Facebook today announced the launch of a new translation tool powered by Microsoft Bing Translate that lets users select to view Page posts in their native language. Page admins can select to show only machine translated posts, or they can select to allow Facebook users to submit their own translations. If these community translations receive approvals from other users, they’ll replace the machine translation. Currently, all Pages have been automatically opted in to allowing both machine and community translations.
Many brands are building international fan bases for their Page, so the option to have their posts translated means they’ll be able to better engage these foreign audiences, driving more engagement and clicks to their content. While not always perfectly accurate, the free translation tool is much cheaper and faster than having a human translate, geo-target, and publish localized versions of their posts.
Currently, the Translate button only appears to users with their language set to Korean, Japanese, Russian, Taiwanese and Chinese-Hong Kong. If Facebook and Bing roll the feature out to other popular languages or allowed it to be applied to ads as well, it could become an important driver of international growth and business for all Pages. One day Bing translation could also be applied to user posts to allow people to communicate across language barriers and form more international friendships.
The launch of this feature follows tests of a machine translation option for user comments on Page posts that we spotted last month. While comment translation is not part of the Bing tool’s rollout, it shows the potential for user content to receive translation in addition to Page posts.
In the past, Facebook has worked with Microsoft to power its own internal search and to augment Bing.com search results with Like counts from a user’s friends and the Facebook population at large. More recently, Bing Maps was integrated into the new Timeline profile as well as Facebook Places. Facebook has been successful with translation in the past, originally crowdsourcing translation of the site’s interface in many languages, and later extending the crowdsourced translation tool to Facebook apps and Connect-integrated sites.
All Pages Have Been Opted In to Translation
To configure the Bing translation tool, admins can go to the Edit Page interface and select the Your Settings tab. They’ll then see a Translations From section where they can enable translations by machine; machine and community; machine, community, and admin, or they can disable the feature.
By default, Pages are set to allow machine and community translation. In most cases, admins will at least want to allow machine translations. Community translations may be more accurate, but admins will have to remember to moderate the translation submissions.
Once enabled, users with their Facebook language set to one of the feature’s current language will see a “Translate” button besides the Like, Comment, and Share buttons beneath that Page’s posts. When clicked, the text of the Page’s post will change from the language it was originally written in to the user’s selected language.
According to the Help Center, Admins will also see a “Manage Translations” link underneath their Page posts. From here they can approve or delete community-submitted translations or add their own. If admins find someone trying to submit objectionable content or spam as a translation, they can quickly block them from their Page and from submitting translations to other Pages as well.
Facebook already offers geographic and language targeting in the Page post publisher. This allowed Pages to manually translate their updates and publish them to the corresponding segment of their fans. This was a lot of work, though, especially since there is no way to hide a post from certain countries or languages. Some third-party Facebook Page management tools offer translation services, but now all Pages have access to a free, easy, and instantaneous translation tool.
Until now some brands have opted to create different Pages for each country, and assigned a team to translate the brand’s primary Page’s updates and publish them locally. This required a complicated management hierarchy that Facebook and third-parties are only beginning to support through corporate/local Page management tools. The Bing Translation feature will reduce the need to set up localized Pages because a central Page’s updates can be read by audiences that speak a different language.
Translation Could Further Facebook’s Mission
With international fans now able to read the updates of Pages the Like in a language they better understand, Pages should see their posts receiving more Likes, comments, and clicks from these audience segments. This could help brands boost the return on investment on their Facebook marketing spend. Facebook could also get brands spending more on international advertising if it offered automatic translation of ads into the native languages of the users they target.
Still, the most potentially meaningful prospect of the Bing translation tool is how it could facilitate international friendships. If Facebook’s goal is to make the world more open and connected, what better way than allowing users to share with the whole world regardless of the language they speak.