Yesterday, I broadcast a webinar looking at international communities (you can see the webinar recording here) and this blog post addresses one of the topics covered yesterday.
Some companies seem to default to running international communities in English. They do this because it is possible (there are people in most countries who read and write English), because it is cost effective, and because it is conducive to fast research (no need to translate questions and then translate answers). However, an English only community is often the wrong answer.
English only communities tend to work when one or more of the following apply:
- There is a reason why people should understand English, for example if the brand broadcasts in English.
- The brand offers an English language service (some airlines).
- The brand conducts all/most of its business in English (some B2B organizations).
English only communities work much less well when:
- The focus is about what happens in countries rather than globally.
- In countries where the English speakers tend to be different from the rest of the population (e.g. more likely to use Western brands, richer, more educated etc).
- Where cultural values are being researched, for example how products and services fit into everyday lives.
As a method of thinking about whether an English only community is going to be good enough, try the Spanish test. Imagine you are a Spanish company based in Madrid, Spain. You decide to run an international community and you want to include Spain, Mexico, Argentina, and the USA. You know that 45 million people in the USA speak Spanish so you decide to run the community in Spanish only. Would you expect this to be a good representation of the USA? If your company was a Spanish language broadcaster, then the answer is yes. But if your brand was a food brand you might think that only having Spanish speakers in your sample would skew the results.
So, when you are thinking of running a community in English, think about whether you would run it in Spanish in the USA?