Increasing the Value of User-Generated Content Globally

May 20, 2016

Article ImageA few weeks ago I talked to social media experts and leaders who brought up concerns about how to make the most of content from digital listening channels in general, and social media in particular around the world. Capturing user-generated content effectively is a must in the digital globalization age. Understanding and leveraging it is equally business critical to get the whole value, and often proves to be more challenging than initially expected. To a large extent this content reflects the diversity of people who create it based on their personality and their attitude. While most issues are clearly due to the nature of this content some pain points are rooted in how and where it is generated. In other words, the more convenient and intuitive digital listening environments are home to more meaningful and actionable content. It sounds obvious... except it is not. It is a matter of global and local experiences. Therefore we should look at room for improvement and excellence in these areas.

Starting with the content itself may be seen as straightforward. It is not. A number of missed opportunities lie in an oversimplified analysis of this content. Whether we look for customer comments about the latest products they have purchased, or user recommendations, it is going to embed various linguistic, cultural, and personal references which may be intentional or not.

When someone speaks his mind about great (or bad) things the vocabulary, tone of voice, and number of words used to do so vary - sometimes significantly - across international markets. After reviewing many files containing aggregated verbatims from social media and surveys, I have noticed how different they have been in various countries, although they have been focused on similar topics, products, or perspectives. These multiple facets of content must be taken into account when translating it. It does not go without saying and requires specific effort and skills.

It is not about translating text "as usual." Not only is the amount of user-generated content usually significant, but the way the cost and time efficiency of this task comes to play must be defined accordingly. Many digital listening leaders rush to two immediate options to handle such content in various languages and from various geographies. The first option is to translate it into their target language in the traditional way by engaging their translators or language services suppliers. While it is doable it is likely to be time consuming and fairly expensive and therefore not ideal in a digital ecosystem. The second option is to resort to automatic translation tools to do the job faster and cheaper. However, it is proven that machine translation is not the silver bullet to get all benefits-- like speed, savings and quality--at the same time. The truth is out there and the solution is in between.

Combining properly trained and adapted machine translation engines with human linguists is the way to deliver translated user generated content that adds value. Machine translation accelerates the translation process of the most structured or basic content whereas human translators edit and fine tune the most culturally and linguistically sensitive portions of content. A large amount of content can therefore be digested and all needed nuances (humor, irony, anger, etc.) are conveyed in the translated content. So you will not miss anything and truly understand what users want to say. And that applies from and to any target language.

In order to tame the unstructured nature of user-generated content it is also crucial to design digital listening channels and platforms making international customers comfortable to speak their mind.  Internationalized forums, unassisted support, surveys or, micro-sites foster content creation and increase its quality. They have to be linguistically, culturally, and functionally sensitive. Designing social listening environments has to go beyond a normalized approach to innovate and create local experiences reflecting how content contributors live and work. They have to feel at home to say something rather than forced to have something to say. That implies keeping user generation and help features as simple as possible and relevant in every market.

Users must be guided and enabled to tell their story and answer questions naturally. For example Spanish-speaking users should not feel squeezed in 50-characters fields as they need nearly twice as much space as English-speaking people to say the same. In the same vein of sensitivity, German users will not create content regarding privacy matters while these matters are touchy in their country. Finally, it is necessary to understand who your vocal customers are before their content helps you even better identify them. Here too using smart data helps design user-generated content channels and platforms accurately and effectively from the outset. Anticipating and profiling who they are and will be sets a stage that is emotionally reassuring and stimulating.

Let's always keep in mind user-generated content is the most direct voice of customers and fuels one of the most engaging relationships digitally speaking.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)