Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Mar 12, 2015

How Twitter's new Hong Kong office will approach Chinese brands

HONG KONG - Yesterday's official announcement that Twitter has opened a sales office in Hong Kong received widespread coverage because of the office's proximity to a market where Twitter isn't even visible. Here, the company's sales director for emerging markets explains why it took Twitter so long to open here and how the platform aims to help Chinese brands reach global audiences.

How Twitter's new Hong Kong office will approach Chinese brands

Will Chinese advertisers who aspire to go global work with Twitter, or make due with Facebook's 1.36 billion and WeChat's 468 million users. We asked Peter Greenberger, Twitter’s sales director of emerging markets, whether Chinese brands will be ready to pounce on the platform to reach its 288 million monthly active users.

What are your selling points for Chinese advertisers? 

Engagement is the new social currency for businesses of all sizes, and Twitter’s real-time marketing platform historically provides on average three to five times higher engagement rate than traditional digital advertising.

The core ad formats are 'Promoted Tweets', 'Promoted Accounts', and 'Promoted Trends', while new ad formats include 'Lead Generation', 'Native Video', 'Mobile App Promotion' and 'Website Card'. Our sophisticated targeting technology includes interest categories, keywords, location, device, gender and more. 

According to a Nielsen survey to measure how 'Promoted Tweet' campaigns influence the audiences that see them, three key findings emerged among advertisers:

  • Exposure to a 'Promoted Tweet' impression drove a 22 per cent average increase in message association compared to users not exposed
  • Users who engage with a brand’s 'Promoted Tweet' reported on average 30 per cent higher brand favourability and 53 per cent higher purchase intent than non-engagers
  • Multiple exposures (two or three times) to a 'Promoted Tweet' campaign led to a 10 per cent lift, on average, in brand favourability compared to users exposed only once.

How big do you envision the Hong Kong office to get to?

We've been servicing current Chinese customers on a reactive basis, so we're starting with a relatively small sales team just to survey the opportunity, then we'll grow as the opportunity grows. The opportunity is in China's outbound export sales as well as Hong Kong's and Taiwan's domestic sales.

We think of Twitter as the best way to connect to a user's world. It's all about brands or topics or personalities that they're interested in, and so we created this interest graph which, as a secondary effect, is a really novel way for advertising.

We're less a social graph than an interest graph. We can reach people based on what they’re interested in, not based upon social connections, which may not be as relevant to an advertiser. 

But that's debatable.

It sure is, and we love debating it. We have great faith in the power of the interest graph, because it allows us to have a better understanding of the user, even if we don’t know who the user is by name, based upon who he or she follows. We like to say 'you are who you follow and you are what you tweet'.

Can I now bring Facebook into the conversation? This approach of targeting Chinese brands going global was taken by Facebook more than a year ago. Why so late?

Obviously we've worked with some Chinese advertisers like Huawei and Beijing Elex Technology already. By putting our people here in Hong Kong we believe that we can have a much stronger relationship with advertisers—similar to the other company. Some of these Chinese advertisers might not be as familiar with us, because it's not as accessible in their part of the world.

So, by being here we think we can do a better job of educating advertisers, but, as you say, it's not novel. We know that they're seeing success on other platforms, but we know that they want to diversify. No advertiser wants to be beholden to one channel.

That is a good point about laying your eggs in as many baskets as possible…

I like the eggs analogy. That's sort of our bird logo thing.

If Chinese brands already have a strong base on WeChat, and WeChat arguably has more users and more powerful features than Twitter, what's stopping Chinese brands from concentrating their resources on using WeChat to go global?

Very simply, our reach outside of China is much bigger than WeChat. I mean, WeChat is a terrific platform, largely in China and the surrounding areas. If Chinese advertisers are looking to reach customers in the US, Brazil, Indonesia, UK, India, Europe, then we think Twitter is going to be among the best and most efficient ways to reach those customers.

What sets us apart is this idea of being real-time as well as public, which I think differentiates us pretty effectively from other messaging apps and from Facebook—none of which are truly live, public and conversational. 

So when we talk to Chinese advertisers, this is a framework that we'll likely use: to be on a platform where everybody can see everything at the same time presents opportunities for global conversations, and opportunities for brands to join these conversations at the moment of relevancy.

On this side of the world some people are tweeting about their phones all day long. You'll know whether they like their phones or not, whether they dropped their phone of when the battery keeps dying. And we can go to Huawei or ZTE or Xiaomi and say, 'everyday people are talking about phones, you can start writing some really good tweets about your latest products, and target people in real time, moments after they’ve tweeted.

Then there are these unpredictable moments. #TheDress is a perfect example for real-time marketing.

Another great example was during the World Cup, when Snickers sent out this great post about Luis Suarez's bite. Almost word for word, the same post was put on Twitter and Facebook organically.

Like in A/B testing?

In some ways. The Twitter post received 10X the engagement with a fraction of the followers [of the brand on Facebook]. On Facebook the engagement was almost non-existent, with just millions of likes.

So I think it really showcases how engaging the Twitter platform is. We do not filter posts… you know, there's no algorithm. Tweets appear in your timeline as they're tweeted, and our head of revenue, Adam Bain, likes to say to the CMOs that 'Twitter will never put an algorithm between you and your followers'. You [a brand] worked hard to get those followers. If you tweet something out they're going to see it. That's not the case on the other platform.

How will you work together with these 'other platforms'? Or is it mutually exclusive?

I think we're in a very good position in that a high tide lifts all boats, right? The rise of social is benefiting all of us. So if it were [to be] just Twitter convincing an advertiser to hire three people just to write tweets all day, it's a lot to ask. Twitter with Facebook and Weibo and WeChat and LinkedIn and VK (in Russia) forms a real social ecosystem. We believe that there's a place for all these different channels.

Generally when we work hand in hand with clients, the campaigns generally perform better because we have access to internal tools that can help us measure performance, and there's just more emotional investment because we've got this direct relationship.

Going back to WeChat, it has business metrics native to the platform that can tell advertisers that the people who are engaging with their brand are also buying their productsin a closed loop. How are you going to catch up?

We work with Data Logics, we get credit card purchase data, we do surveys about purchase intent. In the auto, movie and phone industries, we've seen for every dollar spent, $17 is the return on investment on Twitter.

We have started experimenting with what we call ‘Commerce Cards’, where there's a ‘Buy Now’ button to click and make a purchase. These experiments are in partnerships with payment platforms in the US and globally to help process the payments, which are often times the tricky parts of the equation. Some of the early advertisers using ‘Buy Now’ are charities, because that is a little bit easier without merchandise.

But we don’t offer that to Chinese advertisers right now. Primarily, we focus on brand advertising for engagement, and app developers for installs.

Among Chinese brands wanting to go global, sometimes there is resistance from the headquarters about strategies marketing teams want to use in order to achieve that goal. How do you tackle that?

Yes, sure. It's part of the process. In any new market there are some advertisers in some verticals who oftentimes are maybe slower to adapt. We have faced that before. The solution is to be here, and to have conversations. We certainly aren't going to change their minds if we're not here, right? 

Our sister publication PRWeek got a panel of regional experts to weigh in on Twitter's move into Hong Kong. Read it here: Hong Kong all a Twitter


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