How To Manage Your Online Reputation Across Different Languages

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Considering only 27% of netizens speak English (and the vast majority of those speak it as a second language), taking your brand global is a very wise move. There’s a huge multilingual market out there waiting for brands that speak directly to them. In fact, 85% of internet users say that they are more likely to purchase something if the product information is in their mother-tongue (Common Sense Advisory).

However, simply translating your website and hoping that the purchases pour in isn’t enough. As in English, it is just as important to build an online reputation in the chosen language, and this includes getting involved in digital spaces, speaking to current and potential customers and listening to their feedback. Here are some top tips on how to manage your online reputation across different languages.

Know Your Audience

The first step in managing your online reputation across foreign languages is identifying who is doing the talking and what they are saying. A simple and free way to keep track of your online presence is through Google Alerts. Register for alerts on your brand name and keywords or phrases connected to your field and they’ll send daily email alerts with any mentions online. There are options to select the regularity of the alerts, as well as the relevance – receiving them as and when they appear means you can deal with any issues straight away.

Board Tracker is another handy message-board tracking service that trawls message boards and forums for any mentions of your keywords. It’s also worthwhile following any Twitter hashtags related to your website or blog in foreign languages.

Listen and Learn

Identifying where people are talking about you online is great, but even more important is making sure you respond to their feedback to make your brand as interactive as possible. Having a translator at your beck-and-call can be expensive; machine translation programs like Google Translate are often good enough to get the gist of comments and identify which need to be responded to. However, for your replies, think about sourcing professional human translation to avoid any embarrassing mistranslations.

The trend has always been that people are more likely to complain than they are to rejoice, so the majority of work involved in managing an online reputation is dealing with criticism. Choosing to ignore negativity can be detrimental, as silence is often associated with being in the wrong. Instead, respond to your critics in a calm and civil manner, and provide them with the information they require. Responding also shows that you listen to your readers or customers, and that you are open-minded. If they persist, ask for a private email address so that you can discuss the matter out of the public eye.

Remember you can always help to promote a positive image of your brand online. If someone gives you great feedback on your website or product, encourage them to talk about it in public forums, such as Facebook, personal blogs, Twitter, etc. Getting them to link their comments back to your website spreads their genuine positivity. Word of mouth is king nowadays and a recommendation from a peer is worth thousands of pounds in advertising.

Get Out Into The Online World

Managing an online reputation is as much about being proactive as it is reactive. Look to guest blog, provide comment or interviews on a relevant topic, or share content with similar industry contacts. And make sure you do some research into which social mediums work best in each country; for example, in Holland, the social networking site Hyves has over 10.3 million accounts, making it a strong competitor with Facebook. What works in one country is not always the best strategy for another.

Operating across multiple languages online opens up massive new audiences, and luckily managing your reputation in languages you don’t speak is not as difficult as you may imagine. The key is being approachable, human and honest, and ensuring nothing is ‘lost in translation’; once you’ve mastered that, netizens will flock to you.

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Published by Christian Arno

Article by , the Managing Director of Lingo24, Inc. Follow Lingo24, Inc. on Twitter.

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48 Comments

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  1. So true that building a strong reputation online is not an easy task. There are important steps that must be considered and knowing your target clients is one of the most important component. No doubt that building and managing your online reputation is crucial most especially across different languages since internet has wide scope. Thanks for sharing some helpful ideas!

    1. Thanks for letting me know that you found Christian’s guest post helpful Dave. I learned from it too. Right now, the vast majority of my readers are in English speaking countries but you never know.

  2. It’s easy to break the language barrier these days, the internet hands us countless means. We just have to use them to their full potential. The truth is, foreigners are a huge and untapped client database that could bring any company a lot more money than they already get from english speakers.

  3. If you want to get more traffic and to become more popular you surely need to hit international cyberspace. But the programs for automatic translation are no good in this situation because their translation is clumsy and inaccurate. What I suggest is cooperation with the native speaker from the country you’re aiming at. Thus you’ll get quality translation of your content.

