Most marketers realise the importance of going social to reach hypersocial Chinese consumers, but China’s highly fragmented social media landscape makes it challenging.
Two types of social sites are most worth marketers’ attention: major social platforms that offer broad functionalities and attract hundreds of millions of users, and niche social sites focusing on a single functionality and attracting smaller audiences.
So marketing objectives must guide social platform choices. Marketers must evaluate social sites based on how well those sites can help them accomplish their objectives. Different social sites have skews in demographic or psychographic characteristics.
Kaixin001, WeChat, and Douban users are wealthier than users of other social sites, but Kaixin001 users tend to be older, with significantly more users born in the 1970s. Renren and Douban users are more educated than other social users. Meilishuo and Mogujie are your best bet for reaching young women. Kaixin001 and Douban users are entertainment-driven, while WeChat users are career-driven. Most social sites are good for reaching early adopters and mainstream users, but Qzone, Sina Weibo, and Youku are best for reaching technology laggards.
Douban is a good platform for brands with strong personalities, because many of its users are part of a niche psychographic group called wenqing (youngsters who love art and literature). And Douban users are more into fashion and care more about their looks, and are also more focused on high-end brands.
If your social marketing plan focuses on video, you might complement your use of major social video sites like Youku and Tudou with other social sites where people share video, such as Weibo and Renren.
If you have a location-based marketing strategy, you should turn to sites with check-in functionality like Jiepang and Sina Weibo. Likewise, mobile-focused social platforms are good for connecting online and offline marketing campaigns. For example, one Nike outdoor ad campaign presented QR codes in prominent public places to encourage WeChat users to sign up for the Nike Festival of Sport.
In general, marketers can accomplish five key objectives through social media—listening, talking, energising, supporting, and embracing—and different platforms are best suited to different objectives:
■ For listening, use tools that focus on Weibo. Sure, Chinese audiences share plenty of
thoughts on user-generated content (UGC) platforms like Mogujie and Douban, as well as
real-name social networks like Renren and Kaixin001, but it’s hard for marketers to listen on
these sites because not all the posts are public. Weibo is your best bet for listening; posts are
all public and searchable. Sina Weibo provides a keyword monitoring service that can notify
marketers when certain keywords are mentioned. And social listening services provided
by companies like CIC and Synthesio track what users are saying across multiple social sites
such as Sina Weibo, Renren, Qzone, Youku and Tudou.
■ For talking, use Weibo, Youku, and Tudou. If you’re going to talk, you need someone to
listen. Sina Weibo, a site where brands often collect millions of followers, is an excellent
broadcasting and PR tool. Likewise, large social video sites such as Youku and Tudou on which
marketers can get broad reach can complement a Weibo-based talking program.
For instance, Cartier launched its new Destinée engagement ring on Sina Weibo and Youku:
The company posted a promotional micro-movie featuring star Michelle Chen on both
sites, and further promoted the launch with a Weibo interview of Chen. The micro-movie
has been viewed nearly 2.4 million times.
■ For energising, use Renren, Kaixin001, and Jiepang. Renren and Kaixin001 are effective
for word of mouth because they focus on real friendships, and people trust real friends
more than anonymous social connections. Volkswagen launched a cause campaign “Think
Blue” on Renren to promote its environmentally friendly brand image and collected 109,000
supporting statements that were automatically shared with users’ friends. Mini launched
a 50th anniversary campaign on Kaixin001 by providing people with a series of limited-edition
badges they could send to friends; 1.6 million badges were shared. Location-based site
Jiepang even helps retailers bring energising to the offline word.
■ For supporting, use WeChat and owned communities. Just as many Western marketers
turn to Twitter for supporting, most Chinese companies use Weibo for this objective. For
instance, China Telecom operates multiple customer service accounts on Sina Weibo. But
WeChat’s one-to-one instant communication makes it superior to Weibo for supporting. For
example, China Merchants Bank turned its WeChat account into a customer service robot to
automatically answer questions sent by users. Expect to see more Chinese
companies build customer service discussion forums on their own sites, as Dell does today.
■ For embracing, use Douban and Weibo. Douban has more than 310,000 interest groups
where users share content on a specific topic or hobby—making it a great place to ask your
target audience for suggestions to improve your business. For instance, Ray-Ban collects
original designs from Douban users: During the course of a nine-week campaign, the company
collected 1,914 original glasses designs and 663 original poster designs. And Tiffany & Co.
used its Sina Weibo account for embracing, inviting fans to help translate Tiffany’s ad copy
from English to Chinese and then vote for the best translations. More than 500 fans submitted
their own translations—saving the company money and improving its translations.