China is the undisputed champion of social media, despite being absent from the largest social media websites in the West. By the sheer size of the user base, with over 91% of China’s population connected to a social media platform, and by the overall level of activity, Chinese social media is prevalent in a big way, when you compare them to their counterparts.
For the most part, many online companies don’t even bother to tap into this potential goldmine of new customers. This is either due to ignorance or being intimidated by the language and cultural barriers. Although consumer behavior doesn’t change all that drastically once you cross those imaginary borders and over international waters.
Establishing your Brand in China
In the U.S. your company should be accessible on at least 3 to 4 social media platforms to reach the minimum level of social activity; some combination of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, typically.
In China, it is common for users to be active on big Chinese social media platforms at the same time.
What makes things even more enticing for the Chinese social media, is that the people there are much more inclined to discuss and interact with brands directly openly.
Social Networks that Dominate
We are going to start with the top Chinese social media networks that grab the most significant market share. That doesn’t mean you should forgo adding more to your list of accounts.
Since so many Chinese are connected online, a “small” platform could be home to tens of millions of users, which you could be missing out. Let’s look at the most prominent players out there that you can’t afford to miss.
Also known as Weixin in Chinese, this mobile platform is one of the most versatile messaging apps on the market. This app is even gaining popularity in the States.
As an online business, you can use WeChat to connect with potential business partners in China, not just customers. Its user-friendly interface makes it easy to handle e-commerce transactions and accept direct payments.
There is also advertising space available, which works similarly to Facebook. You can target specific demographics and create custom ads-tailored for what the user is searching for, in this space.
People refer to Sina Weibo as the Chinese version of Twitter, which becomes evident after the first glance. It used to have the same character limit until November 2016, the same seamless integration of multimedia content, and the same excellent opportunities to quickly reach out to potential customers while staying engaged with past customers to strengthen your brand’s image.
It is crucial to utilize Sina Weibo as a foreign brand. You need to establish your voice as an authority that can be trusted and one that is “cool” or likable, as well.
An excellent example of international success is how Durex brand condoms sent a timely “tweet” out on the platform when Beijing residents were experiencing a long stretch of rainy weather.
They suggested using their condoms to stretch over their shoes to keep them dry if they must venture outside. This caused a considerable buzz, and the Durex name went viral.
With over 600 million Chinese on QZone, you really can’t afford not to incorporate this multi-functional blogging platform. This will mostly be your second home in China because of its friendly interface.
The interface allows for a considerable amount of customization right out of the gate. This will enable you to create quick and unique microsites for any occasion. Whether that is for the release of a new product or to promote events, deals, coupons, whatever you would typically post on a central website hub.
Considered by the Chinese to be the Facebook of China, RenRen.com gained massive popularity around the year 2005.
The main reason for the surge in its popularity was the ban on Facebook in the country. The current status of the once Social media giant is not very good as it failed to make the switch to Mobile. People have slowly moved off the platform, but at its time, it was massively popular.
RenRen’s color scheme, design, and even the logo were similar to Facebook. Many believed the company was in some way affiliated to the social media giants from the west.
Zhihu is known as the Chinese version of Quora.
Although in recent years, this question and answer website have gone on to become much more. The answers you will find on Zhihu are mostly very lengthy, unlike any such platforms. By the end of June 2018, Zhihu had a user base of 200 million with 7.05 million visitors daily.
Over the years, this site has evolved and advanced for the better. Zhihu introduced a whole lot of new features in recent years that Quora hasn’t yet which is why many believe that it has become better than Quora. One of these new introductions to the already popular website is the answer through the sound recording feature.
If you’re looking to use Chinese social media to grow your business in the country, Zhihu can a great help to the cause by ranking your business higher on the search engine.
All you need to do is provide the users with useful information about your business and hold fruitful discussions about your brand. If you’re attracting users on Zhihu, it would automatically mean an improvement in your search engine ranking.
Baidu Tieba boasts a daily 700 million as of December 2018. It is a forum where users can search for answers using keywords and further discuss the responses they get. One may call it the Chinese version of Reddit, but it isn’t the same.
If you use Baidu to grow your presence organically without resorting to advertising tricks, it can immensely improve your reach. The average daily users count at the forum is too high, and if you’re not using it to further your business following, you’re missing out on a lot.
For instance, Baidu can prove to be an excellent platform for getting honest feedback from the Chinese netizens. While on the net, people do not hesitate to be ruthless with their feedbacks.
So, Baidu can be just connecting the link you need between your brand and your consumer base. Those who understand the intricacies of the Chinese market but lack any substantial presence on social media platforms, Baidu Tieba can be a great forum to start.
This social networking platform works as an online place for netizens to discuss a variety of topics. From books and movies to the events that take place, Douban is also a bit like Reddit. It had a healthy monthly user count of 300 million as of August 2018 and can take your business to places it has no reach.
There is little room for direct advertising on the platform as it only allows digital banners. But there are other aspects of controlling consumer opinion that it can take care of.
Millions interact on the platform about a variety of topics every day, and opinions are shaped. What can be a better place to create brand awareness or repair any damage done? Whether it is changing ideas about your brand or introducing anything new, this forum is a perfect choice.
Moreover, it can also work as a place to get feedback from the users and use the feedback to your advantage by either improving or using it to gain new users. The nature of this platform makes it the most suitable place for implementing the word of mouth marketing strategies.
Brands can also hold events to collect like-minded people and let them discuss the topics concerned with your brand. Given that you use the platform to perfection, it can give you the organic following you need. After all, the organic audience is much easier to retain than the users you gain through paid advertising campaigns.
Final thoughts on Chinese Social Media Strategy
When planning your Chinese Social Media strategy, you must keep in mind just how hyper-connected the lifestyle has become, even more so than the United States.
These standardized social media platforms allow for all walks of life to be connected, regardless of the model of the phone. This helps businesses immensely; they don’t need an expensive social media campaign or a fancy custom website to compete.
What sets successful brands apart from the rest of the competition is how smart and how dedicated their social media approach is to these platforms.
Be aggressive with how established you are on Chinese social media platforms but don’t commit one of the biggest blunders for all social media strategies by replying to every single comment and every single share with what amounts to “spamming” and, ultimately, desperation.
It doesn’t matter what country you operate in; everyone loves the funny, approachable, and tenacious accounts on social media. For more useful tips on digital marketing strategy in China, check out this article about 10 Digital trends there.