Expanding Your Business Beyond Latin America? 4 Tips for Writing Compelling Content in English
Ordering a “fried mattress” and a “bowl of sandals” on your first trip abroad may be a funny dinner story. At home. With your friends. But your English-speaking business prospects won’t be amused if they find mistakes in your company’s content writing. Well, they may be amused, but they won’t take your business seriously. As you expand outside of Latin America and increasingly reach a global market, you need to make sure that your content marketing efforts make sense to an international audience.
It can be difficult to write clearly in a non-native language. We get it. But we also know that it’s worth it. With engaging, informative, and well-written content, you can appeal to a brand new audience using language that makes sense and references that are relevant to their lifestyles.
While the importance of developing high-quality English content for your blog can’t be overstated, it doesn’t have to be intimidating. Keep the following tips in mind, and your content will leave native English speakers hungry for more.
1. Don’t rely on online translation software
Google Translate and BabelFish can help decode basic meanings. But that’s all they do. They are no substitute for professional translation by a person who knows the target language and all of its nuances intimately.
Think about it: In Spanish, the omission of a single accent mark can change the meaning of “yes” to “if.” It can also alter the tense of many verbs. In addition, accurate translation requires an understanding of meaning and context. You can’t just do word-by-word substitution. If you take each Spanish word and replace it with an English word — even if the translation is completely accurate — you’re likely to end up with a bunch of nonsense. The words may be right, but the meaning is lost. And even an excellent job of translation — one that perfectly captures the original meaning of your original Spanish or Portuguese — might not have the same flow as a piece that was originally written in English. Readers are smart. They can pick up on problems with tone and structure. They know when something just seems “off.”
That’s why even the most advanced software can never replace an actual person. If you want real people to read your content, you need real people — not machines — to write it.
2. Start with English
One reason there are so many problems with translation is that people tend to do it backwards. They start with the Spanish or Portuguese and hand it off to a translator who knows nothing about you, what you’re trying to accomplish with that particular piece of content, and which audience you’re trying to reach. And, let’s face it: Business writing is a skill. A lot of people aren’t very good at it, even in their own language. If you start with a poorly written piece, you’re going to end up with a poorly written translation.
If you want effective English content, you have to start with the English. Talk with your content creator. Make sure they understand what the personality of your company is, who your audience is, and what you want this piece of content to accomplish. Most importantly — let them know what you want people to do after they finish reading your content. Then let the writer craft something that accomplishes those goals — in English. This approach guarantees that the syntax and structure of the final product will flow naturally. If you’re working with a professional writer you trust, have no fear — you can focus on the meaning and let the writer worry about how it reads.
3. Create content that’s relevant to your international audience
This one really comes down to cultural differences. Not all cultural differences are going to matter, of course, so you have to pin down the ones that affect your business — and then figure out how to make them relevant in your target culture. For example, many Americans eat dinner extremely early by Latin standards — often around 6 p.m. If you write content that talks about people eating dinner at 9 or 10 o’clock, an American audience won’t be able to connect with that (unless, of course, they live in New York City). The same is true if your content refers to eating a multicourse meal in the middle of the day. Most Americans eat their main meal in the evening. American culture tends to be less formal than Latin culture, so if your writing refers to your boss as Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So, that’s going to sound stuffy to an American audience. Sure, those are minor points, but it’s details like those that can stick out and make it hard for someone to really connect with your company. If you want engagement, your content has to be relevant to your intended audience’s lifestyle.
4. Be part of the “in” crowd
If you want to keep your customers engaged, you not only need to maintain a relevant and informative blog — you also need to be active on social media. This is another instance where it’s important to understand your audience. What social networks are the most popular with the people you’re trying to reach? Americans are typically quicker to adopt new platforms, but that can also mean that they’ve gotten bored and moved on to something else just when a trend is really taking off in your country.
It’s also important to understand how your target audience consumes and interacts with different types of social media. How important are images? What type of content is most likely to be shared? During what times of day are users most active? How do they respond when brands comment on their posts? The answers to these questions can help you determine the most effective social media strategy.
And, as with blog posts, it’s important to understand colloquial terms and popular phrases in English. Interactions on social media are generally informal, and if your customers feel that talking to your brand is like talking to a close friend, they’re more likely to see the benefits of your brand.
Those English-speaking editorial experts we talked about so much? We’re those experts. At Prose Media, we’re here for you. We’re a New York City-based writing service with an experienced team of writers and editors. We work with promising startups. We work with Fortune 500 organizations. We write engaging, meaningful content for virtually any industry around the world. So sign up if you’re ready to kickstart your brand’s English content.