The social networks landscape in China is unique
China has the highest internet penetration rate in the world : 45% (634 million netizens). As Consumers are going more and more digital, social networks become increasingly important in a marketing strategy
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1 : Forget the classics, go for the Chinese SNS.
Censorship in China has banished all the major social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and more recently Google and its G+ social plateform.
As a consequence the vast majority of the successful social networks in China are locals. Different social networks mean different strategies and behaviors that you will have to learn before doing anything. Understanding Chinese social networks is key to be as successful on the Chinese market as you were on your other markets
2 :Keep watch to see the new trends on time.
China is the country of social networks way ahead of the US, with its 300 million users, equivalent of the total population of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK put altogether.
According to China post, Chinese netizens spend about 40% of their 25 hours/week online on social networks. More time on social networks means more interactions which in turn mean a landscape evolving even more quickly.
You can’t miss this:
There are more social networks in China and they evolve more rapidly than anywhere else in the world
Ie : Chinese could embed video content in their posts more than a year before the US could do it. The pressure on evolution and ever changing landscape is partially caused by the well known heavy censorship. Since classic media like press and TV can’t be really trusted, people go on social networks for some freedom of speech
3 : Consumers
80% of the time, chinese consumers are more active and have subscribe to several chinese networks, mainly locals. In addition, more and more people go online via their mobile phone rather than their laptop and this trend is not stopping anytime soon. This greatly facilitates online interactions since the user can easily do his daily and online activities at the same time. Besides, since the government has a growing list of “sensitive” topics, people go more and more on social networks to find any information they need despite the censorship applied.
This brings us to a critical matter in China : Trust
Chinese are rather distrustful toward media such as TV, press or radio. However, polls have indicated that they are very much influenced by their families, friends and by KOLs online
KOL : Key opinion Leaders
They are influent leaders, already off line celebrities or on-line personalities, that have successfully gathered communities around them.
What’s the benefit for your company here? KOL recruited by your company can help spreading a good message about your brand and make it appear as a trustworthy brand. This way you can benefit from the KOL’s community and reach thousands or sometimes millions of people in one go.
This digital solution works very well in China, much better than in Western countries
4 : Content
The rate offer/demand is largely against companies in social networks. They all battle against each other to increase their number of clients. They use any mean necessary to gain an advantage over the competition:
Hiring people to publish positive content about their brand or attack their competitors with bad online PR in hope that the published content will go viral. After many health and safety issues in China this works very well and often triggers a lot of responses from the competitors or disguised users
Companies trying to do PR Crisis management must identify the source of this bad PR and make the difference between a competitor or a truly unhappy customer and adapt its answer.
Don’t forget that fake or disguised account may not only trigger bad reputation but also a change in customer behavior.
You must take this into account when prospecting a market. If you do not you risk drawing the wrong conclusions about your customers
5 : The must go social plateforms
The social media market is divided and local. This is once again because of the Chinese censorship that keeps the foreign social media out of Mainland China. Bing protected by this barrier, lots of Social Networks were developed to meet the increasing need for netizens to connect to each other.
Each type of platform has at least two main players, microblogging, instant messaging, dating, multimedia platform.
In recent years however, Because of the war between the three major groups in China : Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu there has been a few social networks standing out from the crowd :
Here are the most famous and biggest one as of today. Given the pace at which the market is changing there is no telling how quickly it will become outdated.
Weibo : Micro- blogging platform, this service works in pretty much the same way as the American Twitter : users can exchange any type of content with their friends, their favorite brand or their favorite celebrities With 500 million registered accounts it is the social network to be when you are a brand that wished to enter the Chinese market. In order to do it right you need to open an official account. The user will then know that this account is legitimate and not fake, a very frequent problem in this country.
Whether you are a company wanting to understand your customer better or a celebrity wanting to increase its reputation in China, Weibo is the tool you want. Above you can see Vogue’s weibo account and its 2000000 followers.
Sure, these numbers may make your head spin but they are far from out of your reach with a bit of time and the right strategy.
