8 top tips for Chinese social media success

Any Western brand looking to succeed in the Chinese market needs to get to grips with Chinese social media. But in a county of 800+ million online consumers and a highly-connected, sophisticated audience who love their mobiles, what tactics should brands employ for Chinese social media success?

The potential wins

Figures suggest that 91% of Chinese netizens have at least one social media account, and that these users spend up to 40% of their day on their preferred platforms. If you can achieve Chinese social media success, your brand will be able to:

– Build its reputation and awareness within your target audience
– Create engagement, trust and that all-important sense of relationship
– Drive traffic to your Chinese website and other digital assets – to generate conversions and sales
– Deliver customer service and an enhanced experience for brand loyalty.

Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Do your research

It’s tempting to make easy comparisons between Western social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and Chinese equivalents such as WeChat, Weibo, YouKu, Douin, and Little Red Book. However, to do so is to fundamentally misunderstand how these platforms work. Each has its own target audience, its own features and functionalities (reviews, tip-sharing, private social networking, short video creation etc), its own brand appeal and a series of unique opportunities for Western brands to engage, advertise and even directly sell to Chinese customers.

With this in mind, perhaps the most important tip of all is to spend plenty of time really getting to grips with each Chinese social media platform. For one thing, there are far more than in the West. Here, a brand might be comfortable limiting its social media engagement to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for a B2C brand. But in China, there might be half a dozen relevant platforms, plus a number of supporting and more ‘niche’ social media platforms (remembering, of course, the realities of China’s vast scale!).

2. Understand your Chinese audience

In the West, social media users tend to be consumers of content. However, Chinese social media users are highly likely to create their own shareable content and to be very active in doing so. Chinese customers will, for example, be far more likely to react to the online campaign of an online business or brand that they are interested in, and will engage with it by posting responses to queries, participating in games of competitions and sharing reviews.

3. Prioritise relationships

In the West, a social media account may be used heavily by a brand to push out content; details about competitions, new product launches, explainer videos and so forth. However, Chinese culture is built on relationships and the idea of ‘saving face’, so loyalty, trust and reliability are all key attributes that matter to this audience. Chinese customers are also far more likely to talk about their experience with your brand online and to leave a review – so invest heavily in customer experience and service as part of your Chinese social media development; perhaps more so than you might for your domestic Western branded channels.

4. Prioritise user-oriented, authentic content

As an example of this in practice, Clinique created its own 40 episode drama series – Sufei’s Diary – with a daily showing on its campaign website, and supporting segments shown on Out of House media such as trains, buses and aeroplanes. part of the storyline was about skincare and Clinique’s products, but the story itself was viewed as genuine entertainment and over 21 million views were achieved. The result for Clinique was a 27% increase in brand awareness, at a far lower cost than a traditional advertising campaign.

5. Use KOLs

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are the social media rockstars of the commercial world in China! Some of the biggest can command hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for a single post, although others will be far more affordable and appropriate for brand targeting. Western brands can work with the right KOLs to build their presence in China through sponsored content, partnerships, competitions, direct advertising and other methods. These powerful influencers are a rapid way of building your brand within a target market, using the loyalty and relationship that the KOL will have built with their fan base, to position your own brand as one of quality, reliability, and trust. A Chinese digital marketing agency can help you to identify the right KOL for your brand and work with you to develop the necessary relationship for Chinese social media success.

6. Be mindful of Censorship

All Chinese media, online and offline, is monitored by the government, so all content that you publish must be in line with strict censorship rules. This isn’t anything to be concerned about, but it does mean that you need to follow the rules. Again, a Chinese digital marketing agency can help you to navigate these.

7. Integrate your content

Western brands should also integrate their content across on and any offline marketing channels for consistent messaging, with an emphasis on the values that Chinese consumers value. For example, Starbucks China always uses content and messaging that promotes its core values: quality, community and social responsibility, for maximum effect and resonance.

8. Test and learn

The phrase ‘don’t run before you can walk’ definitely holds true when it comes to pursuing Chinese social media success. Find the right platforms for your brand and begin your brand building and engagement campaign slowly. Measure everything that you do, so that you can assess its return and effectiveness. Bear in mind that all analytics will be in Chinese, but your digital marketing agency will be able to produce the necessary reports.

Find out more

Market Me China works with Western brands across all industries – especially education, e-commerce, travel and B2B – to craft highly effective strategies for Chinese social media success. Our team of digital experts work with brands on a flexible basis to provide a bespoke service, with evidenced results. Please contact us to find out more.