previously searched for Chocolates in Cantonese will still see Cantonese advertisements on their English searches.


DON’T – Mix up your keywords.

One problem with language filtering is when targeting more than one language, keywords from your campaign may be the same in multiple languages. This means that an advertisement written in French with the word ‘excellent’ may be seen by a monolingual English speaker who has no interest in the French content. The only way around this problem is to create separate campaigns in each language, or to ensure the keywords of your campaign are distinct to the language of your target consumer.

DO – Know what’s trusted and what’s cool.

An important consideration to make when using different languages is identifying and understanding the social attitudes of a population towards said languages. In many countries Luxury goods brands have stuck to using English in their advertising campaigns. English is associated with sophistication, whereas the local language is more closely linked to a sense of belonging and trust. In many cases solutions using multiple languages are the most successful, as they draw less attention to the language choice. Choosing the right language will also help when potential consumers are searching online for your product. If they associate the product with one language more than another, your choice of language becomes crucial.



DON’T – Annoy potential consumers.

A few things to be wary of include the fact that sending notifications to followers twice or three times in multiple languages is not going to make you very popular. Consider having separate accounts for your posts or a way of targeting different language speakers independently. You could also consider mixing both languages in one post to not only avoid multiple notifications but also minimize the attention drawn to language choice.


DO – Filter by geographic location too.

Filter on a geographic basis in combination with your language filtering. This will further specify your targeting and help reach your objective consumers.


DO – Utilize multiple languages in your hashtags and keywords.

This is key to your posts and advertisements appearing on a consumers feed. Don’t forget, often a post written in a language other than English will benefit from English hashtags as they are more likely to trend on Twitter and trend for longer.


DON’T – Embarrass yourself!

Cumbersome translations littered with errors are embarrassing and will only render bad press. Although an obvious piece of advice, it cannot be stressed more. International brands have slipped up in this way many times before.

For example, Colgate launched toothpaste in France with the name ‘Cue’, unaware that it was also the name of a French porn magazine. KFC didn’t get the desired effect in China when it translated its tagline ‘finger lickin’ good’ to ‘eat your fingers off’.

The American Dairy Association took its ‘Got Milk?’ campaign to Spanish-speaking countries by translating to ‘Are You Lactating?’









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