Much of it may go under the radar, largely unnoticed, but it is amazing how many organizations have already successfully embraced various models of engaging local communities in order to improve their localized products and increase local product acceptance. And yet, while the community-based model has been used and developed for more than a decade now, many myths still exist about what such communities do and how they are built and maintained. Let’s clear up some of the most frequent myths, one by one.
1. It’s just a way of getting local content essentially for free rather than pay for professional translations
Some companies use local communities to help them produce localized versions of their products or services, but more often than not, this is not the main goal. Even when it is, cost is often not the main driving force. Instead, companies may turn to local volunteers for the speed they bring, to ensure quality and relevancy of translations, or when it is difficult to recruit the right professional translators — typically for long-tail languages.
Instead, most organizations build local communities in order to improve the linguistic user experience with their product in a given target locale. This includes developing new or validating existing terminology, making your voice and tone relevant for the local market and your target audience, pre-release product verification, etc. Such communities help gather important feedback from the market, and they complement market intelligence that can be obtained through social listening and monitoring.
They may also help refine products for local usage or serve as a way of accessing in-country users that possess unique local and product-specific expertise.
2. It’s free, no investment is really needed
To effectively use local communities, investment is needed. This includes time, effort and money that may go into building, training and managing them — even if the members of the community as such are not compensated.
Then there is the investment needed for the platform and technical infrastructure to collect and manage inputs, feedback and discussions, as well as the actual custom translation environment, if that is your goal. The easier and more automated the process of managing the communication, the better.
Finally, you should not forget about the resources needed within your organization to truly act on the local insight. Nothing demotivates your local communities more than when their feedback is ignored or falls between the cracks in your organization.
3. Crowds are communities
There may be wisdom in the crowd, yes, but they still expect to get paid for that. They are not your engaged local communities that care deeply about your brands and products. Instead, crowds may get sourced by enterprises that wish to build an extensive, dispersed pool that can be tapped to deliver activities that may not require specialized, professional expertise, at a large scale, and/or at lower cost.
In contrast, communities are smaller, highly engaged and often very specialized, and they are built and nurtured for the long term.
4. Communities are just ordinary, even if expert, users, not linguists
In practice, a wide variety of people get engaged in community projects, so the target profile or ideal persona depends on the goal of your community program. It may include enthusiasts, domain experts, bloggers, or your international staff.
With communities, companies don’t typically look for professional translators that live and breathe translation processes, style guides, quality metrics or translation tools. The qualities sought are affinity to your brand and products, local domain and market expertise, and the willingness to contribute to and improve your products.
In fact, highly-functioning local communities include a mix of profiles. It is this richness that really makes the difference and leads to new ideas and perspectives. Otherwise “group think” may develop if the community is composed of people with similar views and profiles.
5. Communities require little management
Without proper management, local communities don’t deliver. They also dwindle over time because of natural attrition and the potential decrease in enthusiasm.
Moderators are the lynchpin of any community and their selection is often one of the factors that make or break them. Their enthusiasm and skills in managing, empowering, motivating and rewarding their communities are key. They must be strong personalities, good project managers and excellent communicators with a real feel for the language.
Another key feature of successful community engagements is that they make it really easy for members of the given community to contribute and participate.
6. Local communities provide user-generated content (UGC)
This is not normally the goal of building local communities; user-generated content such as reviews is, by definition, provided by users spontaneously. But crowdsourcing is one viable method of translating vast amounts of user-generated content, typically in combination with MT post-editing.
However, users that contribute on your site are a good source of potential candidates as you build and look to extend your community; they should be one of the top channels for recruitment.
7. They are an after-thought, deployed after the product is on the market
Aside from community translation projects, in-country communities are normally engaged in getting products ready for local markets. They help shape your terminology, help find the best new terms, or review your previous releases and identify candidates for updates. They may help position your terminology vis-à-vis competitors’ products on the market. They validate and fine-tune your style and voice, making sure they are current and relevant. Last but not least, they may help validate your go-to-market strategy before you take the plunge. As such, engaging local communities has become an integral part of advanced localization programs.