On a whim, my girlfriend and I recently watched through two seasons of a Japanese reality show called Terrace House. It was a surprisingly quaint and charming look at the culture of modern-day Japan through the eyes of a handful of twenty-somethings. The show ended, we enjoyed the ride, I moved on—a successful moment for Netflix’s global marketing, bringing international content to a Boston apartment.
A couple days later, my girlfriend showed me her phone in excitement. One of her favorite characters from the show had posted an update to Instagram, a flow of Hiragana and Kanji characters that neither of us could read. But the photo was enough, and it let us feel that much closer to someone we had never met, who lived about as far away from us as one could.
It was one of those moments when you feel like the world has become very, very small.
We can fall asleep on red-eye flights and wake up in countries thousands of miles away. With a few minutes of searching, we can find music and television from just about any culture. With a few clicks, we can connect with nearly anyone in the world.
The technology available to us is astounding and affords us an immense measure of convenience. But it’s easy to mistake this convenience for simplicity when it comes to our own global marketing strategies.
The Illusion of Closeness
Between an ever-more connected web and advances in marketing tech, it’s become frighteningly simple to target global audiences. This is a particular issue with paid promotional channels, where social-post boosting or search advertising can be as easy as selecting an international audience and starting to bid.
But reaching global markets is far from simple—if you want to do it effectively. Avoiding translation snafus, wasting marketing budget on unqualified audiences, or simply just preventing brand embarrassment in a new space all require specific understanding and treatment of your global audience.
The fundamental principle that underlies good marketing practice on the global scale is emphasizing specificity. Knowing exactly where you want your brand to go and then working to excel in that one space will drive far more effective long-term marketing relationships than charging your content production team with a one-size-fits-all goal.
When it’s time for your company to target a new international space, it is key for that content marketing perspective to be taken into account, bearing in mind what additional resources your team will require.
Before you target a specific country, it is imperative that you do the following:
Hire a Fluent Speaker
This is a requirement. Period. If you do not have a single person on your team who speaks the native language of your target audience, then you’re effectively turning over all editing and finalization decisions to a third-party translation service. Do not even consider a country if your team doesn’t have this capability lined up.
Understand Existing Traffic
Does your English language content consistently end up on Brazilian blogs or German news aggregators? Do you have consistent social interaction from a cadre of Egyptian audience members or have you seen rapid growth in email newsletter subscriptions from Bahrain? Once you’ve validated this behavior to make sure it’s actually a qualified audience (i.e. avoiding bot traffic or automated reposting), then these indicators can point you towards audiences that might be additionally receptive to content made specifically to meet their needs.
Partner with a Local
Media literacy looks different from culture to culture, and the same goes for your brand during marketing and audience research. Information that appears credible online may actually exist with cultural context or misleading information that you won’t know to validate without the assistance of someone who understands your target cultural context from within. Partnering with a locally based content creator can be a great way to nip these issues in the bud, while also expanding your team’s ability to edit and translate your content.
Transform Your Content for the World
Striving for specificity shouldn’t only be a goal for your targeting and research but should also extend to your content strategy. Translating content isn’t enough: This effectively takes topical and stylistic decisions you made for one audience and just dumps them into another audience’s language with hopes for the best. That said, many brands may not have the resources immediately available to set up a separate content team that can focus exclusively on your new global audience. This is where content transcreation comes in.
Content transcreation can be simply understood as a method by which your content team goes beyond translating a piece of content to match up context-dependent elements with the specific goals, needs, and sensibilities of your target audience. It’s the difference between simply translating language versus actually recreating a piece of content that is both stylistically and topically relevant to your audience.
This is where having local perspective, native language speakers, and multicultural understanding housed within your team becomes crucial. Beyond this, there are a handful of technical and cultural considerations that your team should keep in mind throughout content production.
Build a Separate Persona
Creating an audience profile that takes into account preferences, goals, and lifestyle details about your target global audience is a powerful way to summarize differences in thinking that you’ll want to consider during content creation.
Research Keywords . . . Again
Language differences aside, it is likely that each of your audiences thinks and searches differently. Make sure to research both localized keyword behavior and also what search engines your target audience is likely to use.
Optimize Site Experience
Transcreation doesn’t stop at your content; it needs to extend to your audience’s whole digital experience with your brand. Push for your brand to host localized versions of your website that provide information specific to your global audiences and ultimately to create a seamless experience from your brand’s content to the rest of your site.
An effective global content marketing strategy comes down to this: If you want your brand to relate to a new international audience, you need to earn that relationship. Serving these audiences specifically and thoughtfully will go a long way towards securing your brand’s presence in your new space.
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Featured image attribution: Felix Plakolb