Online recommendations and reviews are a big marketing asset, so having the right translation tools in place ensures your brand's UGC reaches all customers.

Most businesses operating across international borders understand the value of localization. In order to make a connection you have to be able to speak the language of your customers. Websites, marketing materials, social media profiles and other high-impact elements should all be thoroughly localized and that can mean a combination of high-quality translation, transcreation and even the creation of entirely original content in your target language.

But what about user generated content? User generated content (UGC) can take many forms, including reviews, blogs, videos, social media and forum posts. The nature of UGC means that it can be generated in bulk, at any time and in non-standard language or formats. All this can make it difficult to translate but UGC can also be incredibly valuable. A 2013 Nielsen survey that questioned nearly 30,000 consumers worldwide found that word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family were the most influential (84 percent), while more than two thirds (68 percent) said they trusted consumer opinions posted online. Respondents in Asia-Pacific were the most willing to take action based on recommendations from friends and family and opinions posted online.

A more recent study by Ipsos MediaCT, meanwhile, found that millennials are spending 30 percent of their media time engaging with UGC. This type of content is 50 percent more trusted and 35 percent more memorable than other types of media.

Clearly UGC can be incredibly useful and translating this content can increase and improve its reach and utility.

UGC Translation Challenges

User generated content throws up several challenges when it comes to effective translation. It can come in high volumes extremely quickly. Travel website TripAdvisor alone hosts more than 250 (Read more...) reviews and opinions from travellers worldwide, and more than 160 new contributions are added each minute.

In many cases, UGC also has a comparatively short lifespan as consumers generally want to read the most up-to-date reviews and opinions. Given the importance of UGC on buying decisions, it makes sense to translate it to as high a quality as possible.

Consumers put their trust in UGC because it is seen as coming from their peers rather than direct from a company or advertising agency. You’ll want to avoid any glaring errors of course, but it also helps if you can retain a sense of voice, personality and the emotional aspect of any post.

There are different opinions on the best way to translate user generated content. It’s generally accepted that the highest quality translation comes from native speaking human translators but, given the problems of time and volume outlined above, this is not always practical. Crowd-sourcing and certain types of machine translation could therefore provide a better solution.

Crowd-Sourced Translation

Crowdsourcing is a relatively new phenomenon and involves compiling resources, services or content from the individual contributions of a large online community. According to Ping Wong of the Hong Kong Internet Society, crowdsourcing has been slower to take off in Asia than it has in western markets.

"The challenge for crowdsourcing in Asia is that people tend to be more risk averse. They want to work with people they know or get a referral from friends. This cultural difference may take time to iron out before crowdsourcing can really take off in Asia," Wong told CNN.  

There are a few high profile exceptions however, such as Gengo and Coconala in Japan and Zhubajie in China.

When it comes to crowdsourced translation, you can either set up your own community or use someone else’s platform. In order to set up your own crowd-sourced translation projects you would need a large and dedicated multilingual community who were willing to contribute their time and effort. This isn’t easy to come by so existing platforms are the usual solution. These can offer a relatively cheap and often fast turnaround but you should be aware that the quality will not be as high as using dedicated professional translators.

Machine Translation

Another option for the sort of bulk, on-demand translation usually required for UGC is machine translation (MT). Tools like Google Translate offer a free and easy way to translate large volumes of content but they are not generally very accurate. Consumers may be more willing to overlook the odd grammatical error in UGC – in many cases the original will not be grammatically correct anyway – but, as already mentioned, you will want to retain as much of the personality and emotion of a post as possible.

One good solution is to use customized MT engines. These can be built to incorporate glossaries that reflect the vocabularies related to certain sectors or businesses but they can also be specifically designed to handle UGC variations, such as common typos, slang and abbreviations. You might also be able to connect to your translation provider’s API (application programming interface) in order to access the translations you need at any time of day or night, or get content translated automatically, as soon as it is posted.  

Translating user generated content can be problematic but it can be extremely valuable to any business and it is usually worth the effort.

*Image via Shutterstock.

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