Mark Zuckerberg: A 21st century CEO

Global Trends, Languages, Translation & Localization11 November 20143.3k

Mark Zuckerberg has never been your average CEO.

He became a billionaire at the age of 23, wears the same type of grey t-shirts every day because he doesn't want to waste time on frivolous decisions and, as he demonstrated last month at Tsinghua University, speaks Mandarin.  

Now Zuckerberg is not alone in having a working command of this language – the most recent Ethnologue from 2013 found there are over one billion speakers, making it the most popular tongue in the world – but his recent performance is still very impressive.

He spoke to students at the university, and took questions, for 30 minutes, despite the fact that the majority of attendees were fluent English speakers. The video of the event shows how well the move was received – people start whooping and cheering every time he speaks. 

It certainly shows up monolingual CEOs and companies. Considering Facebook is not even allowed in China at the moment, this move will probably garner more positive traction than some expensively produced marketing campaign.

But what does Zuckerberg's actions tell us about localization?

Connecting with your audience

Companies of all shapes and sizes are looking to connect with their target audience through compelling campaigns. Obviously this is easier to do in their native language, as they are much more likely to fully understand and embrace the message.

Doing business in the East brings with it complex challenges – our infographic highlights how you should conduct yourself in various Asian countries. For example, people need to be careful how they point in China, as an open palm is the generally accepted method.

The decision-making process can also be very slow, while business gift giving is a delicate process. Clocks, handkerchiefs and anything blue, white or black are typically associated with death, so should be avoided. 

By speaking the language, Zuckerberg was able to discard the outsider tag. This gives his company Facebook a foothold in the country, meaning it is now well placed for success if it is allowed. Remember, properly localized marketing materials will always be better received than poorly translated copy. 

Providing business leadership 

At the heart of successful and innovative companies are successful and innovative leaders. By conducting the Q+A in Mandarin, Zuckerberg was able to practice the global outlook that Facebook preaches. It also gave tangible evidence of the fact the company takes the issue of internalization seriously. 

Facebook supports over 70 languages as it recognizes how important it is to give communities a voice in their native tongue. It even has a translation app, which gives people the chance to suggest changes so that Facebook is as relevant as possible. 

Making such a big deal about the need for accurate translations demonstrates the company's commitment to doing business on a global scale, but with a localized message. And there is no better example of this than Zuckerberg's recent Mandarin interview. 

Politeness and respect still matter in China and there is no doubt that plenty of Chinese people – all of whom are potential Facebook users in the future – will have been left impressed by his performance. 


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