How Western brands can avoid Chinese social media marketing mistakes

Whether your Western brand is active on WeChat, Weibo, DouYin or another of China’s hugely popular social media channels, there are a number of mistakes that are easy to make. Without the right localised knowledge or targeted approach, even seemingly-small errors can be costly. Here are some of the main areas to be mindful of:

Mistake 1: Assuming Chinese customers are the same as Western customers

It’s easy to assume that Chinese and Western audiences are similar in their needs, wants, desires and online behaviours. But this generally isn’t the case, so it’s vital to really understand your Chinese target audience and to localise your content accordingly. The Chinese market is huge and its consumers are influenced by their own socio-economic, demographic, cultural, technological and other variables. For example, Chinese customers are used to extremely slick, fun and engaging digital content and tend to consume it heavily via their smartphones – more so than their Western counterparts. They absolutely adore social media and will spend hours on it and are prepared to engage heavily with innovative digital content, such as competitions and viral campaigns. But it’s important to know that they have their own user journeys and that this vast market has distinct local differences. Quality market research will greatly improve your chances of a successful campaign.

Mistake 2: Not localising your branded content

Sometimes brands do the work of understanding their target Chinese customers and groups, but then don’t localise their brand and content! At Market Me China we would always recommend carrying out user acceptance testing and research to check that your brand will resonate with your Chinese customers and that your content will appeal to them. Remember that there are degrees of localisation depending on your budget and needs – from careful translation that takes local subtleties, context and nuances into account, through to the expert creation of fresh and targeted Chinese content, designed with your end customer in mind. Sometimes it will even be advisable to create a brand specifically for China, and many big Western companies now do this to increase their chances of success.

Mistake 3: Not preparing your website

From creating your Chinese language (and locally hosted) website through to optimising your landing pages, no social media campaign can hope to maximise its ROI if it fails to integrate seamlessly with your other digital assets. Most brands which are serious about doing business in China will create Chinese specific websites with targeted content, and ensure that these are housed within the full digital ecosystem of their brand – so that social media channels seamlessly link to the correct CTA pages for conversions. Similarly, Western brands will find that many of China’s social media platforms also have integrated e-commerce functionalities and other powerful tools for brands to leverage – but these need Chinese language knowledge and specific digital marketing expertise to use correctly. From choosing the right online advertising on social media in China through to creating in-app e-commerce stores which use the right payment platforms for Chinese customers, a Chinese marketing agency helps to make the process easier.

Mistake 4: Overlooking the power of KOLs

We’ve talked a lot about Chinese Key Opinion Leaders in previous blogs, and we do so for a good reason – these online influencers are huge in China and trusted by their loyal fans in a way that isn’t found in the West (remember that this audience is naturally suspicious of state media, and the risks of counterfeiting, so Chinese customers value online signals such as KOLs, online reviews, online advertising on Baidu and so forth.) High-profile KOLs can charge hundreds of thousands of pounds for their sponsored content – such as product explainers, product placement, reviews and competition launches – but there are also huge numbers of smaller (but equally influential) KOLs who have focused audiences, charge less for brand relationships, and who get excellent results. The trick lies in finding the right KOL for your brand and then brokering a relationship which delivers against your goals.

Mistake 5: Underestimating the Chinese love of smartphones

Again, we touched on this before, but China’s adoption of smartphones is vital to consider. The country is one of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing smartphone markets, and its sophisticated digital infrastructure and technological innovation mean that customers expect a seamless experience online and that they are prepared to spend hours engaging with varied social media platforms. In the West, B2C customers may be used to engaging (often to a more limited degree than in China) with brands on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But in China the range, scope, power and popularity of social media channels is staggering. Yes, you have probably heard of WeChat, Weibo and DouYin, but does your brand have a presence on Little Red Book, YouKu or one of the many ‘niche’ social media platforms (that can still have millions of engaged users!)? Market Me China can help your brand to navigate the Chinese social media landscape and to choose the best platforms for your brand to grow.

Mistake 7: Attempting to ‘go it alone’

The Chinese digital marketing landscape can feel quite bewildering at times, even to experienced and successful Western marketers who have a strong brand presence at home. Not only does China have a different market and a hugely complex digital ecosystem, but its social media platforms are also constantly evolving and changing at a dizzying pace! For Western brands, the questions aren’t simply around ‘How do I grow my brand in China on this platform?’ but ‘Which social media platforms should I use? Which KOLs do I need? How can I localise my brand and content? How should I integrate my e-commerce offer and how do I measure my Chinese social media marketing success?’ All whilst sticking to a budget and achieving that all-important ROI and conversion rate!

Making Chinese social media marketing easier

Market Me China is here to help. We work with Western brands from a wide range of industries to help them succeed in their China digital marketing journey. Whether you are new to marketing in China or already have a strong presence in the market, our team of native digital marketing experts can help you to achieve more. We work on a flexible basis according to your needs and have an excellent track record which evidences our results. Please contact us to find out more.