How Global Brands do Twitter
March 14, 2016
For those of us who use Twitter for social media marketing, it won’t come as a surprise that Twitter has grown enormously in foreign language markets, with more than half of all tweets now in a language other than English.
Though we don’t have a breakdown of company versus consumer usage by country (we checked), the general trendline globally has been up and to the right for using Twitter for business. If your user base or audience is global, this means thinking about how to tweet across languages and geographies. The only no-no here is tweeting or retweeting multiple languages in the same Twitter handle, which is one of the best ways to confuse an audience. But if you do have the resources to manage multiple Twitter handles, there are a number of different ways to do it effectively. Though there are top brands that are successfully utilizing each of the strategies below, what you choose for your company depends on your content and your audience.
1. Tweet same-ish content, but via separate handles, by language
To reach a German-speaking audience, for example, consider a Twitter handle that is @YourHandleDE or @YourHandle_DE, with tweets that mirror @YourHandle but in German.
Advantage: Easiest to scale, as the localization can happen at HQ, with your existing social media tools (with an integration to Qordoba) helping you target your local audience for both tweets, retweets and replies. The content should be adapted in its entirety, however: if you are using images, then any text in those images should be localized as well. Adaptation in this strategy encompasses the repurposing of a Canadian Thanksgiving post into a German OktoberFest post, for example, or using different but similarly festive local imagery around the winter holidays.
Who does this: @MercedesBenz, @AppAnnie
Drawback: Not all of your tweets will be equally applicable to your local audiences. We say “same-ish” because you’ll want to avoid including in a German tweet in @YourHandleDE, for example, that links to information that is not in German. Doing this could mean frustrated local followers and slower engagement growth with your target audience. It’s a double-whammy, because when you do tweet to localized content, a pre-conditioned follower is less likely to click on your tweet. A faux-pax in this vein from the otherwise social-media savvy App Annie:
2. Tweet different content, via separate handles, by language
To reach that same German-speaking audience, your Twitter handle is still @YourHandleDE or @YourHandle_DE, but your content strategy for the localized handle diverges from @YourHandle.
Advantage: Allows you to be more relevant to your audience, and is especially useful if you are planning to run contests or giveaways that are specific to markets. In a great recent example of this strategy, Samsung UK recently executed a Twitter campaign where they gave away a Samsung Galaxy S7 every hour (11am-6pm local time) to followers that hunted down their locations in the UK. @SamsungUK tweeted out clues over the course of the day. At the same time, the brand’s German handle was executing the same product launch but with a different Twitter content strategy:
Who does this: @Samsung, @McDonalds
Drawback: This is the expensive route, as executing this strategy well requires in-market humans. They don’t have to be physically in-market, but both in content creation and campaign execution, it’s a high-touch model.
3. Hybrid, with lots of different handles. Period
This strategy is a combination of both #1 and #2, with some handles being product or function-specific, only partially localized and mostly hewing to content strategy #2, and other handles (usually the main or “corporate” handle) leaning mostly to content strategy #1. Hybrid also means that a single handle could have Tweets in a number of different languages.
Advantage: With few hard-and-fast rules, the hybrid approach is the content-volume friendly approach: have a new Tweet that hasn’t been localized into Japanese yet? No problem—throw it up on @YourHandle_JP anyway! It can still effectively create local engagement, especially if it contains globally-appealing videos or images. Have +20 products à la Coca-Cola? It’s going to take a lot of work to get that into the +100 languages that represent the markets they are in, so best to focus efforts on what is popular in a particular market.
Who does this: @Zara, @CocaColaCo
Drawback: This strategy is not for the faint of heart. It’s not necessarily more expensive than #2, and for a similar level of engagement is probably less expensive, but the potential for follower frustration or disappointment can be high. It’s no wonder that the brands who do this are among the most globally recognized and visually appealing ones on the planet. Mixing languages in a localized Twitter feed should be done very rarely, if at all, if you don’t happen to have this cachet.
Language vs locale
One decision that you’ll have to make, whatever strategy you use, is whether your localized Twitter handles are localized by language or by country. In the above examples, we used “language” to proxy for localization in general, but many of the brands mentioned actually localized by country, not just language, for some of their markets. You can make the decision based on whether you think you will eventually have in-country content or marketing experts in a particular region or language area. Tools like Qordoba’s make it easier to manage in-country content teams, but if that’s not in the cards for you, a language-based, and not country-based, strategy might make more sense.
The other tack is to match the Twitter strategy to your web strategy: will you have blog posts or content marketing in Spanish, or focused on the Mexican market? Matching your Twitter strategy to your overall content localization strategy is good practice, even if you’re localizing content only on Twitter for now.
Twitter localization best practices
Once you’ve landed on a content strategy, which is 90% of the work, use this quick checklist to round out your localization to-do list:
- Get your localized Twitter handles verified by Twitter—you’ll want to prevent any imposters from hijacking your brand in local markets
- Plan posting times at the same time across markets, but in the local time zone, to start. You can only begin to optimize for different posting times by market if you’re benchmarking from the same base
- Track trending hashtags by the markets you’re targeting
- Fully localize your Twitter profile: bio, location, and URL. If your website is not localized yet, link to another piece of relevant, localized content
- Remember to localize the Twitter links on your website and blog, so that a visitor to your UK or Germany site is not taken to your English Twitter handle via your links or Twitter plugins
With more than a billion users globally, the investment in a localized Twitter strategy is worth the effort.