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How Companies and Users are Going Multilingual on Twitter

The days when people thought a social network with a 140-character limit would never catch on are long gone. Not satisfied with being the second most popular social network in the US, Twitter has also become a worldwide phenomenon.

Short and snappy tweets can be a powerful way of getting the word out. Twitter is a format that’s perfectly suited to today’s busy web, where grabbing a customer’s attention is ever more challenging. Now the smartest business owners are waking up to the power of Twitter to reach an international audience.

A Twitter usage report by Semiocast reveals several reasons that you should join. For instance, last year Brazil reached 41.2 million users on Twitter, with Japan following at around 35 million. Indonesia saw the most rapid increase in account registrations, with the nation’s capital city Jakarta having Twitter’s most active users.

In fact, six out of the top ten cities on Twitter are in countries where English isn’t the native language. Arabic speakers have already gained 6th place in Twitter users by language and have been joining the site at an impressive rate. If you want to keep up with these exciting changes, it’s time to come up with an international Twitter strategy.

One Account per Language
The golden rule of social media is not to spam your followers. Sadly, if you are tweeting in languages a follower doesn’t understand, even the most interesting tweet will look like spam. Saying the same thing in multiple languages is guaranteed to bore any multilingual followers too.

Instead, stick to one Twitter account for each language you choose to use. If this sounds like a hassle, the good news is that there are sites that can help you manage your multiple accounts. Check out the Tweetdeck app for your desktop or Chrome web browser, or for similar functionality on iOS, try Twitterific.

Keep On Target
If you don’t have the international marketing department you dream of, it makes sense to use the resources you do have effectively. While going international means reaching more people around the globe, there’s no need to target every language on Twitter. For example, Tokyo may be the second most active city on Twitter, but is it a key market for your own product or brand?

Focus on the nations and languages that will work for you. Some languages will reach several countries; Spanish, for instance, is the national language for five of the countries in the Twitter top twenty. Others languages, such as Turkish, have a narrower reach but could indicate growth markets.

Be Word Perfect
140 characters won’t give you much room to make the right impression. Make sure your translations are flawless. When translating into another language, focus on conveying the right meaning and tone, rather than just a word-for-word translation. The second method will make your tweets sound robotic and could even produce hilarious results.

Composing tweets that are not only accurate but are pitched at the right level and use natural-sounding language can be tricky. Add to this the need to be interesting and even witty to keep your Twitter followers, and it’s easy to be put off. Make use of native-speaker knowledge to take the stress out of it.

Demonstrate Local Knowledge
While translation allows you to communicate in other languages on Twitter, localization helps you to build trust and authenticity. Adapt your message to your readers. For example, use their currency and units of measurement. Also make sure abbreviations and acronyms mean what you think you mean, as these can change from country to country.

Going local on Twitter can also involve changing the language itself, such as using different terminology for Latin American Spanish or for Canadian French than their European counterparts. The informal tone of social media, which often follows spoken usage, makes these differences all the more important.

Keep the Dialogue Going
Successful social-media marketers focus on the interactive aspects of networks like Twitter. They don’t simply deliver a message; they create opportunities for others to get involved. Focus on creating content that others want to retweet and share elsewhere. This way your followers extend your reach in an organic way, which can be especially helpful for foreign-language markets.

A study by The New York Times, The Psychology of Sharing, reveals that people are likely to share content that will entertain or help others. In other words, be interesting, be funny, or offer useful information. Keep up to date with what people care about around the world via a Twitter trending-topics tool such as What the Trend.

With Twitter now a truly global network, your efforts to go multilingual will be rewarded many times over. After all, the more attention you pay to internationalization on Twitter, the more attention international Twitter users will pay to you!

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