    1. Eugene,
      That sounds like a great suggestion to work with a native speaker. Do you have any suggestions on how someone would go about finding a person to work with that they could trust? I’m sure there are many resources for someone who had a reasonable budget but I’m wondering if you (or anyone else) has any suggestions for the solpreneur who has limited resources.

  4. As a translator, I cringe at the thought of machine translations. At the same time, I run a content website (not the one in my link) where a very large part of the traffic comes from all over Asia. In my analytics I can see that Google translate is used very frequently. So I suppose I shouldn’t complain, but I often wonder what on earth they get out of reading my articles using machine translation… particularly when translated to something like Japanese.

    There is another factor also beyond the simple English speaking percentage. Sometimes, even people who speak English very well will favour sites in their own language. I read some statistics for Denmark recently showing an overwhelming preference for Danish versions of international sites. Now, in Denmark, almost everyone is fluent in English, but they still prefer a local “feel”.

    1. Alan,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to weigh in on this topic. It’s great to hear from a professional translator. It’s interesting that your site is viewed often using Goggle translate. There’s probably no easy way to do this but it would be very insightful if you could determine the time spent on your site and the number of pages viewed by that segment of your visitors who are using that.

      Great observation about English speaking people preferring websites written in their own language. That makes a lot of sense.

  5. It would be very easy for ‘smaller’ businesses to rely on mechanical translation but as most who have use these systems will testify they are far from readable let alone accurate! Great article full of useful information.

  6. Reaching out globally can definitely be a good strategy for growing our businesses. This discussion has me thinking about the pros and cons of software to translate your site. My impression is that it would not be appropriate for a blog like mine but I’m wondering if there are applications where it would be adequate. I’d be interested in hearing from bloggers willing to share their experiences with translation software.

  7. I like the idea of Get Out Into The Online World because you are not only focusing on one market, but you’re trying to reach out for other potential customers all around the world. In this way, you really need to consider getting some translators or knowing even just a few words of some languages to start with.

  8. great post, i work as a translator, I wouldnever recommend using Google Translate or any other software of that kind. It can`t do it well and is useful only for you to see the main topic of the text. i think it also i makes you look very unprofessional and at times ridiculous. do others feel the same’

    1. I’m not a big fan of translation software. It’s helpful to me when someone shares my content on a social media site. If I find out that their site is in a language other than English, I may still want to accept the backlink or possibly tweet for them. Using the translate button can help me to decide if I want to be associated with their site or if it’s spam.

  9. Having your blog in different languages is a good way to get extra traffic from all over the world. There are a lot of places where you can hire people who will translate your blog posts for a really cheap price. As far as I know in Europe there are several countries where AdSense ad have a higher CPC ( Denmark, Holland etc.)
    The bad side of that it is that has one of the most expensive languages in the world( i.e Danish).

    1. Michael,
      That’s an interesting observation. Do you run PPC ads that have been translated to other languages? That is something that I personally don’t have any experience with. It would be interesting to hear from readers who have done that. I’d be interested in knowing if you (or anyone else) translated the landing page as well or created a new targeted landing page in that native language.

  10. the 27% figure seems a bit low! At this point a majority of countries actually give English class to their kids in highschool. Additionally, many other countries are bombarded with English words and phrases on a daily basis via all sorts of media.
    The thrust of the article remains the same, but I just feel the “problem” is being maximized a tad!

    1. Hi Gregory,
      It’s good to question statistics. (I do it all the time myself.) You had me wondering though. So, I Googled it and according to this site, http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats7.htm, English is the number one language used on the Internet with 26.8%.

      I definitely feel that not knowing any languages other than English does put us at a disadvantage though. I think here in the U.S., there should be more effort put into teaching languages in our schools. I would suggest Chinese since that came in second at 24.2%

  11. As somebody who works as a translator, I wouldn’t EVER recommend using Google Translate or any other software of that kind for your texts. It can never do it well and it useful only for you to see the main topic of the text. Otherwise, it makes you look very unprofessional and at times ridiculous.

    Human translators have different prices. This service doesn’t have to be expensive at all since you don’t really need the best possible translator, nor the most experienced one to translate the texts that are at the difficulty level like your blog. It’s a clear and concise language that even beginners can do very well.

