Languages And Digital Media – Why are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Using Translate?

Last Updated April 6, 2017

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Currently, digital media is primarily used as a platform for brand building, whether you are a business or a private individual. Digital media is unique in its ability to target niche audience and allow for open exchange of ideas, expectations and propositions. Usage of digital media is not only cost-effective and time saving but also allows for global exposure instantaneously. While digital media provides global exposure, ensuring that your audience understands what you convey is a different ball game altogether. Language is intrinsically linked to digital media, and as language across the world is diverse, digital media is poised to embrace the language diversity on the Internet.

The Internet Language Population

As of 2016, the top ten internet languages in the world are English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Japanese, Malay, Russian, French and German. English, Chinese and Spanish represents 26.3%, 20.8% and 7.7% of all the internet users in the world respectively. Given the diversity in the internet languages used by the world population, digital media is quickly embracing the change.

The rising trend in Multilingualism on Digital Media

Websites, Blogs and Content: Today’s industry leaders have picked up on the mantra that “If it is your intention to create an online business in another country, you will need a website in a foreign language”. The 2016 Web Globalization Report, written by John Yuncker of Byte Level Research provides an interesting analysis of today’s trends in global web content. In 2006, only around 65% of global leading brands had a Chinese language version of their websites. A decade later in 2016, it is 97%. The same applies to other languages as well. Multilingualism has been growing and is now being picked up across industries.

Social Media: There is an immense rise of multilingualism in different social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Facebook has introduced the translation tool which display texts in different language format as opted by the user. The author can compose the post or page in more than one language and the viewer of the post or page can read the post or page in their preferred language. For instance if the post is in English and the viewer’s native language is Portuguese, he or she can view the post in Portuguese, using the Facebook translation tool- it is that simple. Translation feature on Facebook is allowing global audience to interact seamlessly with each other on its platform. Twitter is another social media platform that has quickly adopted this translation feature. Twitter is collaborating with Microsoft Bing to present tweet translations on both the Twitter website and the Twitter app. Instagram is also offering a translation option for different comments and captions. Words are automatically translated according to the language setting of the user.  The Instagram platform already supports over a dozen languages and more will be added soon. The Instagram community is consistently increasing and the translation tool presents the Instagram world to even more potential users, who may subsequently become active users. Instagram has about 300 million daily users of which 80 percent of are from outside the U.S.

The Need for Going Multilingual on Digital Platforms

Your business website is a virtual shop and will help you in reaching out to customers worldwide. But will your customers spend time on your website or digital platforms if they do not understand your content? Reaching out in foreign markets can be quite challenging.  It is important to build a global website with a local focus. If you wish to succeed in a foreign market while doing business online, do your best to act locally; however, think globally! Today, automatic translation features are available but this can also give contextual errors and hence it is advised to prefer professional translation to save your brand from embarrassment. Additionally, your website should also translate/convert important details such as prices and currencies, and shipping information. It is important to give due acknowledgement to cultural references and sensitivity. In order to reach out to a global and local audience it is important that your website must be search engine optimized (SEO) in multiple languages as well.

Several mid- and small-size companies are using social media for brand visualization and to gain brand loyalty, and they do all the brand promotion in one language, which is English. In this way they are unable to reach out to customers who are not native English speakers. So whether you are a small- or mid-size business, large corporation, NGO or individual (author, consultant), there is no denying the importance of going multilingual. Non-English speaking users are rapidly embracing the internet, and they respond to information on social media in their own language. Companies stand to lose out a vast majority of consumer base who do not speak English. Companies should reach out to customers in their own native language, or else your company stands to miss out on huge potential markets. Russia, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Middle East have several million users on various social media platforms.

This is the reason why Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are all going multilingual. For instance, if the post is in English and my native language is Portuguese, I will not understand or respond to the English post. This is where Facebook’s translation feature engages me in that content. The Translation feature on Facebook is allowing the global audience to interact seamlessly on the social media platform with each other. Facebook has a massive user base worldwide and the number presently is 1.5 billion active users. However, only 50 percent of the Facebook community speaks English, and the rest of us cannot communicate in each other’s native language. Facebook’s translation tool is targeted to help non-English speakers so that they can get relevant information and participate in discussions and events. All users on Facebook are empowered with their own tool for translating posted text.

Leaders in the industry have quickly recognized and adapted to this trend and are ensuring multilingual content on their social media platforms as well. As you get your messages to potential customers in their native language, there will be a higher possibility of likes or retweets and maybe even shares. If you carry out your business in diverse international markets and would like to expand in new markets it is important to diversify with regard to language. Adopting a multilingual strategy is critical as it will help your company to stay ahead of the curve.

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