Wechat, whose name is Weixin in China is Tencent’s new flagship social network. It started as a simple app for smartphone whose main appeal was to send 1minute vocal messages before morphing into a fully fledged social network platform. It has 500 million registered users and is on the rise, locally and internationally.
Sadly for companies Wechat is rather difficult to exploit since it is a closed social network:
You can only see content, posts and likes posted by people you have added as friends. So far there has only been one way to bypass this obstacle : have people add your brand account using QR codes to spread news about the brand. Apparently this side of the story about Wechat is far from over since the group owning Wechat is trying to find a solution that would bring compromise between users and companies
Youku : Chinese youtube , it allows to upload multimedia content. Users can comment on them, give them a grade .
Qzone : Big brother WeChat released in 2005, is primarily QZone Tencent instant messaging more than a social network. Yet with 600 million users, it is still a tool that can not be ignored. Qzone users can take custom blogs and stream media . They can also join groups of all kinds to discuss topics of interest.
Baidu Tieba : Part of search engine Baidu prevailing over 70% of its own market , Tieba is a forum of topics by subject categories, such information etc. Over the Tieba becomes important the more it will gain visibility in the ranking of Tieba community . So for a brand, the objective here is to establish a large enough to appear in the tops so that they can have a good view from this very important community Tieba .
See here an example of the effectiveness of Tieba Baidu : Baidu Tieba The TF Boys group , well known in China :• More than 5 million post• 615,212 people are interested in what Tieba .This group can ensure consistent about their album release exchanges , their latest news Having a good management on Baidu Tieba , allowing you to monitor your community even if here too, as Weibo missing more specific tools to learn more about your community.
6: The content must be positioned depending on your strategy
While the social networking market is different from what an inbound marketer can know in the West , it is still about social networks.
Example: The Estée Lauder brand Clinique campaign released a series of 40 episodes of a TV show called Sufei’Diary on a dedicated website. While Estee Lauder products were widely highlighted during the series , users perceived it as an entertainment program , not as an advertisement .Thus the ” Sufei Diray ‘s ” campaign has been viewed 21 million times . Following these events the reputation of Clinique is 27 % higher than that of its competitors as it is much cheaper than a traditional media campaign .
7 : One rule : try and adapt !
A number of important factors come into play when it comes to social networks. Example with Dove China with its first import of Real Beauty on social networks to promote beauty in all women , regardless what their bodies , consumers soon found that they were big and not attractive. Dove therefore adapted to the consumer point of view taking into account their views . The brand has partnered with Ugly Wudi , the Chinese version of Ugly Betty to spread his message Real Beauty in history. She also set up a large number of parallel activities as written by Wudi and discussions online blog. This effort generated millions of searches and post on blogs that made increase product sales of Dove body lotion 21% per year after the end of the first season. At the same time , the natural increase of the Dove Real Beauty reputation grew by 44 % among target customers. The estimated ROI for this kind of social networking campaign is estimated at 4 times the investment of traditional media campaigns like TV . Here is the presentation video on Youtube:
8: The presence on social networks should be supported A good social media campaign that lasts is a long-term project that requires continuous efforts. Starbucks China , through its standardized branding seeks to promote the same values of quality , social networking and community building at each stage of its strategy for social media as well as in its stores
With over 300 million users of social networks in China, customer retention is a challenge. People expect the opinions of their social circles, so companies need to create new strategies and new advertising models . Only in this way they will manage to create a strong brand image, address the concerns of its customers, avoid the negative reviews. Lack of accurate and reliable measurement systems makes it more difficult to analyze the results of business strategies given the size of the communities involved , the lack of analytical tools and limited transparency.
Once the difficulties and key points of the Chinese industry including networks , you need to have staff who know intimately the contemporary culture of the Middle Kingdom . So even if you have problems to analyze the behavior of your users you can use this cultural understanding to improve your understanding of it. As you have seen in this article social networks in China are powerful and cost effective tools to succeed in China . A good knowledge of the country and the behavior of Chinese netizens are two key elements to succeed in China.