With over 1.4 billion people living in China, and over 600 million of those being active internet users, it’s no surprise that digital marketing and building an online presence in China is essential for a brand’s success. Gone are the days when traditional forms of advertising such as online banners and pop-ups proved value for money, instead innovative, creative and sometimes strange digital marketing strategies are required to tap into the sleeping dragon’s digitally savvy consumers and unique social media landscape.
China’s social media universe plays by its own set of rules and is vastly unlike the West’s. Forget what you know about Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, as government censorship has all but rendered these services irrelevant and obsolete on the mainland. Instead, if you’re looking to enter China and develop an integrated marketing strategy turn your attention to their equivalents which have dominated the landscape through the creation of China specific networking eco-systems that are unlike anywhere else.
Weibo (literally translated as micro-blog) is China’s answer to Twitter, users are limited to 140 characters per post (although this looks set to change) and are freely able to view and comment on any of its 500 million users’ posts, whether they’re directly connected to them or not. Weibo is not only a source of communication among Chinese netizens, but also a first port of call for netizens looking for news updates and being in on the country’s hottest trending topics giving brands powerful insight into the most current cultural happenings in Chinese society. Weibo is a critical weapon in a brand’s arsenal in China due to its open platform structure and familiar format to Twitter, therefore it is often a good starting point for foreign brands looking to enter the Chinese digital marketing space and increase brand awareness. As with Twitter, Weibo provides brands, celebrities and corporations with official account verification status which gives credibility to all content posted and attracts further interest. As with many other services in China, a worrying amount of zombie and imposter accounts exist on the platform, therefore Weibo verification is an invaluable asset if you wish to succeed on Weibo and protect your brand’s reputation.
Here at PingPong Digital we offer clients help with developing Weibo marketing strategies, Weibo account verification and Weibo content and account moderation to support their digital marketing strategies in China. PingPong Digital is also the only UK based digital marketing agency to offer comprehensive Weibo packages for clients which includes official Weibo account verification, and are the official partner agency for Weibo in the UK.
What started as a simple audio and text messaging app has morphed into China’s largest social media network with over 650 million active users connecting via WeChat. WeChat is now more akin to a hybrid of Whatsapp and Facebook…and uber, yelp, Apple Wallet amongst others (it’s got a lot of features), acting as a platform which is not only used to message contacts, but to also post ‘Moments’ in a similar manner to Facebook’s newsfeed. In addition to this, a plethora of features have been developed through third party arrangements in which WeChat users are now also able to buy things online, follow official accounts of brands and celebrities, pay their bills, order a taxi and book a reservation at a restaurant using geolocation technology all whilst staying within the WeChat app and ecosystem. However, a striking difference between WeChat and its biggest competitor Weibo is that unlike Weibo’s open platform approach, WeChat adopts a closed platform strategy for its users. So what does this mean you ask? WeChat’s closed platform strategy restricts users from communicating with other WeChat users unless they are directly connected (think following users on Twitter, or being “Facebook friends”), as a result official accounts of brands and corporations posting on WeChat are posting to an audience of directly engaged followers and not to the public which has meant a complete restructuring of marketing strategy catered to the WeChat universe and Chinese market.
How to use Chinese social media to gain marketshare and improve brand awareness:
There are many elements to a successful digital marketing strategy in China, many of them already similar to those conducted across Western digital platforms. When thinking about digital marketing strategies you might think PPC and SEO, all of which are extremely effective tools both in the West and in China, though processed through the different algorithms of Google and Baidu. After a messy divorce between Google and the Communist Party of China in 2010, Baidu has been left with no major competitors in the Chinese search engine market and currently occupies 80% of the mainland’s search engine market share, however, after scandals and controversies concerning Baidu’s PPC and SEM, Baidu was forced to restructure its algorithms and more accurately reflect search results in an organic manner than on a ‘who paid the most’ basis, meaning great change and opportunities will become available for businesses looking to adopt these approaches into their digital marketing strategies.
Aside from the traditional search engine strategies, other unique features which marketers in China are using to develop successful digital marketing strategies across social networks include the creation of high-quality content and using ‘KOL’ (Key Opinion Leaders) to boost awareness, credibility and conversions. Quality content is a requisite to any successful Chinese digital marketing strategy across all of China’s social networks, Chinese netizens are highly engaged and electronic-word-of-mouth marketing is one of the country’s most effective forms of marketing communications. Chinese consumers trust the opinions of others in their immediate networks, therefore the importance of creating quality content that is engaging and sharable across these personal networks is of vital importance and helps provide brands with more credibility and ultimately leads to more followers and potential customers. Important to note, that content in Mandarin is far more likely to be shared than content in English, therefore if you’re looking for maximum engagement, stick to Mandarin or at least bilingual content to be safe.
Quality content is also particularly effective if promoted through a KOL, these are verified accounts of either celebrities, bloggers, or other trusted public figures that can essentially be paid off to post content on behalf of a third party, think celebrity endorsement of products in a way which appears less conspicuous. KOLs offer brands the potential to cross promote products and services across Weibo and WeChat to large, unscaled audiences which they would not have previously had access to. In addition to reaching a wider audience, positive endorsement of brands, products or services by KOLs offers companies with the added credibility and “cool factor” that advertising cannot buy. PingPong Digitial offers clients access to some of China’s most influential KOLs, with close connections to Weibo and WeChat’s KOLs we’re able to leverage their reach to promote clients’ brands, products and services to hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers.
For more information and details about Chinese digital marketing strategies, contact PingPong Digital. We offer our clients comprehensive packages for their digital marketing strategies in China including Weibo marketing and account verification, WeChat business and marketing strategies, and Baidu SEO, SEM, and PPC. We also have a dedicated team of Chinese experts who are able to create your Chinese website from the ground-up to better position your business in China’s crowded online landscape.
This is a sponsored post on behalf of Ping Pong Digital. All opinions are 100% my own.