Using social media in china for marketing purposes is a powerful and cost-effective way to connect with consumers. A comprehensive knowledge of the country, the digital market and the behavior of Chinese internet users are all key elements required to succeed in China.

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Here are ten things you need to know about social media in China

Social networks have become vital to any marketing campaign conducted in China

The Chinese social media landscape is arguably the most dynamic, unique and exciting one in the world. Social media in China has exploded particularly with the rise of Weibo (China’s answer to Twitter) and Wechat.

These Social media platforms have thus become a key target for marketers with the highest internet penetration rate (45%) in the world. There are an astonishing 634 million internet users or ‘netizens’.

With an increasing numbers of consumers moving into the digital landscape the role of social media is even more important to your marketing strategy in China than it is in the west (see some of the best strategies here).

The Chinese Social Media Landscape is unique

Moreover Social Media have evolved differently in the middle kingdom than in our western societies. Your everyday western sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Youtube are not available in China.

In China, the market is dominated by local, Chinese social media outlets. The established networks that we’ve come to know in the west have not been able to successfully expand here due to strict state censorship but also because they failed to localized.  Being protected by this powerful barrier and without the influence of large western social media firms, many localized networks have been specifically developed for the Chinese market, meeting the desire people have to connect.

Different social networks mean different approaches, strategies, and behaviors that you will have to learn before doing anything. In other words, the key for you to succeed  is to be adaptable and flexible. Classic strategies do not necessarily work on these Chinese style networks.  An in-depth understanding of the different social networks is the key to thriving in the Chinese market.

 

Wester social media are blocked in china

 

What are the key social media platforms in china?

Weibo:

Weibo is a micro-blogging platform that works in essentially the same way as the American ‘Twitter’. Users can exchange any type of content with their friends. With 500 million registered accounts it is the key social network to be engaging with if you are attempting to enter the Chinese market.

It is the place to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s popular in China. The app is much more ‘open’ as a social media than Wechat, therefore, it is the most effective for marketers.

When doing Marketing on Weibo you can be commercial, users are here for discounts, announcements, contest etc… The concentration span on Weibo is rather short. Users spend a few seconds on each post, therefore you better have a striking and engaging communication to get the attention of your followers. The ads system on Weibo is efficient, it will remind many of you, Facebook ads.

 

Wechat :

Wechat is Tencent’s flagship social network. It started as a simple app for the smartphone whose main appeal was to send short vocal messages before morphing into a fully-fledged social networking platform. It has 1.08 billion monthly active users and is on the rise, locally and internationally (particularly in Asia).

As a matter of fact, It is currently considerably harder to market effectively on Wechat because it is a closed social network. Users can only see content, posts and likes posted by people they have added as friends. So far there is one way to bypass this obstacle, have people add and subscribe to your brand account using QR codes to spread the news about the brand. Once customers are following your account you can promote special discounts or content exclusively for subscribers.

Wechat users can also post ‘moments’ (akin to a status update on facebook) with pictures and comments being shared. The Chinese are especially influenced by their social network circle. Users with many friends online can be influenced financially to promote a certain product by sharing content on their Wechat posts. This is effective as the specific demographic of the ‘friendship circle’ can be directly targeted.

Brands cannot track users accounts but they can assess the media performance of their own, opinion leaders, celebrities and competitors’ accounts.

Sam Fleming writes on ‘Ad Age’ that ‘this leads to informed media buying and content strategy decisions’.

Xiaohongshu:

aka Red is a social e-commerce platform. It was founded a few years ago and has a focus on the user. The content is generated by users and for users. The app later successfully opened to e-commerce. Consumers largely use RED to find genuine product reviews.

Any brands that works in the cosmetics and beauty field should consider using RED. RED Users are mostly women living in 1st tiers chinese city with an interest for internationnal products.

Douyin:

The chinese Tik Tok is an influencers platform where poeples post short video. This app belongs to the group bytedance who also possess the popular News app Toutiao.

Douyin users are slightly younger on average than the one of the previous app we saw but is still a very influential platform. Toutiao users based is composed of more men than women and have often graduated from university.

These 2 apps are using ultra targetting to reach their users and provides them a custom experience. Being present there for a brand via influencer or ads is an option to seriously consider.

There are 100 of platforms for live streaming such as Meipai, Yinke, Yizhibo to mention only the most famous one.

Baidu Tieba:

This is part of the Chinese search engine ‘Baidu’ which prevails over 70% of its own market. Tieba is a forum for topics searchable by subject categories. Content becomes more important the more it gains visibility based on the ranking of the Tieba community. For a brand, the objective here is to establish a large enough following who are ranking their content highly so that it appears at the top of the Tieba community page.

