Here are the top platforms to use to promote your business in China. With over 1.05 billion Chinese now connected online, you need to develop your reputation and visibility on these local platforms to grow your business in this lucrative market.
The ‘Great Firewall’ makes it impossible for Chinese people to use Western platforms; this has resulted in a completely unique internet environment where Chinese social media platforms and e-commerce sites dominate the Chinese social media landscape. You need to understand how to market your brand on these platforms to succeed in China. In this ‘hyper-digital age’ the Chinese research extensively online before purchasing.
1. To promote your business in China, start with Baidu
Why is Baidu so important for your business in China?
Baidu (China’s Google) is really the bedrock of any campaign in China. 70% of all online research is carried out through this dominant search engine meaning Baidu SEO is key in China. You absolutely need to create your own qualified Chinese website, based on Mandarin Character keyword searches. To be effective, a website must be hosted in China or Hong Kong and must be translated into Chinese.
Baidu works as an ecosystem: for example, Baidu Tieba is the Baidu social networking platform or a forum that allows you to have a diary or company social page, where you can go to share statuses, photos, and videos. It is possible to comment on and follow public profiles. It’s based on topics, where people can share their thoughts and experiences.
Baidu Zhidao is a question-and-answer service provided by the Baidu platform, where only registered users can interact with questions and provide answers. It is very influential in terms of positioning. This is a good forum to build your reputation because positive posts and threads will always rank high in the search results.
Baidu Case Study: Damac
Damac, a Dubai-based luxury real estate firm, launched a very successful Baidu campaign appearing on the first page of the results for 15 different keywords. This approach helped us drive 120 property investor leads in the Chinese market to the company per month. Visibility is key in China, you just have to understand what keywords the Chinese are searching for.
2. WeChat: the king of all Chinese platforms and social media marketing
To succeed in China’s lucrative market, a professional presence on WeChat is crucial, here is an introduction to some of the app’s best tools for brands:
WeChat Official Account: the promotion tool you can’t ignore when doing business in China
WeChat is really the undisputed king of social media marketing in China. It has 1,2 billion monthly active users, and more than 1,5 million active brands. It is used by 86% of people between 18-40 years old. You can use Wechat to pay, book a holiday, buy things, create “moments”, send messages (private or chat groups, texting or vocal messages), and much more.
Firstly a company can set up an official account to promote content and encourage users to users sharing on their ‘moments’ and send notifications to their followers.
WeChat is a great launchpad for content and is fondly referred to as the ‘WeChat Times’ because so many users search here for information. Having an official account is mandatory for any serious business.
WeChat Groups Promotion
You can also consider tapping into WeChat groups, available on this Chinese social media platform. They are the fastest and easiest way to distribute content to WeChat social media users interested in your type of product or service. Then, if your brand will be recommended by one of the users, people will have more faith in the brand and will push other users to try your products. Therefore, with Wechat groups, you can reach a larger community and have better visibility.
This is very effective from a marketing point of view, you can engage directly with active communities that are relevant to the products or services you are offering.
Wechat H5 Brochures
A cost-efficient tool for businesses is also the H5 WeChat Brochure. It is good for online and offline because it is easy to send and distribute. It is great for product listing and for company introduction.
Its benefits are:
- Interactive & nice to look at
- Bring your QR code to every salon instead of printing a flyer
- Alternative to your unsuccessful mass mailing with heavy PDF
- Show potential Business Partner in China that you Understand the market
This year WeChat launched a new short-video platform within its super-app, mainly to compete with the big players in the Chinese social media apps and video sector that continues to record more than significant growth performances.
Business Promotion with WeChat Channels
WeChat Channels are the new WeChat feature for sharing short content that offers for the first time the possibility for brands, influencers, and “normal” users to expand their reach beyond the circle of friends and followers with user-generated content. WeChat, in fact, has for a long time limited the interaction and sharing of content between users-friends and brand-followers. Thanks to WeChat Channels, however, now everyone can access everyone’s content.
