Three simple steps to improving your digital marketing in China
Getting your online comms right can be a huge boost to your brand, so long as you can avoid some basic errors
Online communication in China is an important – arguably the most important – route by which brands can send messages to their potential consumers. Over 600 million people in China use the internet (the largest national online population in the world), mostly from their phones or tablet computers, and mainly for chatting or sharing pictures. Blending brand communications into this torrent of information flow is a subtle business, and fraught with pitfalls – some generic, and some very specific to China.
1. Remember what Chinese consumers can actually see
Fact: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked in China, and are therefore inaccessible to all but the most dedicated cyber-nerd. Fact: Some wine brands still host their Mainland China social media presence on the aforementioned sites. . . which means that virtually no Chinese consumers can see them. Instead, China-specific digital comms ought to be hosted on the Mainland equivalents: Renren and Weibo (quasi Facebook and Twitter), WeChat (the local version of WhatsApp), Youku or Tudou (local YouTubes). For the moment, the Western site Instagram appears to have escaped censorship, so this too can be used.
2. Remember what consumers are using the platform for
In common with Western consumers, Chinese have different need states when using different online platforms, according to research conducted for our China Internet and Social Media Report 2014:
Weibo is used for following brands or people they respect/like, getting updated on the latest news, or to repost interesting topics and share them among people
WeChat is more likely to be used for sharing a moment (like a diary of the users’ daily activities) with family or friends specifically
E-commerce websites are used not only for purchasing but also reading other shoppers’ reviews
Brand website are used to get “official” information from the brand, such as who the official stockists are (important when so many fakes are in the supply chain) and to keep updated with the latest brand news, promotions, etc.
BBS forums are used to share interesting topics and exchange opinions about the brands they like
Screenshots of Sina Weibo (left) and WeChat (right) as of July 2014
3. Understand what each platform is capable of
Each of the Chinese social media platforms have services and functions that serve Chinese consumers’ needs. Brands can make sure of these functions to maximise their marketing activities. Apart from instant messaging, WeChat incorporates QR code scanning, gaming, and online payment services. Weibo provides social-networking services as well as comprehensive information such as news, films, music, sports, pets, etc. Apart from video sharing like YouTube, Youku works with some domestic and foreign TV channels to broadcast popular TV shows and programmes. As a B2C e-commerce site, Taobao has also developed its own online payment system to enhance online shopping experiences.