Size doesn’t matter when it comes to website and social media localisation. Even if you’re a small or medium enterprise you can still make a huge difference for your customers and your business by adapting your online materials to the culture of your target market. In this way, you’ll be able to successfully execute your marketing campaigns and sell your products to consumers abroad.
The idea behind website and social media localisation
First, let’s look at what it really means to adapt your website or social media to another culture. As a SME you probably already have a great website that is developed for your local market. While it’s common to assume that the whole world speaks and understands English, it’s wise to take a step back and proceed with caution when it comes to marketing and international sales. If you wish to introduce your product in other markets, be it Poland, Germany or China, you’ll need to create an impression of proximity and local availability. That means that your online and offline communication on the new market has to be carried out in the language of your recipients and be adjusted to the way your users think, act and make decisions when buying a product. In other words, you’ll need to adapt your website, social media profiles, marketing brochures or folders to the culture of your target customers. And this is where localisation comes in.
Localisation is much more than a simple translation
Many SME’s tend to assume that translating their website into several languages will be enough to develop internationally. In fact, a mere translation won’t be enough to successfully tap into the new market and keep the attention of your foreign website users. Language is just one of many layers of cultural adaptation. From number and date formats through image types and colours to fonts and the overall website layout – there are many details that have to be aligned to the target culture. It may turn out that to achieve higher conversion rate and better market presence you’ll have to modify your original website layout, add more information about local activities, change the images or re-design the home page and menus. All these items will be analysed in the localisation process by your professional localisation service providers, and adjusted accordingly.
Below you can see an example of a localised website. You can compare the English and Japanese home pages to see how different layouts, menu types, images and products where used to resonate with the local consumers. For instance, the Japanese versions uses sliders on the home page as Japanese users usually prefer animations and very simple design.
Localisation is much more than replacing the words
Another common trap into which many SME’s fall is the use of machine translation to adapt the online or offline materials for their foreign consumers. While machines can help to translate personal communication or get a general idea about the text, they will not replace professional native speakers and qualified translators. Machine translation engines such as Google may help you to replace the words, but will fail to get your ideas and brand image across the border. If you’re not convinced, have a look at this Twitter message that was translated with Google Translate from English to Polish, and then back into English to show the results.
Source text in English: ”Time to put the kettle on! Early start at the networking event and now a busy day ahead of helping SME’s with their IT”.
Polish translation by Google machine translation: ”Czas postawić czajnik! Wczesne rozpoczęcie w przypadku sieci, a teraz zajęty dni przed pomoc MŚP z ich IT”.
Back translation into English: ”Time to put the kettle! Early beginning in case of a net and now busy days before the help SME with their IT”.
It’s definitely not a text you’d like to feature on your professional website or social media profile. Plus, the machine translation contains errors related to adjective and noun declension, which can’t be reflected in the back translation into English.
Sure, you might claim that you could still use the machine output and hire post-editors to fix the errors. The sad reality is, however, that fixing the machine errors is usually much more tedious and time-consuming than translating from scratch. As a rule of thumb, you should stay away from machine translation if you want to communicate professionally and explicitly with your partners and target customers, both in your emails and on your website or social media profiles.
The correct way to do it
So what is the right approach and the correct way to prepare your online presence for a foreign market? Well, going far beyond translation and refraining from machine translation doesn’t mean that the process of adjusting your website to another culture will be technically complicated or costly. For starters, make sure you know the profile of your target customer in the foreign market or work with professionals who can explain to you the complexity of the target culture and behavior patterns of your ideal customer abroad. Once you know what your target customers in the target market value and pay attention to, you’ll be able to make the right choices. You don’t have to go at the maximum speed and localise your complete website to more than ten languages or adapt all your social media profiles at once. Start with the most important items, adapt your homepage and several other pages first to see if the localised website resonates with your target customers and if it helps you to promote your business abroad. Then add one or two social media channels that are popular on the target market. For example, to tap into the Polish market, you’ll need a Facebook page for your Polish customers, in other countries focusing on Twitter, LinkedIn or Snapchat could be a better option.
To minimalise the costs at the very beginning, you can first adapt your website and social profile to one market only and then slowly add more versions. Depending on the type and volume of your content, website localisation may take a few days or several months. Make sure you know which content you want to display in your target market and, if necessary, prepare separate promotions, images and featured products for every website version.
Finally, website and social media localisation for your SME doesn’t require you to have an in-house technical or IT team. Depending on your localisation provider, you may receive the perfectly adapted files that only have to be uploaded to your server. Having a small team that manages your website presence shouldn’t be an obstacle or a reason against localisation either. In most cases your contribution to the localisation process carried out by your providers will be limited to delivering the source files, specifying your requirements, consulting the recommended changes with your provider and then uploading the localised files. Regular updates don’t have to be problematic either. With tools such as translation management systems your new content can be quickly identified, localised and added to the website.
Whether medium or small, your business definitely deserves to be presented to your international customers in a professional manner. Website and social media localisation don’t have to require a great deal of effort from your team, but you’ll need to make sure to choose your localisation partners wisely.
For more information how we translate and localise digital content including social media, website and online brochures to name a few, please contact our Translation and Localisation Team.