Dwyane Wade’s Facebook Translation Experiment
What happens when a superstar athlete starts speaking languages?
One of the most exciting parts of running a top-rated translation company is that we get to work on some amazing projects. Mostly, we aren’t allowed to talk about the stuff we do, but every once in a while our clients are okay with sharing some info. This is one of those cases.
Dwyane Wade is a brilliant and wildly popular basketball star. His name is a major brand, and he has fans all over the planet. We joined forces with Dwyane Wade and The Factory Interactive to establish once and for all if localizing social media messages actually boosts response or if it’s just a nice idea.
First, we needed to reach a lot of D-Wade fans quickly, in multiple languages. Facebook has the best language support of any social media platform, with some pretty clever algorithms under the hood that allow messages to be visible only to speakers of a particular language. This meant we could create translated posts that would be seen only by the speakers of our selected languages. This was important, as we didn’t want the English-speaking audience to find a bunch of foreign language posts on their walls.
Dwyane’s social media team did a Facebook Connect to Transfluent’s service, which made it possible for us to send all new posts for translation immediately and auto-publish the results within minutes of the original post. For the actual translation work we hand-picked linguists who were also fans of mr. Wade, to ensure they know all about him and the context. This meant that nobody had to monitor the account or manually copy or paste posts. This was, in fact, another requirement – this would have to be a zero-overhead for the already busy team.
To test the results for two different cases, we decided to translate all the English-language D-Wade Facebook posts into Spanish and Tagalog. Spanish, of course, is one of the most widely spoken languages, second only to Chinese, and much of the Spanish-speaking world doesn’t speak English. Tagalog, on the other hand, is spoken in the Philippines, but not much anywhere else. Because most Tagalog speakers also speak good English, we could see whether there was any benefit to posting in a native language if the audience could already understand the English-languageposts.
The results are staggering. The immediate effect was that, on average, the posts had an increased reach of 8%. Dwyane Wade has over 2 million Spanish-speaking fans on Facebook, so an increase of 8% is massive. Media took notice, and published articles like this: Dwyane Wade Knows Filipino. The number of “likes” and “shares” per post grew by 8% and 5% respectively, so despite the increase in reach, the quality of traffic stayed the same. This is important—although it’s quite easy to drive traffic up, increased traffic is usually of a lower quality. What we achieved was purely organic growth resulting from translation, and the results are excellent.
The biggest surprise was that the number of comments grew by 16%! This indicates that there may be fans who would like to comment, but are afraid to do so because they don’t speak English. When presented with content in their native language, the communication barrier evaporates and a larger portion of the audience becomes active. Dwyane’s huge following meant that every post attracted hundreds of additional comments .
Also important to note is that the increase in Spanish speakers and Tagalog speakers was close to equal, so it appears that the popularity of the language, or even the ability of the audience to speak English, doesn’t affect the results. It would seem that even if you can speak English, you still prefer to read posts in your own language.
If you have ever wanted proof that localizing communication to your fans or customers is a good investment, now you have it.
How can I get the same service as Dwyane Wade?
Strategies to achieve localized social media vary. You can ask friends to translate an occasional post, but you probably don’t want to burden them with a full-blown social media campaign. You can hire a foreign ghostwriter to write original content in your name, but this is costly and you will be at the mercy of the writer to come up with stuff that they think you would want to say.
There is, however, one ultimate solution. Personal bias aside, Transfluent’s rapid translation service allows you to tap into a huge pool of talented translators, available around the clock. It will be you writing the posts so you are in control of the message. That’s what D-Wade did.
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