Creating an International Content Strategy with effective Localisation

The Importance of Content

Content has and always will play a vital role in business strategy. This was the case even before the digital transformation, where the primary method of marketing was print. Now, quality content is more important than ever in order to stand out in an extremely crowded market. High-quality multilingual content is the key for vendors to promote their products and services globally and make them appealing and engaging to potential buyers in their own language. Therefore, creatives and (multilingual creatives) have a huge responsibility, and their role can be quite demanding. It is imperative that a well thought out international content strategy is created before any content is written! In this post, we are mainly looking at content aimed at the digital world but many of the concepts are still relevant in print media. 

Content Market Research

In order to succeed with providing content that will engage and ultimately influence, the first step is trying to “walk in customers’ shoes” and understand what they are looking for and how they would generally be most susceptible to absorbing it.  

The key at this stage is to understand that each and every industry will have its own “best practices” of how and where to service content and this could change from county to country. You can research these for your industry using the infinite resources available online. You might, however, find that what you are looking to do hasn’t been done before or these existing methods or platforms may already be saturated so it could be worth trying something new or doing some A/B testing with untested methods.

Not all services and products are considered the same way in all parts of the world and it’s important that from the beginning you understand what that local market thinks of your product, your competitor’s product and your industry. All of these factors can help you when you consider how to approach developing your content. If there is a certain stigma or common misconception that is relevant to your product or services then your content may be forced to address this in your content. 

If you are looking for help with your market research then you could look at the services such as those offered by the British Library who can help you to collect and compile this research. There may well however already be comprehensive data available online for your industry so it’s worth committing the time to find this out and not spending time performing work that has already been exhausted as long as it has been done by a reputable source. 

Research, research, research is the key to a successful multilingual content strategy really helping your content to gain acceptance with your target audence. 

Presenting the content to the individual

Methods of communication are generally chosen on the basis of the type of customers to target and where they can be found. Depending on the specific medium you are serving your content through, you may be able to very specifically target the content to the audience. For the young, tech-savvy, social media is often the popular choice for good reason. Facebook, for example, allows a really granular level of audience targeting. This can include; Gender, age, location and even personal interests. This high level of targeting means that you can present your message “in the voice of the educated” as they will likely already know the industry or relevant terms depending on the product or service. This can allow you to be much more direct with your message and not have to “draw them in” so to speak as you may in more general print advertising. 

“Don’t treat your customers only as demographics and income brackets; talk to them the way they talk to their friends and use the same tools they’re using, whether that’s Line, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook, or WeChat. Global marketing is about fully understanding and appreciating the nuances and unique demands of different regions.”

Taylor Howard – Alibaba

Other audiences will likely have alternative ways to best “get in front” of them. As an example, if your target audience were retired fishing enthusiasts. There may well be popular blogs or websites that you can advertise or guest post on. Equally, research would likely suggest that there would be a sizable chunk of this target market who wouldn’t use the internet at all and thus perhaps content presented in a popular print magazine would be more beneficial. 

Going back to the digital world, there are certain groups of people who prefer content in video, some in downloadable whitepapers and some in long form blogs with infographics to emphasize key points. Obviously, this also depends on the product or service lending itself to these mediums and also your ability to be able to create them. 

Sometimes the advantage of a global campaign is that while it has been exhausted in a particular global market, this type of campaign hasn’t been used in your new target market. This can offer the advantage of “not having to re-invent the wheel” but as we will talk about later it is key to make sure that the key messages are localised to the target market and it’s not assumed that direct translations of English concepts for example will work in China. 

Once you understand where your content is going to be placed you will also then want to consider what restrictions or considerations need to be given to that medium. Twitter has a character limit for example which although has recently increased still requires you to be fairly succinct and to the point. As a rule of thumb, a short piece of content such as this would be used as a “headline grabber” to quickly get the atention of users and then direct them to a longer piece of content or to a product page. 

Adapting the content to the platform

Facebook allows much longer from content but you need to consider if people really want to spend 20 mins reading a Facebook post or will they end up moving on. More likely for Facebook you would try to get a little more engagement before directing them somewhere else. 

LinkedIn generally dictates a slightly more formal “business like” tone and in most (but not all) cases relates to B2B (Business to Business) dealing. 

All of these social channels will allow the addition of images and video amongst other things to really try and grab the attention and some will be more appropriate to some channels depending on specifically what is contained within them. 

Social channels don’t always need to be used simply to engage and then divert traffic to a blog post or call-to-action. They can also be great to build up a sense of expertise and belief in a brand. If an industry related Twitter field is regularly posting relevant and engaging comment on ongoing events then trust will be built up over time. When that same Twitter feed then does offer content relating to products and services people are more lilely to listen and also to act on it. 

Not all social media platforms are available in all potential global target markets. In China, for example, you need to be aware of Sina Weibo (新浪微博) and in Russia, Vkontakte (ВКонтакте).

If your content is going to be aimed at printed media such as in a magazine or a billboard clearly these considerations change dramatically. 

Localising your content to international markets

At this stage you should know who you are targeting and you should know where your content will exist. You should also know the considerations of using the chosen medium for your content in terms of what people want to engage with on that platform and what should be presented to them.

You may have created the perfect content marketing campaign that has generated lots of attention in a particular market.  For example, let’s say it has done well in the UK. 

It’s fairly clear that you can’t then run this same campaign for the German market. It’s maybe not always clear that you can’t just get a marketing campaign translated literally from English to German. Nuances, local references and often the sense of humour simply don’t come across. The process of translating this content is called localisation (or localization if you are across the pond!). 

You will always need to get someone with local market knowledge to localise your content to ensure it hits the mark, this will include things like cultural considerations. It is important to make sure that they fully understand the original message of the content. Only then can they go on to achieve the required result when localising into a new language and culture.

You can find out a bit more about our Localisation services here.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

When creating any content for the web you always need to ensure the SEO is at the forefront at the content is created. Having SEO friendly content enables it to be found and indexed by search engines. This also applies to international content. We are currently compiling a detailed post on international and multilingual SEO considerations within your content which will be available very soon.

To Summarise

Planning out a clear international and multiligual content strategy is vital. Ensure that this plan is created before the content. Make sure that the people generating the content are subject matter experts in the content they are writing about. If they are not then it will show. Ensure that the content is tailored to not only the audience but to the platform on which it will be presented. Make sure that any additions to the content such as images and videos are appropriate and well thought out. 

This post is a starting block for our thoughts on quality international multilingual content and content marketing. We will be adding specific ideas over the coming months. Please feel free to add your comments and thoughts. 

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