Avoiding Global Digital Faux Pas

International websites bring forward a myriad of challenges that need to be carefully examined. We’ve seen in the news how one cultural norm online can end up making global news. What happens to the slip-up that doesn’t make national news but turns off an entire country of people?

Most Common Misstep
The most common misstep in creating a global website is the creation of a site based on one cultural view. Global websites take teams and a large amount of research to properly launch.  If you can only launch one website and not multiple targeted websites, care should be taken to look closely at the messaging from an international perspective. Your one fabulous key theme or idea may be a huge controversial word or topic in some of the countries you are trying to reach. In some cases, your amazingly insightful topic or point of view might be something that is not found or accepted in different countries. When this becomes the case, a new strategy and tactical plan should be developed to meet the needs of each region.

For example, there are online and offline communications differences between people in the United States and those in Asian nations. We’ve learned over time to be sure to identify cross-cultural differences in offline and online communication patterns. One of the greatest examples of different communication patterns can be found in a few Asian countries. In the countries we studied, offline communications norms indicate a preference toward non-interpersonal communication regarding diseases, ailments, and feelings. At the same time, we found that people in some of these Asian countries feel less cultural restrictions in communicating their fears or concerns online. However, in one of the countries we studied, you could not communicate feelings or concerns online; in this country, offline interpersonal communication regarding ailments and fears was more acceptable.

If you are trying to develop a strategy for the countries above, knowing the differences in communication patterns is important in creating estimates for interaction or engagement.  Understanding the differences in how patients talk about or don’t talk about their diseases will greatly change your overall strategy to help ensure clear and appropriate messaging.

A copywriter familiar with US culture may find that his or her message not only does not translate properly, but also has an unintended and even potentially offensive meaning. The last thing you want to do with your marketing copy or overall strategy is to alienate an entire nation or culture.

If your brand is going to spend energy connecting with an Asian market, take time to ensure that your actual message – not just the words – comes across properly.

Second Most Common Misstep
Just say NO to computer translations. If you are setting up a website or any kind of marketing materials using an online or computer translation – reconsider your launch.  This is one of the fastest ways to turn your readers off.  Computer translations lack important cultural cues, and do not afford the opportunity to hone your content properly to your target audience.

We recommend a well-rounded “transcreation” process for platform targeting and messaging.  Transcreation is not just substitution of words, but the adaptation of the cultural nuances needed to properly convey your message. Your marketing message will lose optimal impact if it doesn’t take into consideration overt and subtle cultural norms. Always press your agency to provide transcreation services that address cultural as well as language issues.

While none of the ideas above is necessarily new, they are often skipped in the design and development of websites. The million-dollar idea that doesn’t cover its bases can end up costing a company well over the initial project price. The end result can be permanently damaging to the company’s reputation.

Remember: The world might be globalizing – but no two countries or regions should ever be painted with one broad unprepared brush. The Internet is an unforgiving platform for cross-cultural blunders, with a bevy of both critics and cheerleaders awaiting you.

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