How social media can help translators and interpreters to grow their business? Catherine Christaki accepted to be interviewed on this matter, and her answer can be summarized in a simple formula: go for it! Enjoy her expert opinion.
Catherine, thank you for agreeing to answer this interview about why translators/interpreters should be present on social networks. First of all, could you spend some words to let us know something about yourself?
Thank you for having me Jean-Marie :) I was born and raised in the lovely island of Crete in Greece. I studied Modern Languages in the UK then returned to Greece in 2001 to be a freelance translator. In 2010 I discovered the wonderful translation community on Twitter and then came our website, blog, and Facebook and Google+ accounts. Lingua Greca Translations as a company was founded in 2012. To explain why I switch between ‘I’ and ‘we’, the second partner of Lingua Greca Translations, is my husband and fellow translator, Christos Floros. We moved to Toronto in Canada a few months ago and we work mainly with other translation companies, might expand a bit into direct clients in 2015. We translate from English French, German into Greek and we specialise in IT, Technical and Gaming.
I saw on your Twitter account that you started in October 2010 to tweet about translation (#xl8 #t9n), languages & business. Why did you decide to join Twitter and what were your expectations about this move?
Twitter for me and our company was the first step to social networking and to meeting lovely colleagues as well as expanding our client base. I decided to join Twitter while attending the annual ATA conference in Denver. Brainstorming about our Twitter name led to coming up with our company name, Lingua Greca Translations. I didn’t know much about Twitter at the time nor did I have a specific strategy or goals, I just followed the recommendations of the conference speakers to join.
Several of them mentioned it should be part of a translator’s online visibility ‘portfolio’, along with a website, a blog and a LinkedIn profile. And they were so right! I think Twitter is a must for translators for several reasons: first and foremost you connect with colleagues and get the chance to meet amazing people. Communication is instant and translators are known to be very approachable and friendly :) Secondly, it’s the best medium to stay abreast of trends and news in the translation industry. Thirdly, it’s a great way to follow your existing and potential clients, learn about the developments in their companies and communicate with them (in a helpful and friendly way, not in a spammy ‘I offer translation services, give me work’ way).
Since 2011, you regularly rank among the top ten of Language Twitterers, as you mention on your website. Could you tell us what is the amount of daily work necessary to get such a brilliant result?
Let me start by saying that there are very few ‘set’ rules about social networking. The basics for most social networks include the following:
* be helpful with what you share, don’t mix professional with personal, your profile photo and description are important, avoid automating your sharing between networks, don’t complain about clients and avoid naming names in public. For Twitter in particular, I’ve written two posts with common mistakes, here and here.
Apart from the basics above, each Twitter user can follow their own process about what they share and how to find and organize that content. My process is based mainly on reading translation blogs (a lot of them as you can see on our blogroll) and a few other blogs on business and social media. I spend 3-4 hours per week (usually on weekends) on Feedly (RSS reader), choose the posts I find most useful and then I use Socialoomph to plan my tweets for the week. Those same tweets appear in our Weekly Translation Favorites every week since the beginning of our blog.
Beyond Twitter, have you got also a professional presence on other social networks? If yes, which ones? If you believe, as I do, that being present on social networks is strategic for freelance translators/interpreters, which social networks and/or marketplaces would you recommend in particular, and why?
I have a profile on LinkedIn, a Google+ account and I also maintain our company page on Facebook. Thanks to the blog reading and link choosing process above for the content to share on Twitter, it’s very easy to maintain those pages. I just choose the articles I like most from our weekly shares and post them there too. Now, as to each social network specifically:
LinkedIn is a must for translators, all professionals actually. Especially if you don’t have a website, I think LinkedIn is even more important than your CV/resume. It’s the best way for potential clients to find you and learn more about you. You can use it as an online portfolio by highlighting the most important projects you have worked on, you can add multimedia, use LinkedIn Publishing to write articles about your profession and of course, it’s a great tool to find like-minded colleagues and potential clients.
