Learning a lesson from Facebook’s localisation into Hindi

Localisation is the over-technical term used by software developers to describe the translation of their programs into other languages. It serves a purpose, though, to stress that translation is far more than simply substituting words from one language to another. For a program to work in different markets different cultures need to be taken into account.

Facebook have just announced a whole range of new localised versions of their platform, including several in Indian regional languages like Hindi, Tamil, and Punjabi. You might think this is of interest solely to Hindi, Punjabi, and Tamil speakers who can now access the popular social network in their own language. You’d be wrong though.

Google will be looking closely at the results of this particular localisation program, given that it’s in one of the few markets where their own social networking program Orkut is the leader. Facebook are in effect taking on Google in an effort to prove that their social networking platform is the best worldwide.

But the localistion, whether succesful or not (to be judged, presumably, by how many Orkut users defect) has another important lesson for all of us, in particular small/medium sized businesses that want to effectively harness social networks to promote themselves online. The lesson is that there are a variety of social networks, not just simply Facebook or Myspace – the two market leaders. Depending upon who you are, where your market it based, and what you’re trying to promote, your choice of most effective social networks may be radically different.

If you’re going to use social networks, do some research to find out which ones are the most compatible/useful for your needs.

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