Social media is an increasingly powerful presence in our world. What was once simply a tool to connect with old friends and share family photos has become, for many people, one of their only sources of news and endless shopping opportunities. What does this mean for small business owners? It means that in order to market your product successfully – whether it’s on a global scale or simply to non-native English speakers inside the US, you’ll need to make sure that your social media accounts and marketing campaigns are understandable by the broadest range of potential customers possible. That’s why social media translation can mean the difference between your brand being successful and just the opposite.

Now that we’ve identified why social media translation is so crucial to your brand, let’s lay out the roadmap to follow for reaching out to as many potential customers as possible:

The first step in the social media translation process is to identify your target audience

With an estimated 6,500 different languages spoken the world over, you’ll never be able to connect with everyone. So take the time upfront in the translation process to identify which people you want to sell your product or service to before you go about trying to globalize your brand through social media.

Find a qualified, experienced translator to get the job done

Whatever you do, never rely on machine translation for anything related to your business. Google Translate may be fine for a quick, literal translation of a single word, but literal translation is not what you need to reach out to customers. Instead, you’ll need a competent, experienced, human translator – preferably one that is a native speaker and very familiar with the cultural sensitivities of your target audience.

And speaking of cultural sensitivities, do your homework regarding your potential customers

It’s not just your brand name that’s involved in social media translation; it’s also anything related to your marketing efforts, including social media posts, videos, images, etc. An inaccurate translation of a brand name, slogan, or advertisement is bad enough, but remember that you can also alienate your customers by using images (and even colors) that are considered to be inappropriate or downright offensive in another country. You don’t need to know everything there is to know about another culture, but you’ll need to have a general feeling for what may and may not be appropriate before you post your translations on social media. Choosing a linguist who has lived inside the culture you’re reaching out to is ideal. In that way, your translator can review images, videos, graphics, etc. and make sure they’re culturally acceptable.

Secure the services of an experienced linguist to provide ongoing translation services.

Keep your translator on your payroll – even if it’s just for a few hours a week – to translate and review your social media activities before they go live. Unlike old-school ad campaigns, where all the work is done upfront and then sent out in the world via traditional print and media outlets, social media is a constantly changing and evolving entity, so you’ll need ongoing translation support.

Make sure your customers see only their language

It’s perfectly fine to give them the option of viewing the post in other languages, but it’s only by recreating your posts in different languages specifically for each audience that you’ll make your customers feel at ease and comfortable with your brand – and, ultimately, with purchasing your product or service. This may mean creating, for example, a separate Facebook page for each language. It may seem time-consuming at first, but it’s worth every minute of that initial time investment.

Social media is arguably the most powerful marketing tool ever created. But you can only harness its potential if you use it properly. When it comes to marketing your brand, that means employing a top notch, experienced translator.