• Twitter Expands To New Languages: Should You?

    by  • March 14, 2012 • Content Marketing Institute • 0 Comments

    witter is reaching out to users in the Middle East by providing native language interfaces for speakers of Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu. The expansion means Twitter is now available in 28 languages. Some interesting global Twitter facts:

    • By sheer numbers, the US has the highest number of users at 107.7 million accounts. In second and third, Brazil with 33.3 million and Japan’s with 29.9 million.
    • Consider, however, that three countries outpace the US in terms of activity levels of users (reported by Semiocast in January 2012). Twitter users in the Netherlands, Japan and Spain are all more active than US Twitter users.
    • Japan is the second-most used language on Twitter, following English.
    • Arabic is the fastest-growing language on Twitter.

    What does this have to do with your business? The fastest growing Internet markets are in China, Africa and the Middle East, but expanding into those new markets presents content marketers with a number of major challenges.

    Opportunities and Perils of Localized Marketing

    Successfully marketing to foreign audiences is more than just getting the translations correct. Eric Olander, editor in chief of Internet and new media atFRANCE 24, warns that a simplistic approach to localization can go awry, recounting the story of one American travel operator that launched a Chinese-language site.

    “The travel operator’s website featured numerous cultural blunders such as having the characters for the words “Chinese” on the language tabs on a white background,” says Olander, “which is considered the color of funerals and death in Chinese culture.”  And the translation errors indicated the company “simply did not invest in a sufficiently experienced translator.” And proving cultural gaffes are not always pure translation issues, Nike recently apologized for naming a new shoe, “Black and Tan” for St. Patrick’s Day. The phrase is widely reviled in Ireland, where it calls to mind the British paramilitary forces that attacked Irish citizens during the War of Independence.

    Localization Takes Research and Customization, Not Just Translation

    “So much content today is tailored to the US market, even though a lot of revenue growth is coming from other regions, such as Asia, Africa and the Middle East,”says April Dunford, author of RocketWatcher.com and vice president of marketing for Huawei Enterprise.

    Dunford believes marketers will begin to embrace content customization, but need to do so thoughtfully. “It comes down to delivering value. Those customers have different problems and the purchase cycles are different, therefore the content we need to deliver to them will be different.”

    Olander, an American with extensive experience in China and Africa, says there are three things any business needs to consider before trying to expand into an international market:

    Research:  Olander says too many American businesses don’t “do sufficient market research to understand the linguistic and cultural needs of a particular international market.”

    Language and Cultural Expertise: Securing experienced language and cultural specialists to adapt your message and presentation to a local market.  “It is not good enough,” Olander says, “to assume that a young college student who speaks the language possesses the necessary qualifications simply because s/he speaks the language.”

    Time to Review and Revise: You need to ensure you have sufficient time in your marketing plan to allow for revisions and corrections.  “Too many marketers do not build that cushion into their plan,” Olander says, “and subsequently become frustrated when results do not materialize in their expected time frame.”


    Michael has been writing professionally for print, television and the internet for thirty years. As a Senior Producer at CNN International, he examined the future of technology with dozens of brilliant scientists, philosophers and entrepreneurs on the acclaimed series Future Summit. Before that, in the CNN International newsroom, he helped lead the production of award winning coverage of news like the 9/11 attacks, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the devastating 2004 tsunami in Asia. As a director, he has created a dozen short films in the last seven years. He lives with his wife, dog, four cats and two horses in the suburbs of Atlanta.


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