A twin opposite of its counterpart in the West, Chinese social media is bursting at its seams, and to engage with Chinese consumers; it is essential that you understand this social media space. Even though there’s no Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, the phenomenon is larger in the East than in the West.
With more than 800 million Chinese internet users ready to share their opinions, get product recommendations, and connect with others, this digital landscape is incredibly rich and diverse. Global brands looking to build a presence in the Chinese market need to keep a close eye on China’s emerging and innovative social platforms.
Why is Chinese Social Media Important for Global Brands?
According to a study done by the Chinese government, more than 57% of the country’s population are active internet users. In the United States of America, that number is around 79%. So, while China doesn’t have the same market penetration, there is massive potential for growth.
One must also consider the impressive level of mobile uptake in China. Almost all (98%) of people in China use the internet via mobile devices. Compared to the U.S.A (which stands at 73%), Chinese social media is much more dynamic, with mobile users turning to platforms like WeChat for tips, testimonials, and recommendations.
Brands that trade on a global level must dedicate themselves to tracking social media trends, but unfortunately, many brands do not understand the Chinese market in-depth and cannot track local trends in real-time. Dolce & Gabbana’s 2018 promotional video that sparked outrage and a public apology is a clear example of businesses misreading the Chinese market.
Incidents like this showcase the importance of translating and localizing your marketing content to ensure it is perceived in the right light on a local level. This is also where social listening comes in; tracking and observing Chinese social media platform exchanges to build a deeper understanding of local perceptions to avoid marketing missteps.
How Businesses Can Leverage Chinese Social Platforms
With the variety of social media platforms in China and impressive user numbers, there is a significant advertising opportunity for global brands. Some businesses have recognized the opportunity, and in response, started creating bespoke content for the Chinese market. Flash sales on WeChat, using KOLs on Xiaohongshu, and niche product offers on Zhihu are just a few examples of how businesses are tapping into the Eastern social media market.
Even though the Chinese market has unique characteristics that might pose a challenge or two for marketers, businesses need to deploy a few basic principles to tap into this proverbial goldmine. Here are the basics of leveraging Chinese social media:
Ensure your content is user-oriented and authentic.
The Clinique brand from Estée Lauder used Sufei’s Diary in China. It was a 40-episode drama series based on a skincare storyline, prominently featuring their products. Still, because the content was authentic and user-oriented, viewers perceived it as entertainment rather than a Clinique advertisement. After being viewed more than 21 million times, Clinique’s brand awareness is almost 30% higher than its competitors’.
Support overarching brand goals.
Starbucks in China has the same message of community building and quality across all its social media channels and stores. The marketing team from Durex monitors online comments 24/7 and works with agency partners to come up with original, engaging content. With this strategy, the company interacts meaningfully with its fans while still deepening customer engagement with the brand.
Use Influencers to Endorse Your Brand.
Celebrities have millions of Weibo followers, and a recommendation from the right person can help you reap huge rewards. Analyzing the social media behavior of your target audience can help you find influencers like “wang hong” cyber celebrities (such as MiuMiu) who are perceived as personal and authentic. With the right champions on board, your brand will gain popularity on Chinese social media much faster.
Global brands that want to take advantage of the plethora of opportunities Chinese social media presents must translate and localize their content to ensure they reach their target audience with authentic and user-oriented messaging. The East might vary drastically from the West, but since the growth opportunities are uncapped, it is a market well worth investing in.
Investing time and money into having your social media marketing campaigns translated and localized might seem pointless, but it’ll enable you to target a larger audience in increase your conversion rate. Your efforts will also make it easier for Chinese customers to understand and absorb your content, which in turn can help you secure more long-term customers.
Article by Seldean Smith