Case study: A success story in bilingual social media

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Serving customers in multiple languages has long been the practice in Canada, where both English and French are the official languages. Thus, at MTS Allstream, fully bilingual websites have been the norm since the mid 1990s. This includes the company's external-facing website as well as its intranet.

As one of Canada's leading national communication solutions companies, MTS Allstream is constantly looking to forge a closer link between the company and its customers -- and eventually inject customer perspectives very early in the product development lifestyle. Additionally, following the 2004 merger between MTS and Allstream, the company has looked to open up information sharing and break down departmental silos.

To accomplish these goals, MTS Allstream established a presence on a number of external social media sites, as well as built new internal mechanisms to increase collaboration across the company. However, the addition of the social media components created a new set of questions for MTS Allstream regarding the translation and implementation of generated content. MTS Allstream uses Vignette Content Management from Open Text, which enables the company to easily propagate translated material between sites. However, the company learned that the need for translation is not always a hard rule; rather, it's often a very fluid process.

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Getting closer to customers' hearts and minds
Imagine being able to address a group of customers with the questions: "What are the five biggest problems you're facing today? And what if you had a technology that could do this, this, and this?" Having answers to those questions would identify your value proposition well in advance of a product release, strengthen your marketing strategy, and create additional customer advocates.

With the aim to inject customer perspectives early in the product development lifecycle, MTS Allstream set up Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts with oversight from a social media working group. A cross-functional committee representing all three sides of MTS Allstream -- corporate, enterprise, and consumer -- established legal terms and conditions of use, a language policy, and the appropriate security measures. This team also addressed the issues of whether to create a single profile/username to represent the company or propagate several different personas. Ultimately, the decision was made to keep it simple and stick with a single account for each channel, rather than immediately jumping in and populating the channels with multiple personas.

Because MTS Allstream's different customer segments interact using different social media tools, the company handed over control of these channels to different business groups. After the committee set up initial ground rules to accommodate these dynamics, it turned the social media accounts over to the marketing departments of each division to determine how to engage with their particular constituencies.

In all cases, though, MTS Allstream's external social media tools are available in English only. For instance, translating every tweet into French would be both time consuming and a potential turn-off for the company's followers, who would receive an extra, redundant post. Deciding on a single language enabled the MTS Allstream to deliver a single company voice that could be maintained with efficiency and an appropriate number of touchpoints to the company's followers.

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