How to Manage Multilingual Communities – “Now more than ever before, community managers need to thoroughly adapt to the language and culture of each player base.”

This is a guest post from Keywords Studios’ James Gallagher.

James Gallagher.

These last few years, and throughout 2020 in particular, video games have seen unprecedented growth the world over – across America, Europe, Asia, Australia and beyond. While this means more people are playing video games than ever before, it also means that game communities have exploded in size and scope – with many passionate player bases emerging in new or previously overlooked regions. 

It follows that video games have a much better chance of penetrating (and finding success) in certain markets when the local gaming community is fully immersed in content. Now more than ever before, community managers need to thoroughly adapt to the language and culture of each player base.

At Keywords Studios, we help manage communities for more than 20 gaming clients, across multiple languages. At GDC this year, I provided a talk on how to manage multilingual communities, and here are some of the best bits of advice I gathered from the team to create that talk.

When to launch social media accounts in other languages

The question of if (or when) to launch social media accounts for specific languages doesn’t have a simple answer, but should always have the same objective – you want those new social accounts to grow and thrive.

If you have fewer than 100,000 Followers on a specific social media account, then we would usually recommend focusing on growing your global audience before shifting focus to other languages.

There are always exceptions, of course. If you’re creating a game based on a popular Manga IP, then having a Japanese Twitter account from the outset could be entirely valid.

If you have more than 100,000 Followers, then the next question is in which language can you expect to grow followers and engagement? For this calculation, we’ll take the premise (credit to Richard Millington of Feverbee for this) that you need 100 regular contributors to grow an online community.

And given that between 0.8 and 1% of social media followers tend to be regularly engaged, we can estimate that you should have 10,000 people in your community speaking a specific language to consider creating a separate account just for them.

Embracing Bilingual Identity

If you want to share messages in multiple languages on the same social media account, Facebook and LinkedIn give the option to add translated text to posts. You could add French text as well as English, for example, and the French version would appear for users who have French selected as their profile language. Twitter and Instagram do not offer this option for organic (non-paid) posts.

But there’s nothing to say that you can’t use multiple languages on the same Twitter or Instagram account, if it suits your company identity and your followers are on board.

The TeamVitality Twitter account mixes French and English without any obvious strategy – just as someone fully bilingual might switch languages mid-sentence without realising it.

The blend of languages comes across as part of the personality of the brand and internet culture in general. You don’t see any complaints from the users and you could argue that segregating the community by language would’ve been detrimental. 

Community Managers, not Translators

Have you ever been in a foreign country and tried to ask advice from someone via Google Translate on your phone? You can imagine, it’s not a natural way to make a connection with someone. But there are still examples of big companies whose non-English social media accounts are simply translated versions of their English ones.

I guarantee you’ll get better results by working with a native-speaking Community Manager (they can be a part-time freelancer or from a service provider like us) and giving them the freedom to communicate in a way that’s natural to that audience.

And this extends to how you work with your Community Manager (i.e. don’t just give them English copy and an image, and ask them to translate and publish). Our most successful projects are where the client explains what they want to communicate and gives the Community Manager the freedom and the building blocks to craft that in a way that is culturally relevant to their audience. 

Beyond Social

This article has been all about social media but what about communities like Discord servers and forums? Brands use social media to broadcast to an audience and get a response – a two-way dialogue. Communities are built on community members collaborating with each other, and the brand being a part of that dialogue.

On the surface, making those communities accessible to speakers of other languages may seem straight-forward. You can create separate channels on your Discord server or separate sections on your forum for speakers of other languages. Just make sure you have staff or trustworthy volunteers to moderate.

But is that a welcoming experience to speakers of those languages? Too often those French, Spanish, German and Japanese corners of the community are barely active and have little to no official presence.

A challenge for all Community Managers, if we choose to accept it, is making our communities more accessible to all. Machine translation and moderation tools are improving. The idea of the Universal Translator from Star Trek living in our communities and unifying all languages is a bit far-fetched.

But giving community members tools to engage with the global audience instead of putting them into a corner, or embracing a multi-lingual dialogue as TeamVitality does, is fairly simple. 

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