Why maintain a bilingual online presence?
For almost a year I’ve been writing a blog and more and more often I’ve been looking for inspiration in the professional areas of social media. I write about programming, startups or anything I feel like sharing with others. I’ve been wondering if I should post some Polish content besides the English one I’ve been publishing so far. I started to write in English in the first place, as it is a standard language in the IT world. Additionally, I wanted to establish some international relationships.
At the same time, I felt kind of absent here, in the local space. I wanted to be more active in the local startup community and gain some connections in the industry. What is more, my startup Sentimatic is funded by a Polish tech company that operates on a big scale in the local market. Creating targeted content would therefore be a great first step to organise some common marketing activities.
There is also a more personal side to those considerations. I often regretted that some of my family members, who aren’t fluent in English, were not able to read my articles in a foreign language and discuss certain matters with me. I intended to change it.
In this article, I’m sharing my thoughts and the research I conducted, before I decided to write in my first language.
How to separate the content written in different languages?
Channels of distribution
The first decision to make was where and how to publish my articles and thoughts. I wanted my blog and social media to continue to look professional, so considering the effort, I needed to decide whether all of my online presence should be conducted bilingually. How to find the balance between the work invested in creating bilingual content and the possibility to reach as many and as various as possible recipients and achieve other goals of my brand at the same time?
Website/blog and all social media written in two languages
This sounds like a lot of work and minimum spontaneity. In the Polish scene, it is hard to find someone who would decide to pursue such a solution. However, maybe it is sometimes worth taking a risk and starting to operate differently - reaching a high number of readers in both local and international space. There are consequences of such a decision, though. It means being responsible for translating every piece of content that is published. And not following established rules consistently wouldn’t be professional.
One of the companies that run their social media in two languages is a Polish startup Sentione (sentione.com). It is a big company that deals with Internet monitoring and creating AI chatbots. Their accounts on Twitter and Facebook are divided into Polish and English ones. The content they offer is modified depending on culture and customs, which seems to be successful among their readers.
Website in two languages and social media in one
Such a solution seems to be the most optimal one. The majority of entrepreneurs decide to have their websites written in two languages, while social media are left with only one. In the case of Twitter, the preferred language is English, while Facebook is ruled by first-language accounts. It isn’t surprising - almost 40% of Twitter users are between 25 and 34, who as the younger generation most likely speak advanced English. Facebook in Poland is now used rather by middle-aged people, who are in general not that fluent in English but can also be a preferable audience.
The blog of one of the local entrepreneurs (lukasz.bromirski.net) and his Twitter are examples of well-organised online brand promotion. The website offers brief and clear information in two languages, while Twitter is limited to English communication. It allows reposting content from international users while maintaining consistency and using the first language only sporadically for commenting on local tweets.
Website in one language, social media in another
This option is preferred by creators, who are convinced that certain areas of their online activity are dominated by lingually different groups of recipients. Conducting the website in your first language allows you to become more successful in the local market, but does it make sense to limit your interaction with international readers, who might happen to enter your website through content posted on social media? The opposite solution - websites only in English, while social media run in the first language, seems even more wrong. Since we assume that our recipients will be reading texts written in English, why would we confuse them?
The website of one of the Polish IT specialists (https://www.furas.pl) offers access to areas of his activity, which are conducted in two languages. Besides the huge amount of shared knowledge and high-quality, helpful materials, the readers might feel overwhelmed. Lack of lingual consistency and old-fashioned design do not positively infer the promotion of the offered content.
Preparation and translation of the content
Running a personal brand in multiple languages is unavoidably connected with the responsibility for the translation of the offered content. Choosing the right way of translating shared information can have a huge impact on the success in the given market and depending on its quality can help or disturb the process of building trust among the recipients.
Hiring a translator
This solution delegates some of the responsibilities connected with owning a personal brand to professionals. It is easy to notice while browsing through websites, which of the creators had decided on high-quality services of the translator, and which ones gave their content so-called a lick and a promise. Translation of an A4 page, which is around 1800 characters, costs around 10$ and the advantages coming out of such a solution can be significant.
Doesn’t matter if your translated content will be directly copied from the browser or whether you will add the translator as a tool to your website - it still won’t work. The translations of the most popular online translator leave a lot to be desired and rough-edged texts make you look neglectful.
The mentioned solution was chosen by the creator of Mikrotikon website (https://mikrotikon.pl/). Google Translator is added there as a tool allowing the change of the language. Surely, it is difficult to find Latvian translators and even harder to check the quality of their translated materials, however, even the information offered in English is far from perfect and unfortunately negatively promotes the neatly prepared content that is posted by the author.
Different content for international and local readers
Regardless of the quality of the translated content, it is worth considering whether the same information will be interesting and helpful for diverse groups of recipients.
A compelling solution regarding translation and organisation of the content based on language is offered by the marketing agency Cyrek Digital (cyrekdigital.com). While basic information on the website is offered both in their mother tongue and English, the articles posted on the blog vary depending on the choice of language. Preparing content for such thoroughly analysed readers’ needs is work labour-consuming, however the precise observation of the market can result in a higher interest from the recipients. Additionally, offering various content to your audience allows you to avoid monotony and repetitiveness.
A lot of people who are active online still decide on lingual monogamy. It provides some benefits - the workload is limited and saved time can be used on developing the brand in other directions. If you decide to choose English as the main language - the number of readers is massive- data from 2022 confirms that around 1.5 billion people use English as their first or second language. English is also a standard language for the IT sector.
Described strategy is used by one of the creators of Softwaremill (softwaremill.com) - he decided on English as his main work tool. Website and Twitter are run diligently with an emphasis on language quality, which probably yields increased interest and engagement of the followers.
The opposite solution was chosen by one of the IT creators (mansfeld.com) who stayed loyal to the Polish language. The website and blog are created in his first language, but thanks to the attention to visual aspects and the quality of texts - they attract a satisfying number of local recipients. It’s easier to push oneself forward on the local market than to compete with the entire world.
After analysing different strategies and possibilities for promoting my personal brand bilingually, I’ve decided to develop activity on the Polish market through direct promotion of my initiatives and startups in my mother tongue. Besides regularly published materials in English on my startup’s LinkedIn Page, I’ve created a separate blog, where diverse content will be shared in Polish. This article was originally written in Polish and modified for an international audience, opposite to what I plan to usually do. I think it will allow me to adjust the published content to the needs of the particular audience.
Regardless of what solution you decide on, it is worth remembering a few tips. Think about who is the target audience of your content and check statistics on the age, gender or geolocation of your readers. After making up your mind about which areas of your activity will be conducted bilingually and which won’t, stay well-organised and consequent. Place importance on quality - don’t allow your texts, and therefore your whole online activity to look non-professionally and unthoughtful. Don’t be afraid to try different solutions. Running a personal brand in several languages isn’t a life-time decision - the needs of the market might change, your personal beliefs can also evolve - that is why it is reasonable to test what strategy will work the best for you.
Let me know which solution you choose and what are your thoughts on having a bilingual brand!
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