Google+ is quite good but still fairly new. The Hangouts feature is very interesting and useful but I think for now the most important use of Google+ is its affiliation with Google (search engine) because having a Google+ profile increases your position in Google search results significantly.
I think Facebook is kind of optional for translators. We work mainly with companies, so we are in the B2B (business to business) field, whereas Facebook is a great tool for B2C (business to consumer). If I were selling products instead of services, Facebook would be on top of my list. It still has lots of uses for linguists, but I think most of those uses can be better covered with Twitter and LinkedIn.
What advice would you give to a translator/interpreter (beginner or experienced) who wonders about the need to be present or not on social networks? And what advice would you give him/her about the do's and don'ts to participate?
Definitely go for it! Everyone should have a nice, complete, professional-looking profile on LinkedIn. As I said above, it’s your online portfolio, a kind of resume but so much more interactive and full of features than a simple CV or even a website in some ways. We usually put a lot of time and effort into building an attractive website but most people don’t bother reading all the pages, checking out the projects, clients and the other information we add in our websites. The one-page profile on LinkedIn is the quickest way for potential clients to see if you might be a good fit for their company, either as a freelancer or for an in-house position.
Apart from LinkedIn, it comes down to personal choice. Obviously, I’d recommend Twitter to be next in terms of priority, but every linguist can choose the network that appeals to them more. Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Xing (especially for linguists living in Germany) are other good choices for linguists.
It’s important not to overdo it at the beginning though, social networking and sharing can become a bit overwhelming. Just choose a social network, learn the ropes and when you get to the point of understanding how it works and what it can offer you, you can then decide if you want to join another network as well.
During the annual ATA conference in San Antonio in 2013, I gave two presentations about social media for translators, you can find the slides on our blog with lots of tips about using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
What do you think about privacy on social networks and how a freelance must deal with it?
Follow the simple rule: everything you write and share, is written, lives in the Web and is available for anyone to see (and judge and comment on). Be very careful about what you are sharing about yourself, your family and friends and most importantly (since we are talking about professional profiles) your clients. If you want to share bikini photos from your last beach vacation, don’t use your professional account on Twitter of Facebook, create a personal one. If you want to complain about your client, call a colleague or find specific groups on LinkedIn dedicated to naming and shaming companies that pay late etc.
Have you ever got some job opportunities thanks to your presence on Twitter / on other social networks?
I sure have! Mostly from my presence on Twitter and LinkedIn and I’ve noticed a difference in how you build relationships that lead to work between the two networks. On Twitter it takes longer to get to know people and for them to see what you are all about based on what you share and talk about. So, when someone I know from Twitter contacts me for work, we’ve known each other online for quite some time already.
On LinkedIn it happens faster and it’s more about timing. For example, when you answer a question in a group and another member appreciates your answer and thinks you are a good fit for future projects. Let me give you some examples.
- I got a nice project from a colleague a few weeks ago. She contacted me through LinkedIn and said the reason she picked me is because we have several common contacts, which could mean that we’ve worked with some of the same people.
- A translation company owner contacted me a few months ago for work saying that he appreciated the useful links I shared in a LinkedIn group we were both members of.
- When I added “Apple translator” in my job title last year, three companies that localize apps contacted me the next week.
Generally speaking, the main objections that critics of social networks are doing is that it's useless, a waste of time, and so on. Balancing the pros and cons, what would you answer to these critics after five years of presence on Twitter about the results you’ve obtained both personally and professionally?
Creating and maintaining account on a social network always takes some time at the beginning and it can be a bit overwhelming until you learn the ropes. But after that initial bump, it always becomes a pleasure afterward. I’ve heard many people say “I tried Twitter but I didn’t understand how it works so I just stopped using it”. You have to give each network you join some time, read a few articles online about do’s and don’ts. And don’t wait for it to lead to work right away. Your main purpose should be to meet colleagues and clients and get to know them better.
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I will translate later this text in French and in Italian, because I think it's important to reach as many people as possible. Please, don't hesitate to comment and let us know what's your take on Translators-Interpreters & Social Media.