    1. Thanks for weighing in on this Ana. I would have thought that translating would be an expensive service but like so many services these days, global competition has probably made it much more affordable.

  12. Hi Christian,
    Great post.You have shared very important points on how to manage our online reputation across different languages.This post is helpful for many readers especially for those who are new in this field,.

    1. Thanks for dropping by Pete. When Christian offered to write a guest post on translating web content and managing our online reputations, I accepted his offer in hopes that other readers would find it helpful

  13. Christian Arno’s excellent topic raised at international level is quite pertinent. The dimensions online reputation reaches are in accordance with the audience and the condition to know about it. Language and communication is the link between online businesses and their reputation meanwhile good translations are their tools.
    As far as I am concerned for a positive online reputation companies have both to meet or adapt to their customer feedback and to turn criticism into praise.

    1. I am grateful that Christian raised the issue of managing your online presence in multiple languages. Usually, when I think of translation services, I think of marketing efforts but reputation management is at least equally important.

  14. From past experiences, and due to dialect differences between different regions, the best way to translate your content is to find a translator with experience and local knowledge of your targeted area. For example even in the case of English, there are subtle differences in how you communicate with UK compared to Ireland residents, even though English is spoken in both countries by almost the entire population. This becomes even more difficult when trying to use a new language and the problem for most small business owners will have is the cost of hiring experienced writer and translators in other languages.

    1. Mary, Thank you so much for weighing in on this topic. When you take into account targeted areas and dialect differences, this could become an even larger project than I would have originally expected.

  15. Hi. The idea of promoting your business in different languages is very actual with English-speaking Internet being almost completely explored. And I agree that it’s much more pleasant to read about something in your native language. And speaking about the problem of translation. I think it might be a good idea to cooperate with people from other countries that do the same business as you. They can translate your articles in their language and you in return do the same.

    1. That’s an interesting idea Brad and one that I don’t believe has been mentioned yet. Collaborating with complimentary but non-competitive business can prove to be a great source of referrals. This could be an idea for helping each other especially when it comes to managing your online reputation on social media sites. Thanks for adding that.

  16. I think simply translating is the worst you can do. I personally think, that there is a completely different way how people from different countries perceive websites. If you compare e.g. the websites of British, French and German railway companies and how you find the train schedules, you will find completely different ways for each country. I do not judge any of those websites being confusing, but I think this example shows, that people from different countries have a different “online behaviour”, which needs to be considered when setting up a version of your website in a different language.

    1. Tobias, You make an excellent point. Translating your site should be part of an overall strategy as would be managing your online reputation in that language as well. Honestly, until Christian offered to write this guest post, I hadn’t given this topic a lot of thought. Now that I’m reading through the comments, I realize that if someone were simply to translate their existing site into other languages without addressing the possible implications, they could easily cause damage to their existing brand.

  17. With services like yours Christian, the world gets smaller and smaller. I’m thinking another great way to use your service is to proactively search out high ranking blogs in one’s field (in other languages) and leave smart comments for great backlink juice.

  18. You mentioned Google alerts but when I look at my Google Analytics, I notice the hits that I get on their world map. It astonishes me that they come from every continent. So far, I’m only in English and I imagine I’ll have to keep it that way since my work involve me speaking (coaching) to clients. In any event, you raise very good points about how to “reach” people in the simplest of ways.

      1. That’s a great question Sherryl and you’ve stretched the point of your blog in a new direction for me. Thank you!

  19. I remember that my PR agency has to work very hard to make possible a true conversation with our potential clients in other countries and definitely it was a success when we made an effort to not only speak in different languages but also with different points of view

  20. Christian, I’d like to thank you again for contributing such a well written article. To be competitive internationally, this is definitely a topic that we need to be aware of. From reading the comments, I think we’re all in agreement that machine translations may get us into trouble. Sometimes, saving money and time will cost us more in the long run.

