Once upon a time, prophets said that the internet would erase local differences. The World Wide Web would gather everybody in its tentacles, and force us to buy the same things, using the same language – washing national cultures away.
That hasn’t happened. In fact, as marketing has become more sophisticated, localisation has allowed companies to target specific languages in incredible detail. This allows brands to communicate in totally different ways for their separate target markets, but it leads to an important question: which markets should you target with local strategies?
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Firstly, it makes sense to create tailored marketing strategies for languages with the largest number of speakers. To get us started, here’s a quick list of the world’s 10 most common languages by number of native speakers:
The numbers are approximate, as many people are semi-fluent (and statistics aren’t necessarily 100% accurate). However, they indicate how massive some of the most popular languages are – and how companies can miss out by failing to engage their speakers.
Most companies are comfortable to act in their native culture (so, the culture of where they are based) but feel a lot less confident when branching out. But look around you. Companies like Ikea, Coca-Cola and Facebook show how these barriers don’t need to be an issue. And there are several ways ordinary businesses can tailor their marketing to local needs.
Social media companies like Facebook are well aware of the value of creating locally-tailored content. That’s why they provide tools to create locally specific ads.
With these tools, marketers can bundle together their international efforts, instead of running several parallel campaigns. And Facebook’s tools can optimise your campaigns to boost traffic, conversions or app installs.
When crafting locally tailored marketing strategies, you don’t just need to worry about getting the language right. Targeted adverts and social media posts also have to be timed correctly to suit the lifestyles of the market-members you’re trying to reach.
It’s easy to forget that the working day in Delhi is completely different to that in Sao Paulo or Melbourne. And when you rely on posting at peak times, like during lunch breaks or just after users arrive home, getting the timing right is vital.
When choosing which languages to target, the list above isn’t actually the final word. That’s because internet content language statistics show that some languages have an out-sized online presence.
For example, Bahasa Indonesian is outside the top 10 most spoken languages, but it’s the 6th most common online tongue. Similarly, French is more popular online than you would assume based on ‘real-world’ stats. So take that into account when planning your next move.
Localisation is more than using the world’s most popular languages. It also means using them in ways which are appreciated by the individuals who speak those languages.
In other words, it’s about knowing the cultural references and turns of phrase which show that you understand the culture you are targeting – and are not just translating generic marketing materials. This takes skill and investment – so don’t economise too much on culture-specific, truly localised content creation.
At greatcontent, we specialise in creating tailored content in the world’s most widely spoken languages. Whether you need multilingual destination descriptions or fluent, creative landing page copywriting services, we can do the job.
Just get in touch with your project, and we can start focusing your branding efforts like never before.
Text: Sam Urquhart