WeChat mini-programs: Build your own store within WeChat
WeChat has also incorporated mini-programs to allow instant sales via the e-commerce platform and WeChat Pay system. This makes payment very easy and convenient. This new feature can be described as a kind of “sub-application”. An app inside another.
As a result, users will no longer have to use or download new apps because they may already be on WeChat. The mini-programs concern all types of services: sales, e-commerce, and government services.
‘Vancouver Fashion Week’ grew its reputation and visibility on WeChat by sharing quality articles on the event that was specifically aimed at Chinese fashion buyers, visitors, and exhibitors. Posts received over 2000 and were shared 250 times onto users’ news feeds. This generated a real ‘buzz’ about the event on the largest digital information feed in China. There is a strong culture of sharing in this market.
3. Weibo to promote and increase brand awareness in China
Weibo is China’s Twitter. The name literally means ‘microblog’. Weibo is an ‘open’ network compared to WeChat: users can see posts from everyone; they don’t have to be connected first. This increases the likelihood of building visibility and brand awareness. Weibo is one of the oldest and most popular Chinese social media sites.
A few key features include traditional social activities, the creation of micro-blogs, sending messages, following brands, Kols, and trends, gaming activities, and very good integration with e-commerce, through external links.
How to use Weibo to Promote your brand?
Sina Weibo has many other useful features to make brands known and interact with your community or target audience. For example, the Miaopai application allows users to share videos and record live streams. Live streaming has in fact become one of its strengths, in the wake of the success that China has been having for some years.
A program that allows brands to target their target market segment was launched on Weibo. The program offers advice based on user interests and stimulates greater quality interaction between brand and consumer.
WeChat is certainly a more active platform that calls for action. Weibo, on the other hand, with its 580 million active users is less congested, allowing more space for brands to market themselves.
There are four ways to advertise on Weibo:
- Display Adverts
- Weibo Search Engine Promotion
- Fan Headlines
- Fan Tunnel.
Display ads are mainly placed in the search section, on the Weibo home page, and alongside new posts. Weibo allows a targeted approach through keywords selected on user searches.
Weibo worked wonders for the Austrian children’s drink brand ‘Twist & Drink’. They created a colorful campaign based on different cartoon characters for each flavored drink bottle. Weibo was used to interact with potential consumers. They increased their following by 134% by taking an active ‘social’ approach. They also used live streaming to showcase the products to their followers.
Cross-promotion is also important; Twist & Drink embedded QR codes (which link to WeChat) into their Weibo posts to drive traffic to their other official account.
4. Douyin to collaborate with KOLs and advertise your brand
Douyin is super popular in China, with 700 million monthly active users, Douyin is really a great place to promote businesses in 2023. It is an application to create and share short videos (about 15 seconds) with music in the background. In fact, Douyin is the mother app of TikTok, but in China it is very different than in the West.
How to promote your business in China with Douyin?
A brand goal on Douyin can be to increase sales, brand awareness, brand credibility, build a loyal audience, and much more.
It is cost-effective and interactive to promote your business with KOLs or with ads. Douyin offers new and different opportunities for marketing. Brands can partner with KOLs (influencers) of Douyin and sell their product in live streaming or through video.
Collaborations and partnerships are really important. Even one collaboration with the right person can do a difference for a brand. For example, Austin Lin, “the king of lipsticks” followed by more than 43.8 million people, sold 15 thousand lipsticks in just 5 minutes.
52.55% of users are men, and 47.45% are women. 80% of them are less than 35 years old. Half of the users are regular Chinese Internet users, the other half are Kols and celebrities. The most popular category of content on Douyin is internet service, food & beverage, cosmetics, digital objects and automotive, etc.
5. Kuaishou, Douyin Short Video App competitors
It is the no. 2 among Chinese short video apps. Contents are mainly themed on lifestyle. Users are fewer compared to Douyin but there they spend more time; Users are mainly from the 3rd, and 4th tier cities and upward. On Kuaishou users see proportionally much more content related to the accounts they already follow.