  21. I agree with you that machine translation is rubbish. I used to work for a nonprofit organization and we tried to use a software program to translate marketing materials. One of the women in the administration staff used to laugh at the translations. Eventually, she was promoted and assigned the task. There’s no real substitution for a human being who is skilled and educated. Thanks for weighing in on this.

  22. Christian the market is irrevocably global and that determines how you work.

    However, am truly international and have for about 25 years worked with and in almost all countries in the world. It’s not as difficult as it may sound. You manage very well with English, Spanish and French. Even in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia.

    The only language that would have been a benefit is Mandarine.

    When, like me, you speak languages like Swedish and Danish you quickly notice that Google Translate is useless. The translation is often so bad you don’t even understand what they are trying to say.

    If you are doing business in China, the Middle East and Russia you may wish to have versions of your websites in those languages. Obviously depending on what you are doing and how much.

    1. Hi Catarina,
      I’m so glad that you weighed in on this. I just replied to Kristina that I often feel at a disadvantage by not being fluent in other languages. Although I have no “ear” at all for languages, I do a passable job of understanding written French. So, based on your input, if I could understand Spanish, I’d be in a better position.

      I find Christian’s take on managing your online reputation in multiple languages especially interesting. I often see my blog articles retweeted but I quite frankly don’t know what’s being said. At this point, I’m not actively pursuing a global market but who knows what the future will bring. What’s your take on Thad’s suggestion to hire liberal arts majors? (Ideally, they would have a communications background too. 🙂 )

      1. Sherryl I think we shouldn’t make the global market more complicated than it is. What people say about us in Chinese we will not find out. Hopefully something positive.

        If and when you decide to operate globally you will do very well. You can ask me about anything and I will help as much as I can.

  23. Hi, Christian,
    I agree that we should think globally, not locally. Especially when having in mind that internet is not all about the English language and its natives exclusively. I also find Google translator to be helpful, although it can make some “tarzanic” translations, so having a human translator is of great relevance to avoid possible embarrassing mistranslations, as you stated for yourself.

    1. Hi Kristina,
      I sometimes feel at a real disadvantage when I see my blog posts tweeted by someone who is blogging in another language. I know enough French to be able to translate most of what’s being said but I’m almost embarrassed that I’m only fluent in one language. Reading this conversation, it occurs to me that I could use Google translator to help me understand online conversations better. I’m often reluctant to follow someone because I don’t know what’s being said.

  24. Smart article! I agree the work can be tedious. That’s what liberal arts majors are for. MBAs should get as smart as the US Department of Defense and hire sociologists, anthropologists even political science majors to understand potential allies. I would email Lingo24 and get one.

    If you want to know everything about your market or potential foreign online market hire liberal arts majors (these are people that took foreign language instead of calculus in college). They are little gems for two reasons. I think our dads knew this back in the 1960s but forgot to pass the info along. 1) They work for peanuts and 2) do in-depth sometimes market making research as an amateur. Which is for the love of it! (amour). Room, board, per diem, trransportation costs and reasonable salary (hint:BA reasonable is a couple orders of magnitude lower then the MBA reasonable) and you’ll get more data than your marketing team will know what to do with. The contingency planning for virtual never ending reoccurring revenue is fantastic. International themes can be bounced off different parts of the globe 24.7. Look ma – no office and the sun never sets on your empire. The online market is still in the early stages of the printing press. These markets will get fleshed out but the fields are open now.

    HR: If you get a standard Big Ten University type or local equivalent they follow directions and can often craft their work into a marketing plan outline. Organize the contract like learning outcomes that answer your standard marketing questions. Take that data and use MBA’s to craft the message for funding. Christian Arno is right. 80% of the online market is not in the US. As a wise ole cowboy named Wes liked to say, “Get’em boys”.

    1. Thad, Thank you so much for adding to this conversation. Hiring college students is an excellent suggestion. I’ve blogged before about tapping into the talent that’s available at local universities. This sounds like a real win-win solution.

  25. True about global brands. Learning how your brand can penetrate to the foreign markets involves a great deal of effort.

    1. George, I agree. I know that when/if I reach the point of wanting to reach foreign markets, I will definitely need to elicit outside help. That’s not something that I would attempt to do alone.