Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Your online presence as a shop window

Imagine a potential customer, maybe a customer that you have always wanted to work for, strolling about in the sprawling, over-populated internet megalopolis and then by chance turning into your street − about to walk past your shop window! Yours will be just one among innumerable other shop windows of translators offering their products to the world. What does it look like? Are you pleased with it? In what ways have you exploited the available on-line communication channels to build your web presence and identity?

Anne Besnier’s presentation on 4 June 2011 offered attendees a structured approach to on-line marketing and communication for translators and interpreters. It was based on the dissertation of her Masters in Translation, which she has recently completed at the University of Bristol. Anne brought up a number of facts to keep in mind: Nowadays with the internet, and especially social media, you can easily get lost in no time at all. Social media are often regarded as sources of gossip, a waste of time, and sometimes even throw up confidentiality issues. Anne noted that for this reason two-thirds of UK businesses have banned employees from using these platforms. On the other hand − and this is where self-employed linguists can gain immensely − they offer ways of low-cost marketing and of staying connected with other language industry members. To avoid social media overwhelming you, effective planning is key. You might, for example, include a social media plan within your marketing plan.

A professional website can be compared to a shop window which embodies a translator's professional brand. Anne recommended a simple and easy-to-navigate design. Overloaded websites, i.e. cluttered with too much content, should be avoided. To come back to my question in the scenario above ("Are you pleased with your shop window?"), it is interesting that the majority of respondents in Anne's survey said they did not like their own websites. An on-line shop window does not necessarily have to be a website, but can also take other forms, e.g. having a profile on LinkedIn, Facebook, ProZ, Translator’s Cafe, or blogging.

Anne’s presentation gave me the impetus to explore new ways of presenting the human face of my own business. Joining Twitter (though not addressed by Anne specifically) has actually been on top of my to-do list for a while.

I actually had a personal interest in learning about Anne's research results as I had participated in the survey and interview for her dissertation. I featured as the respondent who said that she did not publish blog posts regularly due to lack of time, but used her blog merely for offering an insight into her life as a translator. I think a blog is also a great tool for clearing up a few of the widespread misconceptions about the translation profession. Anne mentioned that a typical blogger publishes around 100 blog entries per year. She defined blogs generally as personal on-line journals, which offer an excellent way of creating connections with other like-minded people.

Despite the sheer number of zealous bloggers already out on the web, there is still most definitely a niche market for new blogs, for example if you work in a very specialised area and want to offer some insight into it.

Anne’s presentation was run as a professional event of the ITI's Western Regional Group (WRG) in the YHA conference room on Bristol’s harbourside, just by Pero's Bridge. It was followed by a ProZ powwow at the Watershed, the ever-popular, perfect place for eating, drinking and socialising in the centre of Bristol.