Why Chinese social media can be tricky for Western marketers (and how to succeed)

When you’re responsible for building a business or brand in China, then it’s essential to master the art of social media. But Chinese social media is very different to social media in the West. In this article, we’ll look at some of the main pitfalls that face Western marketers and cover some tips for getting it right.

Firstly, let’s look at some of the ways that Chinese social media can pose a challenge for Western marketers:

1. The number of platforms

In the West, marketers tend to focus on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, depending on their industry and sector. But these social media platforms aren’t available in China! Instead, there are dozens of Chinese social media platforms and it’s important to master these, and then focus on the ones that make the most sense to your business and brand.

2. The Chinese language!

Chinese social media platforms are in Chinese, so you must have access to those native language skills, combined with the necessary marketing expertise, in order to deliver successful Chinese social media campaigns.

3. The power of KOLs

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are vital to Chinese social media success, but their power and influence are very different to the way influencers in the West engage and work with brands. KOLs can command huge audiences and have a huge sway and impact on whether their followers buy products and services from the brands that they promote. It’s important for Western brands to be able to identify the right KOLs for their needs, and then broker the right deal for the best outcomes.

4. Sophistication of the technology

Chinese social media platforms are also very technologically advanced and tend to incorporate a wide range of features and functionalities that go far beyond communication, networking and engagement. This means that Western brands need to understand how to use and integrate these different features into their digital ecosystems – after all, it’s what Chinese users expect!

5. Sophistication of Chinese users

Chinese social media users are also extremely sophisticated and expect the highest levels of user experience when they engage with a brand online. This means that Western marketers need to thoroughly invest in a seamless user experience, with smooth user journeys, mobile-optimised content, fully integrated channels and authentic, localised content that is carefully targeted to the end customer.

How to Succeed in Chinese Social Media Marketing

Although Chinese social media marketing can seem daunting, it’s possible to build a successful brand using this channel, if you invest time, energy and resources into getting it right. Here are some tips for success:

1. Really do your research

Effective market research is the first step towards success in Chinese social media marketing. By understanding the competitive landscape in China, your own USPs, your target customer, their demographics and your own marketing objectives, you can gather the data you need to build a strong strategy.

2. Focus on a few key platforms

There are a huge number of Chinese social media platforms that go beyond the obvious ones of WeChat, Weibo, DouYin and Little Red Book. Some of these are niche by interest, geography or other attributes, which means they can be highly relevant to certain brands and businesses. The trick lies in identifying the best platforms for your immediate needs and then investing in them, whilst measuring results and growing your efforts over time.

3. Build user personas

User personas will help you to build your content and target your messaging and engagement strategies, from posts to competitions and viral marketing tactics. It’s well worth taking the time to build these user profiles to really guide your marketing strategy and intuitive thinking.

4. Work with KOLs

A good KOL will help to place your brand in front of a relevant audience, and then promote it in a way that meets your goals. This could be in the form of a soft product placement, or in the form of a competition, explainer or other type of promotion. Good KOLs can be extremely powerful and a huge asset to your Chinese digital marketing success. They needn’t always have the biggest audiences either; some will have smaller and more niche audiences, which are highly relevant to your brand.

5. Integrate your content

Ensure your digital content is integrated across your entire Chinese digital ecosystem so that your Chinese customers enjoy a smooth, coherent and on-brand experience. Sophistication, relevance and storytelling are all important for success. The better you can create flowing, emotive and compelling content, the more easily you can engage with your audience and create a relationship with them. It goes without saying that all of your digital ecosystem must be mobile-friendly!

6. Measure and refine!

The more tightly you can measure the elements of your campaign, including the results, the better you can adjust your efforts to keep improving conversions. This includes using approaches such as A/B testing to see what is working, and what could be refined. Measurement is a cornerstone of a successful Chinese digital marketing campaign. With that data available, you can continue to evolve your approach to find the best possible level of success and target your budget towards those activities which deliver the best possible returns.

7. Get the help you need

It can take time to build a Western brand in China, but Chinese social media offers huge potential for marketers – if you can take the time and energy needed to get it right. Market Me China can help you to build a successful brand in China, with the help of our native Chinese-speaking digital marketing professionals. We work with Western brands from across all sectors, including B2B, e-commerce, travel and education, to help them build successful brands in China and to drive those all-important conversions. To find out more about our flexible, results-driven Chinese social media marketing services, please contact our friendly team today for a no-obligation chat about your needs.