Qzone:

A social networking website created by Tencent in 2005. It is largely an instant messaging platform but users can join groups to discuss certain topics.

Youku:

This is the Chinese version of ‘Youtube’, it allows users to upload multimedia content. Users can comment on content giving it a rating and review. There is often an extensive number of adverts shown before any video can be viewed.

 

 

There is a larger, more active user base in China

The number of people using social networking in China is significantly more than in the US with an estimated 1+ billion of active social media users.

Chinese consumers are incredibly active and subscribe to several different Chinese networks.

Chinese ‘netizens’ spend about 5-6 hours every day on social media.

More time on social networks results in more exposure to content and produces a higher number of interactions. In turn, this leads to a social networking landscape that is evolving and changing more quickly. It is vital to have your finger on the pulse to react to and capitalize upon new emerging trends.

Users spend 5-6 hours per day on chinese social media

The Chinese consumer often engages with social media ‘on the move’

An increasing number of users access social media on their mobile phones rather than via their PC or laptop, this trend is showing no signs of stopping.  This greatly facilitates online interactions as the user can conduct their daily activities and engage with their social network simultaneously.

It incorporates and brings social networking to the forefront of the users day to day experience, people can constantly express themselves and update their social media to more accurately reflect their life moment by moment. In WeChat as opposed to a ‘status update,’ users post ‘moments’.

 

The huge popularity of social networking reflects a lack of trust in traditional media sources

Chinese government has an increasingly long list of “sensitive” topics that are not supposed to be discussed. People use social networks more to find his type of information they need despite the censorship which is applied.

The key is trust. Chinese netizens are often distrustful of messages received via traditional state media such as TV, press or radio. They are more influenced by their families, friends and by key opinion leaders (KOL’s) online. Word of mouth is arguably the most powerful marketing tool at your disposal in China. An intelligent, comprehensive digital campaign to facilitate the spread of this is key.

Importance of Key Opinion Leaders (KOL’s) in Chinese social media

Kols or Key opinion leaders shape views and opinions, people see them as experts on particular subjects. These type of celebrities or online personalities are especially popular in China. They have successfully gathered large communities of people around them. Different demographics can be targeted on social media via these key opinion leaders.

The benefit of this trend is that a ‘KOLs’ can be recruited by your company and become instrumental in spreading a positive message about your brand. In this way, you can benefit from the KOL’s large online community and reach thousands or even millions of potential consumers in one go.

This digital solution is extremely effective in China, even more so than in western countries.

short video social media douyin

E-commerce reviews and consumer’s opinions are vital

The growth of e-commerce has simultaneously led to a growth of the importance of comments and reviews. To consumers they are a rich source of information and to you they are a incredible source of user-generated content. Chinese read reviews to help them make purchasing decision. They are especially influenced by the reviews and opinions of those within their social circle.

With social networks giving users the opportunity to share this information either positive or negative content can be disseminated extraordinarily quickly amongst social groups.

Consequently, it is vital to manage your e-reputation and promote positive content within social networks. Tracking this type of user content is a necessity for brands as a source of consumer intelligence as well as an influential media source.

Social Media is potentially becoming more fragmented and localized

It is not just about the current, most dominant social networks. New forms of expression continue to emerge in this fast-paced, ever-changing market. With an increasing numbers of people from all different ages and backgrounds using social media, there is likely to be a demand for ‘new’ spaces where users can communicate and share content in a way which sets itself apart from the ‘mainstream’.

Two examples are ‘Nice’ (a photo app similar to Instagram) and ‘Meipai’ (a video app similar to Vine). Brands such as Ray-Ban and Bulgari have begun to launch campaigns on these platforms. Neither has yet gained dominance but it is expected that the fragmentation of the networking landscape through such types ‘alternative’ networks will continue.

Companies and Brands should remain vigilant to find the right way to engage their audience and using specialist, local agencies who know the market is key.

chinese social media - Nice photo sharing app

It is vital that you understand the differences and how you must tailor and adapt your digital marketing strategy in China to succeed

With over 1 billion social media users  in China, customer retention is a challenge. People respect the opinions of their social circles, so companies need to create intelligent strategies and new advertising models. Only in this way will a brand manager to create a strong image, address the concerns of its customers and avoid damaging, negative reviews.

Lacking the accurate and reliable measurement systems makes it difficult to analyze the results of one’s business strategies, especially given the size of the communities involved. You will need to have staff who can reliably measure the results of a digital campaign and know the contemporary Chinese market intimately.

We are experts in Chinese social media strategies and can help you design your digital marketing strategy in China. If you have a project in mind feel free to contact us.

Further reading :

  1. More on e-reputation in China
  2. KOL in China
  3. Digital marketing in China is key for promoting your brand