How to build your brand on Chinese social media

Looking to crack the lucrative China market? Western companies – whatever their industry – will need to have a strong digital presence to compete in this highly competitive, vast market of sophisticated netizens. In this blog, we’ll take a look at ways to successfully build your brand on Chinese social media.

Where to build your brand on Chinese social media

First things first; if your Western brand is new to Chinese marketing, then you’ll need to get to grips with an entirely new set of social media platforms. The Great Firewall of China prevents Chinese customers from accessing Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other Western websites. Instead, China has a technologically advanced, highly active and unique series of social media platforms such as WeChatWeiboYouKuDouyinLittle Red Book.

1. Build your brand image

Firstly, a strong brand image is essential within this discerning market. Western brands are usually seen as being high quality, which is valuable in a market that has been dogged by counterfeit products. Use targeted research of your target Chinese audience to create a brand image that meets their unique tastes, needs and interests. Consistency is the name of the game and you will need to invest in your digital branding efforts to build awareness and penetration within your market.

2. Identify the best platforms and create your brand accounts

Based on the research in step 1, you can then identify the correct Chinese social media sites and create your accounts to build your brand in China.

3. Create a unique Editorial Personality

Editorial Personalities are big in Chinese social media marketing and important for successful campaigns. This means creating a personality for your brand, which will be represented consistently in every piece of content you produce for your Chinese audience; whether that’s in the form of copy, video, graphics or audio. Create a distinctive identity, or persona, for your brand; which includes gender, age and background and a unique tone of voice (including writing style and word choices.)

When you invest in your brand’s editorial personality in China, you can create an individualised perspective which makes it far easier for your Chinese target audience to relate to your content. As an example, DHL uses a nickname “小D” (Little D) and an informal tone to introduce their expertise to their B2B and B2C WeChat followers alike. It also makes it far easier for your marketing team and agency to create consistent, on-brand content that will resonate with your audience.

4. Get that content right

It goes without saying that your branded content needs to be useful, valuable, interesting and emotional. Arguably, quality content matters even more in China than it does in the West! Chinese customers research their purchase decisions carefully and they use social networking to gather information and referrals on the products that they are interested in. The more expensive or ‘involved’ your product or service, the more that this price-sensitive audience is likely to research it. Invest in engaging, exciting content that answers questions and provides ready means of further engagement and information gathering. Social campaigns should be exciting enough to stand out from the competition, whilst providing meaningful value (such as competition prizes, free trials and so forth) – and they need to be appropriately integrated across your branded digital assets for a consistent experience.

5. Consider KOL marketing

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are big business in China, where customers are keen to research their purchases carefully and to make value-driven purchase decisions. Chinese customers like to receive trusted referrals and guidance and to learn about quality Western brands from Chinese influencers that are authentic, and that they trust. The right KOL partnership can greatly enhance the ability of a Western brand to build its presence within its target Chinese audience.

6. Look at social ads

It is possible to place paid advertising on platforms such as WeChat and Weibo to leverage the impact of your branded content and to build awareness and engagement amongst your target audience. A Chinese marketing agency can help you to identify the right platforms and online advertising opportunities for your campaign.

7. Create a virtual ‘home’ for your Chinese followers

You can direct your social followers to your Chinese official website where would be a virtual ‘home’ for them. Use Chinese website localisation services here to create a home that meets your target audience’s needs. A Chinese marketing agency can facilitate this process using expert insights and research data to support user journeys, graphical presentation and functionality. Think carefully and holistically about your brand’s broader digital requirements, such as usability and access speeds, payment gateways, social integration, graphical presentation and calls to action.

8. Make sure your website is localised

The key things to remember here are Chinese Cultural Customisation and Chinese consumer values. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you can simply translate your Western content into Chinese and that it will hit the mark – it probably won’t! There are various socio-economic and technical aspects to take into account for true localisation – and the best results. For example:

a. Your Chinese audience will invariably access your content via a smartphone – meaning that mobile-friendly, responsive websites are key.
b. Cultural factors go beyond simple language, images, campaign positioning, numbers/colours and so forth. Consider website interactivity, usability, and overall purchase intent. Remember that Chinese customer user journeys are likely to differ from Western customer user journeys.
c. Cultural values in China are very different from those in the West. For example, Chinese customers can be characterised as being collectivist (rather than individualistic), accepting of power and hierarchy, ‘masculine’ in nature – valuing symbols of success, materialism and characteristics such as assertiveness. Chinese audiences also communicate in a highly contextual way – with greater numbers of meaningful symbols and visual cues than Western customers. They also have a low tolerance for ambiguity.

If Chinese cultural cues such as Jia (family), Guanxi (relationships), Mianzi (Face) and Xin (Trust) are unfamiliar to you, it’s well worth using the services of a Chinese digital marketing agency who can provide native expertise and a full website localisation service for the Chinese market. From navigating lucky colours and symbols to optimising a website for specific Chinese user journeys, this kind of local expertise can make the difference between a successful marketing campaign in China and an expensive mistake!

Find out more

Whether you are new to Chinese social media marketing or ready to build your brand on Chinese social media from scratch, Market Me China is here to help. Our team of highly experienced Chinese digital marketing experts work with Western brands on a flexible basis to deliver successful digital marketing campaigns. We work with all industries but have particular expertise in e-commerce, education, travel and B2B. Please contact us to find out more.