Ashley Dudarenok
May 29, 2023

China social media in 2023: The brand guide to WeChat, Douyin, Xiaohongshu and other platforms

To truly stand out in China, it's crucial for brands to carefully select the right social media platforms and take advantage of their innovative features.

Photo: Louis Vuitton
Photo: Louis Vuitton

In 2022, China’s luxury goods market boasted a staggering transaction volume of $135 billion (956 billion yuan), representing a significant portion of the global market. With borders reopening and international travel on the rise, 2023 presents a prime opportunity for luxury brands to captivate Chinese consumers with fresh experiences and adventures. 

But to truly stand out and establish connections with younger consumers, it’s crucial for brands to carefully select the right social media platforms and take advantage of their innovative features. A recently published report by Chozan titled “China E-Commerce, Marketing and Digital Space 2023” provides several key marketing insights on how a brand can stand out on these platforms, which have been summarized below.

Before choosing your social media platform, make sure you are doing the following best practices:

  1. Engage on relevant topics and build a community that is centered around broader themes like culture, fashion, and art. This way, you can connect easily with younger users on Xiaohongshu. Meaningful offline exhibitions and check-in activities featured on Xiaohongshu can increase loyalty and provide unique cultural experiences for fans.
  2. Luxury brands should aim for subtle, sincere, and localised storytelling:
    Highlight your long-standing history, traditions, and classic values. During Chinese festivals, Weibo posts can be used to convey pure and fresh greetings, while short films on Bilibili can help build long-term brand assets by showcasing cultural initiatives and seasonal shows.
  3. Use gamification on WeChat to boost a brand’s social currency:
    Luxury brands can design their own communication methods inspired by entertainment and technology, creating exciting opportunities beyond the platform’s traditional features.

These features can help you create the perfect marketing strategy in China. Brands will need to identify what resonates with their brand the best and go with it.

Share genuine stories through videos on Weibo

To celebrate the 2023 Lunar New Year, Bottega Veneta launched a short film titled “Reunion in Motion.” Photo: Bottega Veneta

Weibo is a platform that luxury brands can use to manage events and endorse celebrities, but relying on brand-owned hashtags and influencer matrices is not enough to stand out during Chinese festivals. Short videos with impressive storytelling can create deeper emotional connections with audiences and effectively communicate brand messages. 

Bottega Veneta’s short video “Reunion in Motion” captured the emotions of people returning to their hometowns before the Chinese New Year, which was brought to life by a month-long train journey across the country in January 2023. Sincere video storytelling is essential for luxury brands to make a lasting impression during Chinese holidays.

Employ emotive content on Bilibili

Released in October 2022, Burberry’s short film “Under the Skin” highlights craftsmanship by the Miao ethnicity. Photo: Burberry

Bilibili stands out as a platform that speaks directly to the hearts of people with diverse interests and lifestyles, rather than targeting a massive audience. Authenticity and sincerity are highly valued, and promoting cultural sophistication is essential for showcasing deeper values and pursuits. 

Burberry’s short video “Under the Skin” effectively brings the tradition of apparel production to life with a modern twist, reviving cultural heritage.

Design exciting closed-loop shopping experiences via Douyin.

The #Prada Love Gift Challenge on Douyin features AR try-on for accessories. Photo: Screenshots

Douyin has evolved from “interest e-commerce” to a “full-field interest e-commerce” system, integrating innovative technologies like AR try-on into a closed-loop system of product, effect, and sales. This has led to a mature market for fashion and luxury content consumption on the platform, with monthly short video playback reaching 10 billion and live streaming viewers hitting 20 billion

To revamp the shopping experience, luxury brand Prada launched the #Prada Love Gift Challenge on Douyin, featuring an AR try-on feature for hats and sunglasses. Users could capture and publish interactive short videos expressing their love, in addition to browsing Prada’s e-commerce shop. By leveraging Douyin’s tech features, luxury brands can provide an immersive and exciting shopping journey.

Generate excitement using gamified Mini-Programs on WeChat

The interactive game “Mah Jump” on WeChat features a song produced by local rapper Ma Siwei. Photo: Louis Vuitton

WeChat’s mini-programs can help luxury brands reach China’s vast gaming community and engage with the 70% of young audiences who are discovering luxury brands through social platforms. Incorporating mobile gaming elements on WeChat enables brands to expand their target audience, increase user engagement, and create a lasting impression.

For instance, Louis Vuitton released a 3D game on its WeChat mini-program called “麻jump” to celebrate its first restaurant in Chengdu. The game incorporated local elements like hotpot and skewers into vivid scenarios with hip-hop or Chinese classical music. By offering a fun and interactive experience, LV impressed young customers and showcased its creative interpretation of local culture. 

Share artistic brand philosophies on Xiaohongshu

The Dior and Art collection page on Xiaohongshu. Photo: Screenshot

Luxury brands have earned a good reputation in the Xiaohongshu community thanks to young users who authentically and vividly share their experiences. Taking advantage of the growing interest in art exhibitions on the platform, Dior launched the “Dior and Art” hashtag to entice users to attend its offline shows and fully immerse themselves in the brand’s culture.

If you’re looking to market your brand effectively in China in 2023, Chinese social media is the place to be. However, brands need to choose the correct platform for their audience and goals to be effective.

Ashley Galina Dudarenok is the founder of China-focused digital marketing agency Alarice and digital consultancy ChoZan 超赞.


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