Communicating in Two Languages on Facebook

By | October 3, 2012

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about creating a thriving social media experience when you have an audience that operates in more than one language.

This is a topic I’ve debated many times along the way with colleagues and friends, but never came to concrete conclusions. Now, I’m working with one of my clients to identify the best way to use Facebook to reach their audience and I’m sharing their story with you – to share my learnings and to ask for your advice.

The client, Acadox, is a small start-up that has created a platform to manage academic activities online. We’ve been working on establishing better ways to interact with their audience via their Facebook Page and to provide a better experience through social media in general. One thing that we know is that while Acadox is a tool that is designed to work in English or Arabic, not everyone who uses it speaks both languages. A key goal of ours is to communicate with without alienating people who do not speak the language. (And, by the way, we’re working on this via all our communication channels, not just Facebook).

So, the key question for me is: What is the best way to communicate in two languages on Facebook?

I know that Facebook provides a translation tool, but it can be extremely wonky, and we were hoping to provide something a bit more user-friendly.

With this in mind, we thought maybe the best way to approach the Acadox page was to provide content in both English and Arabic in the same post. We’ve seen this work pretty well elsewhere, like in the two examples below:


So, we gave it a try. But look what happened! The punctuation looks all weird and spammy – probably because of the arabized interface on Facebook (boo Facebook!):

So… we’re re-thinking our strategy and have been reaching out to my community manager friends for input. Have you seen other companies handle the Arabic/English issue in a way that works? 

I posted that question on my wall and got some great responses:

But, I’m still at a loss. Should we have two separate Facebook pages – one in English, one in Arabic? Should we post everything twice – as separate updates?  What would you do? What are you doing?

In the meantime, we’ll keep trying different tactics to see what sticks. As they say: Listen. Learn. Adapt.