Top 5 mistakes multi-lingual businesses make on social media

Top 5 mistakes multi-lingual businesses make on social media

One of the many draws of starting a business in the Netherlands is the multilingual population. Businesses can often market themselves in variety of languages to reach a maximum audience. Those businesses, unfortunately, often make very basic mistakes when using social media.

Facebook languages filter

I follow a number of internationally focused companies and organisations on Facebook and I’m always surprised when a post is in a language other than English. As a native English speaker, my Facebook language preference is set to English and page mangers have the option to target their updates to those language settings.

When you update your Facebook page, you will see a target appear at the bottom of the status box. If you click on that, you can select "Add Targeting," which will bring up a menu allowing you to target your update to followers by a variety of metrics.

If you’re running a page in more than one language, target your updates to the speakers of those languages. So, for example, your updates in Dutch can appear only in the news feeds of those whose language is set to Dutch, while your English updates will appear to only those set to English.

Multi-lingual Twitter accounts

The short form nature of Twitter coupled with its prevalence on mobile devices makes translating Tweets really frustrating. If you’re Tweeting in multiple languages, your followers are, at the very least, ignoring some of your updates. Tweet too much in a language they don’t understand and they will unfollow you.

An alternative is to set up multiple Twitter accounts for each language. If your company name is ACME, grab the username ACME_NL for your Dutch updates and ACME_EN for your English ones. Keep the content similar and be sure to make your followers aware there is another language option available.

No ability to sort by language on a blog

Many companies, especially small ones, blog as a way to promote their business. Blogs can be a great way to showcase your knowledge to potential customers. However, if they can’t access that knowledge because it’s written in a language they don’t speak, you’re wasting your time.

Create a way for readers to follow your posts in each language individually. You should have a separate RSS feed for each language and a link on the blog to read posts in each language. Ideally, you’d have the same content in both languages, so none of your customers feel left out.

Not using an editor

Another benefit of living in a multilingual society means that websites and other content are more likely to be in a language you can understand.

multi lingual companies social media

However, I sometimes see content written in English that even I, as a native English speaker, can’t understand. You may be fluent in several languages, but if you don’t speak them at a native level, you need an editor.

Spelling and grammar errors are top reasons for unfollowing social media channels and for not continuing to read other content. It’s hard to follow an article or a Twitter feed when you’re constantly being pulled away from the content by errors in the text.

Finding a native speaker of the language to edit your content can help you improve the readability of your sites. This is especially true for static information that followers will see over and over, like your "About" sections.

Mistakes in those will be seen over and over again and reflect poorly on your business.

Different content in different languages

Have you ever gone to a party with some friends and a few of them, from the same country, start speaking in their native language that you don’t understand? That’s exactly how your followers feel when they notice you’re sending out different messages in different languages.

If you’re going to operate Twitter feeds, a blog or a website in multiple languages, you should strive to keep the content as similar as possible - your target market just want it on their own language.

Followers will feel left out if you write a huge paragraph of text in one language and sum it up in a few sentences in another. Or if the Twitter feed for one language is updated more frequently than the one for another.

Some content isn’t designed to be shared with all, for example, promoting a play given in Dutch only to your Dutch followers is acceptable. But strive to keep your content as uniform as possible so no one is left out.

Molly  Quell


Molly Quell

I'm an American expat living in the Netherlands, working as a social media consultant and writer. When I’m not working, I cook, bake, play softball, and hang out with my...

Read more



Leave a comment