What you need to know about multilingual content marketing

Multilingual content marketing is a must for modern businesses that want to be competitive on the international stage.

wood cube abc cube letters alphabet
Credit: Pexels

Finally figuring out content marketing and finding some semblance of continuity can feel like a huge win. So, we hate to break it to you that you’re only just scratching the surface. The next big thing is multilingual content marketing, and you’re going to want to get a head start on it.

What is multilingual content marketing?

As the name suggests, multilingual content marketing refers to a content marketing strategy that is adapted to account for multiple languages in other parts of the world. So, instead of just producing content in English, you’re producing content in French, German and Chinese to reach untapped customers in regions where these languages are native.

One important thing to note is that you don’t have a content marketing strategy and a multilingual content marketing strategy. The multilingual content marketing strategy becomes the content marketing strategy. Under that umbrella, you have English content, French content, German content, Chinese content, etc. Everything is combined together, and the hope is that you’re able to develop a cohesive message that resonates with your customers regardless of the language.

Some people in the industry don’t like the phrase “multilingual content marketing,” because they feel it puts too much emphasis on language and not enough on cultural differences. If you’re just translating content into different languages, you aren’t accounting for the other important intricacies that matter.

For example, you can translate an English blog post into Chinese, but without accounting for cultural differences, your new blog post will miss the mark. This is why some marketers prefer to use the term “multicultural content marketing.”

As expert Eric Ingrand puts it, “Multicultural content marketing — marketing which takes into account the cultural values and beliefs of the target market — builds trust and helps potential customers overcome their suspicion of foreign brands.”

We’ll stick with the term “multilingual content marketing” in this article because it’s the phrase that most in the industry use; however, do note that you have to account for multicultural elements as well in order to be successful. Ingrand is spot on in his definition.

Five tips for better multilingual content marketing

Whether you’re just getting started in multilingual content marketing or you’re looking to revamp your strategy and make it more effective, we’re going to provide you with some tips to assist in laying a strong foundation.

  1. Keep things simple

“A main advantage of using content across different languages is that Google doesn’t pick up on duplicate content in different languages,” marketer Christian Arno says. This means you can write the same article in different languages and get added value each time.

The issue is that writing 10 or 15 articles for 10 or 15 different websites isn’t practical or cost-effective. “So the trick to writing easily localized and translated content is to keep it simple and general by avoiding specific local references (such as local news events or television personalities) or turns of phrase that may not translate,” Arno says.

This lets you simply write an article and translate without worrying about cultural differences. You obviously can’t do this with every piece — some articles will need to be written with the local culture in mind — but it tends to work well for general pieces.

  1. Reexamine reader profiles

Just because you have a reader profile for your English content marketing strategy doesn’t mean you can just swap out languages and then copy and paste these profiles into other international markets. You’ll need to reexamine your reader profiles and likely create unique ones for each language and country of origin.

When developing these profiles, you’d be wise to work with a marketer in each country you’re targeting. While you can gather basic demographic information and make some other keen insights based on internet research, you really don’t know much about the cultural intricacies of your target market. Spending an hour with a local marketer can pay major dividends down the road.

  1. Use the appropriate tools

We’re going to discuss the importance of working closely with a native speaker in the next point, but there’s also a place for automated tools and resources. Having access to the appropriate technology can streamline much of the process, especially when it comes to careful translation.

There are many different translation tools on the market and you’ll need to select one that fits your needs and objectives. Speak with some different companies to see who they’re using and whether they have any recommendations.

“We use OneSkyApp to translate our products in various languages,” says Athanasios Papagellis of TalentLMS. “The best part is the tight integration between the core translation software and a universal community of translators. In the past, we used Transifex and its Gengo integration. It worked fine but started getting too costly.”

  1. Work with a native speaking copy editor

The importance of this step cannot be stressed enough. While you may use some sort of advanced translation tool with million-dollar algorithms and service guarantees, there’s no replacement for human writing. At the very least, you need to hire a native speaking copy editor to review your translations before publishing.

While you can get someone to copy edit your articles on a freelance platform like Fiverr or Upwork, don’t cheap out on this part of the equation. This step can make or break your multilingual content marketing strategy. Good international copy editing is worth its weight in gold.

  1. Use the right channels

What good is content if you don’t have a place to publish and share it? Make sure you’re using the right channels if you want to engage your audience.

“Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are popular in most parts of the world,” marketer Elizaveta Naumov points out, “but did you know that VKontakte wins out over Facebook in Russia and that Qzone is the biggest social network in China?” Seemingly small details like this make a big difference in terms of content ROI.

Invest in diverse content marketing

Spend a moment thinking about how diverse your domestic target market is. There’s a mixture of gender, race, age, income, location, marital status, hobbies, purchase behaviors, etc. Narrowing your focus around domestic customers is a huge undertaking. If you don’t have a content marketing strategy fully developed and in the process of execution, you need to nail this down before moving on to a multilingual approach.

Throwing new countries, cultures and languages into the mix is only going to exacerbate areas where you’re already struggling to make ends meet. It’s super important that you build a strong and stable content marketing strategy before moving into other cultures. With that being said, you don’t want to delay too long. This is the next frontier of content marketing and the sooner you can gain a foothold in key international markets, the more of an advantage you’ll have over the competition.

The ultimate takeaway is this: multilingual content marketing is a must for modern businesses that want to be competitive on the international stage, but don’t invest in it at the expense of your domestic content marketing efforts. Everything you do flows out of this and it’s imperative that you have a strong foundation. Once you’re ready, utilize the tips in this article to carefully proceed. 

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

To comment on this article and other CIO content, visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Related:
Download the State of the CIO 2016 report