Kuaishou finds its strength in the social links between users. This is why even with regard to KOLs, it does not place excessive emphasis on the contents of the most famous ones but distributes visibility to everyone.
Kuaishou is selling more than Douyin when it comes to live-streaming
For live streaming, it seems that Kuaishou gets better results. In fact, in the local section of the two Apps, the live streaming percentage is 50% for Kuaishou and 25% for Douyin. On the first App, it often happens that the most popular live streams are viewed by 4 or 5 users. The contact between them is much more intimate, but the impact is different from that of a live broadcast on Douyin from a KOL with millions of viewers. The latter, in fact, is capable of selling thousands or even millions of products in a few minutes of a single live stream.
The two Apps, therefore, offer two different products with different results. Initially, Kuaishou was integrated with different e-commerce platforms such as Taobao, JD.com, Tmall, and Pinduoduo. In recent months, however, it is increasingly promoting its own internal e-commerce to stimulate in-App sales.
6. Toutiao: A great app for paid adds
Toutiao is a digital platform of the Chinese startup ByteDance known for having developed TikTok. With more than 200 million active users and content receiving 4.2 billion views every day, it is considered the no. 1 platform for content delivery in China.
It is the core business platform of ByteDance and uses artificial intelligence to create, aggregate, and distribute content according to the preferences, needs, and behavior of users. It is one of the best Chinese social media apps for paid advertisements and great for B2B companies as the audience is mostly working adults with university degrees.
7. Zhihu: To promote your business in China through content marketing
Zhihu is China’s “Quora”. It is a very popular Q&A forum with 100 million active users in 2023. It is great for more niche industries. By answering specific questions related to your industry you can raise your profile, Zhihu often appears in Baidu’s search results alongside the official website of a company. It helps to increase your e-reputation and to give authority to your brand. In China, word of mouth is very strong.
‘Vita Wei’ a popular high-end, everyday wear Chinese brand grew well on Zhihu. They posted many topics and threads about fashion and daily clothing choices. This was then linked to the brand’s relaunch as a quality Chinese brand that could compete with international players. The message was supported by quality brands from China too.
8. Xiaohongshu (RED): Popular Review App with the users at its core
Xiaohongshu or Little Red Book is one of the most popular social media platforms, especially among Chinese women. It is similar to Instagram but with e-commerce features. It is one of the most famous social commerce platforms in the Chinese social media ecosystem.
Brands can use KOL to promote their products. Chinese users trust this app for its quality content and social media marketing purposes. It is a platform supported by both Alibaba and Tencent.
Xiaohongshu was born as a shopping guide, posts and comments want to “educate” the user about a certain product. There is no real advertising. This creates strong engagement between publishers, consumers, and the brand behind the recommended product.
In 2019 the platform announced the addition of a new feature, live streaming. In the past, this option was only available for some subjects on the App, but it is now available to all resellers.
Live streaming is one of the biggest digital trends in China in 2023 and is a format that is particularly popular with users. Indeed, it allows showing the products in a realistic and detailed way and increases the relationship of trust between those who present them and the consumers.
The future of Chinese platforms and social media in China
The future of Chinese platforms and social media in China will be shaped by several key trends and developments:
- Continued growth and innovation, with platforms evolving to offer personalized experiences and integration with emerging technologies.
- Integration of e-commerce, as social media platforms become essential channels for brands to reach consumers and drive online sales.
- The dominance of short-video and live streaming, with further growth and innovation in these formats for immersive content experiences.
- Social commerce and influencer marketing playing a significant role, with platforms refining their capabilities for brand-influencer collaborations.
- Enhanced privacy and data security measures to address growing concerns and comply with regulations.
- Regulatory landscape influencing content control, as platforms navigate stricter enforcement of guidelines and data regulations.
- International expansion, as Chinese platforms target global markets and adapt to local preferences and regulations.
These trends will shape the future of Chinese platforms and social media, enabling them to stay at the forefront of innovation and cater to the evolving needs and preferences of Chinese consumers while complying with regulatory requirements.
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