Many companies think that keeping their multilingual customer support and community management projects in-house is the best way to guarantee high quality service and profitability. This rather logical thought process assumes that keeping the community management (CM) team in-house will lead to stronger brand management and will therefore be a more effective use of budget. While this may sometimes be true, it is not always the case, especially when many languages are involved.
The main role of a community manager is to bridge the gap between consumer and company, but doing so isn’t always so efficient when the community management department is part of the company itself. When building a bridge, most engineers will not start at one end and finish at the other – they will start at either end and meet in the middle. Community management can work in the same way and, by outsourcing your international community management project, your agency acts as the middle section of the bridge, joining the two parties together. Of course, bridges can also be constructed in a linear fashion, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each method.
Some Common Advantages to Outsourcing Your International Community Management
One of the potential pitfalls of keeping your community management in-house is that your CMs can be over-biased toward your company. The way that internal community managers operate is sometimes clouded by their proximity to the marketing team, senior management, or the ethos of the company. International community management can be a much more effective tool when using a Magic Eye type approach — a mess of colors and dots is transformed into a solid image when viewed from a distance. Out-of-house community managers have the advantage of being able to step back and view your game or product/service with this Magic Eye perspective, and examine your company as a consumer might. This means that they can bring ideas to the table that an internal CM team may not have necessarily thought of, while trying to find solutions that are equally advantageous for both consumer and company.
Many companies also stumble when it comes to content creation. Some online communities rely on volunteer CMs to filter or manage content. This is actually a good practice as it builds trust between your brand and your customers/fans and also allows your community managers to focus on more important issues. However, receiving 30 Facebook ‘likes’ from your friends on that picture of your cat that you posted on the weekend does not necessarily make you a qualified digital content creator. Creating quality, engaging content with the potential to go viral and drive more traffic to your site is a complex challenge that even the largest of companies struggle with. Not every company has the internal resources or time to create infographics and high quality images – this is where it saves you time and money to use an agency that specializes in social media and international community management.
An additional benefit is that community managers who work for agencies will most likely have worked on a large variety of different projects. This means that they have valuable insight on what works and what does not work for a variety of channels and industries, as well as an understanding of where they should concentrate their energies and for which languages. When beginning your forays into the world of multilingual community management and social media, there is always an initial period of trial and error. This is something that can be avoided when you outsource to an experienced company – you hit the ground running.
The Language Barrier
Above all, the main advantage to outsourcing your international community management project is the linguistic aspect. As any international company knows, it is ignorant to assume that all of your customers or fans prefer, or even possess the ability, to speak in the same language and yet it is important to give them all the same level of service. Studies have shown that consumers are much more likely to invest in a product or service when it is presented in their native language, even if they have an understanding of the other language(s) used to sell the product/service. This is why it is advantageous to seek the help of a company specializing in international customer support; to ensure that you can communicate with your customers in their native language, therefore driving sales.
There is also the matter of control when managing a brand in multiple languages. In the case of gaming companies and even fan pages for musicians or celebrities, the community volunteers are often charged with monitoring forums and other portals of communication. While helpful for fostering good-will in your community, this can create an additional challenge: How can you ensure that these volunteers are representing your brand appropriately and communicating according to your guidelines if you don’t understand the language they’re using? The answer is tricky, and in this case, you would actually be saving time and money by outsourcing to an agency that already has a bank of multilingual CMs ready to tackle your challenges.
Finally, it is important to remember that different countries will have different expectations of how a company should communicate with their audience. For example, French speakers would address their customers formally – ‘vous devez’ as opposed to the informal ‘tu dois’. In Spanish, however, it is much more acceptable to use the informal in order to establish familiarity and trust with your customers. There are many intricacies within languages that only native speakers will be sensitive to and, in order to present your company consistently across all languages while respecting these specific language particularities, it is essential to use an agency experienced in international community management and brand management.
Let’s Talk Money
One of the biggest concerns for companies thinking about introducing an international community management service is, of course, the financial aspect. Hiring a full time community manager for each of your target languages will put a significant dent in your budget, not to mention the time and resources you will need to dedicate to finding the right candidates.
More importantly, it is almost certain that you will not need to invest the same amount of time into each language. So, while it may be worthwhile you hiring three community managers for your German market, your Lithuanian and Slovakian markets may only need two hours of support and monitoring a day. This illustrates precisely why it can be much more cost-effective to outsource to an agency that can dedicate the required amount of hours to each language, which is then reflected in the price that you pay.
MO Group International is a leading provider of international community management and customer support solutions. Specializing in multilingual community management, we have a committed team of in-house professionals with a wealth of industry experience. Our community managers are all native speakers of the languages that they operate in, and we will match your project to a team with relevant experience and interests. Contact us today to find out how we can help you to expand your online network and give your customers the support that they need.