The Economist – offering authoritative insight and opinion on international news and business – recently ran a very interesting story about online and social media behaviours.

The piece was based on viral language tests carried out on Facebook and used by serious researchers to learn about language and the mind.

One test highlighted by The Economist attempts to guess where you might have learned most of your English. This was used as a means of exploring the notion that there is a period for language learning (just before puberty) after which it becomes much harder to learn a foreign language. Naturally, such a test will be of particular interest to linguists.

Another test likely to be of more direct interest to businesses and organisations, though, hones in on how the language you use online – and in particular, social media – is likely to influence the way that people perceive you or your organisation.

You may well think you’re being urbane and witty on Facebook or Twitter, but it may appear to other people that you are displaying less attractive traits, such as unkindness, passive aggression or downright rudeness.

If people that share the same ‘first’ language as you or your organisation can be led to perceive such negative traits, how much of a problem is it for businesses using social media to communicate and engage with international markets?
The whole point of social media is that it is ‘social’ – in other words, you have to create and maintain a personality on Facebook and Twitter, and the funnier and more approachable that personality is, the better. Social media marketing and PR experts often talk about the importance of the ‘2:1 ratio’ of two ‘social’ messages to one corporate (e.g. sandwiching a ‘salesy’ message between two that don’t relate to your business). Such an approach is proven to help organisations communicate effectively with the audiences they are marketing to – so it very much pays to play on Twitter and Facebook.

But there’s a fine line between playfulness and causing offence.

To address this, the best translation agencies have developed Transcreation – which means ‘creative translation’.

Transcreation takes into account the cultural and motivational aspects of a customer base as well as the language it speaks. Its aim is to create marketing and advertising content that will resonate in local markets in order to deliver the same impact as the original. And, indeed, to help avoid pitfalls, such as causing offence or confusing international audiences.

It is a creative process that requires a thorough understanding of the original content combined with good copywriting style in the target language.

Transcreation enables you to communicate your creative words, phrases and messages to all target audiences, thereby making it an ideal solution when it comes to translating social media content.
Before the dawn of the digital and internet age, businesses employed local branches staffed by local salespeople. They would sell the company’s products in the local language and – assuming they were good salespeople – appealed to local needs and desires.
Now, a company’s online content is a primary sales tool; and, even if sales are still made locally, that company’s Twitter or Facebook is viewed as the voice of the business. This means that correct Transcreation of social media is vital if the audience is to be engaged.

In the best communications, Transcreation combines with globalisation, localisation and translation to create a consistent image, style, tone, look and feel. When this is achieved, customers across the world have the same experience in relation to a brand.
This is achieved through a multi-stage process that begins with research (in-country, if possible) and progresses through drafting, testing and refining before going live. Even then, results should be tracked to ensure that the message is communicating effectively.
The best marketing and social media campaigns can fall at the first hurdle if the target market is misunderstood. Demographics, economics, culture, emotion, user experience and legal implications are all as important as pure translation. But companies that get Transcreation right can reap the benefits of unparalleled global sales.