5 tips for engaging with multilingual audiences on social media

If your audience lives in Mexico or China—or lives in the U.S. and speaks Spanish or Chinese—you need to reach them in their native tongue. Here’s how.

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In Chicago, for example, more than one million people in the city and surrounding suburbs speak Spanish as a first language, 22,000 speak Chinese, and more than 35,000 speak Polish.

Although they may understand English, social media is about connecting with customers on a personal level—and what could be more personal than one’s mother tongue?

I have helped manage social media for organizations in the private, nonprofit, and public sectors, and the following basic tips helped me determine the best way to reach multi-cultural and multi-lingual audiences:

1. Know your audience

It sounds obvious, but it’s important to determine whether you actually need to engage in multiple languages before you expend the time and resources to launch a new initiative. “Because it would be cool” is not a good reason to start tweeting in Farsi—you should always be able to back up your ideas with hard data.

Use analytics, surveys, and market research to determine just how many new potential customers your brand will reach in a new language and exactly who those customers are. Find out where they live, what browsers and operating systems they use, what their habits are online, and which languages they prefer?

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