It has never been easier to connect with customers. Whether new or old the Internet allows customers and entrepreneurs to develop an online reputation by talking directly to consumers via social networking sites, blogs and websites. For brands, the development has been revolutionary. Geography, time zones and culture these are no longer an impediment to growth but instead an opportunity to expand and reach more markets.
Yet with this opportunity comes an increasing risk. An online reputation can operate in the same way as your profile one to one. If a company or entrepreneur is trusted by their expertise, experience and personable quality they will go far. However, bad customer service or a casual remark that offends or alienates consumers can be damaging. This is as true online as it is offline. The issue becomes more important when talking to a global marketplace. Language, culture, online practice; all these things change from country to country. If engagement is the buzzword that ensures an online reputation is protected in the US, then surely this same practice has to be rolled out across the globe to match expansion?
Talk in a native tongue
English may be the dominant language online but if a business is built in different marketplaces then it is important to employ native copywriters and communicators who can translate content and make it applicable to each different marketplace.
Translation services online, like Yahoo and Babelfish, can in theory be used across each social networking platform and translate each post. Yet the reason social networks, particularly like Twitter, Facebook and Renren work is that they give companies a human angle. Machines, or bots as they are known online, churning out untargeted material make consumers switch off. Personable, chatty updates using slang and colloquialisms – vital if a brand is connecting with a younger market – are more attractive. If an entrepreneur is using social networks to prove their knowledge and expertise they may use jargon or technical language. One mistake and it will undermine a reputation. Using a native speaker removes this risk. Not only utilized for social networks, copywriters can produce blogs topics, news stories or articles that will increase the content on a website boosting a brand’s visibility on search engines and giving consumers more to read.
Where are you talking?
Not every country uses the same social networking sites, so to engage with different users around the world and cast your net, a company or entrepreneur will have to research and investigate the popular networks in their target markets. Twitter is blocked in China for example. Users there prefer Renren, which is similar to Facebook. In India Orkut is as popular as it is in Brazil. Mixi and Gree are used in Japan while in Russia sites like VKontakte and Odnoklassniki have more than 100 million users. Huge audiences and huge potential for interaction.
Researching the right social network is the first step. The next is to investigate best practice and how users interact and share information. In Japan networks users will be more likely to invest in good content. Vkontakte is so high profile in Russia because of its ability to easily share music and video. Firms in Russia often use it for recruitment so for a business wanting to interact with graduates or students this platform is vital. In China social networks are used to share blogs and forum comments. Understanding how consumers interact makes it much easier to join the conversation.
Invest in regular work
Some companies think it is enough to simply update their Twitter or Facebook once every few days. Social networks are built on interaction, and this is true around the globe. Investing in a native speaker who can interact with consumers, answer their questions and requests will develop a more solid online reputation. A calm and measured response works well if dealing with complaints.
Encouraging engagement is an ideal way to build an online reputation. Whether online reviews, polls or the opportunity to add comments these will help customers feel they are part of a brand. Yet to maintain this engagement investment does need to be made on the right person to interact on the same level as customers, ensuring there are no language errors and grammatical faux pas.
Monitor your reputation
The best way to keep a good online reputation is to monitor what people are saying. Either free or with a monthly fee, there are different programmes that can send regular reports of social media comments and mentions, blogs or news stories. It is a useful way of keeping track, responding to comments and questions that might not have been answered or setting the record straight if a comment is made that might damage the brand. Programmes like Radian 6 and Lithium provide regular updates for a fee. For free SocialMention charts keywords in different networks and platforms including blogs, events, news and videos. BlogPulse searches for mentions in blogs while MonitorThis searches 26 search engines. These are particularly vital if working with a global market as some may simply focus on Facebook and Twitter, making it difficult to track what consumers in different countries are saying.
Maintaining an online reputation around the globe is simply a matter of knowing what consumers are saying, and where they are saying it. Using the same communication principles in social networking platforms in the US and Canada of engagement, honesty and personable interaction it becomes increasingly important to understand trends abroad and make sure a native speaker helps a company or entrepreneur talk to new or potential customers in their own tongue.
About the author
Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, providers of professional translation services and multilingual SEO. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 165 employees spanning four continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over sixty million words for businesses in every industry sector. Follow Christian (@l24ca) and Lingo24 (@Lingo24) on Twitter.