"If 2009 and 2010 was a period of 'digital foreplay' for companies at large, then 2011 and 2012 are pegged to be the year of 'digital embrace'," said Zaheer Nooruddin, director and lead digital strategist at Burson-Marsteller China.
The agency has predicted 11 digital communications trends in 2011 in the country.
1. Presence re-activation
While many companies rushed to establish an online presence in 2007 and 2008, more than half of these lapsed into inactivity. In 2011, re-activating lapsed presences and launching new, more targeted ones by businesses will be a trend. Realising that social media is here to stay, companies that adopted a social media presence early on, but without cohesive social strategies, will try again.
Data visualisation takes center stage in how key information is communicated to stakeholders in 2011. Why? Infographics visualise complex data, turning it into a digestible bytes, meaning that data is more likely to affect change in an audience. In China's cluttered digital information highway, standing out is the key to being heard and infographics can help do that.
3. Private social networks
Dogged by issues of data security and control, companies will increasingly choose to invest in developing their owned social websites within which to engage their audiences discreetly - retaining strategic control of the experience.
4. Social-savvy execs
Like their western peers, CEOs and executives in China will realise the need to be open and curate their own presences online - expect more sustained executive blogging than ever before in 2011. It looks like they are already on their way - three of the top 20, five of the top 30 and 10 of the top 50 microbloggers on Sina Weibo are executives.
5. Networked mobility
The rise of the Smartphone in China, by all projections, is set to be staggering. As more consumers connect to the net via mobile and use apps to share and connect, more opportunities for targeted messaging and pervasive experiences by businesses will be available than ever before. Ericsson projects this number exploding to 800 million by 2015.
6. Online presence integration
This year, those companies that have been working hard at building their social footprint will finally integrate these channels with their corporate presences. SNS pages and externally hosted blogs will become increasingly visible on corporate websites.
7. Social search
Paid search and technical SEO is just a step in the battle for content visibility online. Companies will understand this point and invest more in targeting audiences via the seeding of digital messaging wherever they live online - in SNS and forums.
8. Location-based comms
Today, there are around 30 location-based service (LBS) companies on the Chinese web. According to Analysys International, by the end of Q3 2010, these sites claimed between three and four million active users.
As location-based networks grow, companies will market products using these platforms and services - adding relevance to their marketing campaigns like never before.
9. Social commerce
The convergence of social networking and shopping began last year with China's largest e-commerce portals developing social networking features. As of June 2010, only 6 per cent of online buyers were using group buying services, but 80 per cent had plans to try them in the future. Social commerce, driven by group shopping, will gain in 2011.
10. Mobile 'domain'ation
According to CNNIC's February 2011 statistics, 66 per cent of China's 457 million internet users accessed the web via mobile phones. With the ascendance of the mobile experience as a primary enabler of influence, communications and marketing, companies will begin to stake their claims on customer attention by seriously investing in mobile web strategic presences like never before.
11. Better intel and analytics
Fueled by the adoption of smarter online monitoring and intelligence services, companies will for the first time in 2011 take charge of their online analytics, measuring digital programmes against ROI in more meaningful ways in the bargain.