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Sailing the seven (over)seas – How to navigate the global social media sphere

Updated: Feb 13

Translation has been an evolving industry since its inception, we’ve come a long way from The Rosetta Stone, by way of paper dictionaries and translation software. Social media translation is but one of the latest frontiers and, as the tide changes, service providers must move with it or risk floundering on the shore.


WIT donned its wet suit long ago, diving 20,000 leagues under the social media sea with our work on the Accor Hotels #emojisearch and #MyTravelSong campaigns. But, last year, we found the heart of the ocean, enlisting a team of community managers and translators across 7 markets and 4 time zones, interacting daily with over 125,000 followers worldwide (and the countries just keep coming). So, what have we learned?



Social media makes a splash


Brands the world over are on social media in some form or another, be it as a means of self-promotion or of enabling free, instant interaction with users, customers and competitors. And with ‘the English language finally losing its grip on the internet’ there is certainly a place for translation to meet the ‘demand for local-dialect entertainment around the world – and build a digital Babel in the process.’ That said, it is not without its pitfalls. This wild new world means making new waves in the type of translated content we produce and how we produce it.


Firstly, social media is a culture unto itself and, ergo, a minefield (in any language); a firm grasp of internet culture, acronyms and subtle ~humour~ is a must when it comes to exposing your brand to such a vast, diverse audience. Furthermore, this culture varies country to country, along with the veins through which it flows; Facebook and Twitter are not available in China, whereas other platforms have varying popularity by region.



Enter, the community manager – the new-age ghost writer if you will – so much more than any old gen-Z employee with a penchant for a hashtag. Community management, ‘the process of building an authentic community through various types of (online) interaction’, goes hand-in-hand with translation as it requires strong language skills; nobody wants a typo pile-on for starters, then fitting relevant, engaging information into a concise post is arguably the epitome of linguistic prowess.


But a drop in the ocean


Then there’s the little matter of how we manage this content. Firstly, we’ll let you in on a secret… while social media may appear to be happening in real time, posts are usually planned out and scheduled days or weeks in advance. Here then, we translators could sit fairly comfortably in our traditional model of translation, revision, client review, implementation (no boat rocking required). That is if it weren’t for the sheer velocity of the Twittersphere; a tweet has an average shelf-life of 18 minutes compared to five hours for a Facebook post and 21 hours for Instagram. In the case of Twitter, this is less time than it would typically take to translate it, and yet, it will be exposed to potentially millions of users. How to strike the balance?

Conversely, social media also comes with a race-against-the-clock element; clients looking to build their social media presence overseas need real-time, interactive translation. With social media, scope for engagement often comes with a very limited window of opportunity; posts must be translated while they are still relevant and impactful.


All things considered, the juggling act of efficiency, consistency, quality and relevance is, therefore, merciless. Luckily, the WIT crew is no stranger to multilingual projects, and we are always raring to take the plunge into the (not so) unknown!

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Written by Amy Reid, WIT Account Manager

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