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Social Media in Bilingual Countries: Sustaining a Natural Conversation  

Depending on your target audience, chances are you will have to use more than one language on your social media strategy.

It’s estimated that up to 7,000 different languages are spoken around the world. But in fact, less than 100,000 people use roughly 90% of these languages. Technically, it means you need just a handful of languages to be able to communicate with most of the world’s population — which is fortunate for your marketing strategy!

Still, you will often have to create a conversation in more than one language per social media channel. Even if people are fluent in more than one language, most prefer to communicate in their mother tongue.

Let’s take a look at a couple examples:

  • In Canada: According to the 2011 census, English and French are the mother tongues of 56.9% and 21.3% of Canadians respectively. However, over 85% of Canadians have a working knowledge of English while only 30.1% have a working knowledge of French.

According to, Anglophones and Francophones search and consume new media differently. They are two very different target audiences. Understanding and evaluating the differences between theses two language groups is critical to your digital strategy.

  • In the USA: Of 291.5 million people aged 5 and over, 60.6 million people (21 percent of the population, or one in five people in the country) spoke a language other than English at home.

While Spanish remains the most widely spoken language after English, other languages, particularly those from South Asia and Africa, have also soared in use, according to a U.S. Census Bureau 2011 report.

An October 2012 survey of U.S. Hispanics by the Pew Hispanic Center found that between 2009 and 2012, the percentage of foreign-born and native-born Hispanics who used the web rose by 18 percentage points and 27 percentage points respectively. This helped drive up overall Hispanic Internet use to 78%, from 64% three years ago.

Two-thirds (68%) of Latino Internet users say they use Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites, according to the Pew Hispanic Center survey. By comparison, 58% of all U.S. Internet users say they use Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites.

With that in mind, here are some tips that will help you create a successful global social media content strategy:

1. Create posts in multiple languages.
2. Always use the language of the people you are targeting, — it’s not necessarily the language of your company.
3. Keep it natural — make sure it isn’t misinterpreted.
4. Speak the lingo naturally — both social media and language.
5. Choose between a formal and informal tone — this choice is culturally important.
6. Make sure to use proper grammar.
7. Use native speakers and professional translators.
8. Don’t use literal translations — always stay culturally appropriate.
9.  Avoid posting in one language and then linking to another site in a different language.
10. Develop a uniquely crafted voice and social media content in each language.

Unlike a traditional website, social media is built on interaction. Social media is already multilingual. To be able to rule that field is to find a delicate, but rewarding balance.

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