Xiaofeng Wang, senior analyst at Forrester noted that several years of practice and experimentation have sharply increased marketers’ social-marketing maturity.
However, the social-media landscape and consumer behaviours are constantly changing, and marketers are struggling to keep up.
“Social marketers in China are maturing, but defining a strategy and measuring social marketing’s effectiveness are still their top challenges,” she said.
In addition to a lack of internal resources, only one-third of the marketers surveyed in the Benchmarking Social Marketing Efforts In China In 2015 report currently use agencies to support their social-marketing efforts.
The commitment to social media as part of the marketing mix is strong in China. Forrester found that the average marketer uses four social marketing platforms, with WeChat having the highest adoption rate (92 percent).
This is consistent with consumers’ preferences: Metro Chinese consumers already spend an average of 9.2 hours per week—more than half of their mobile Internet time—on WeChat.
LinkedIn, the only Western social platform not blocked in China, is third most popular after Sina Weibo, despite being in the country for less than two years.
“It’s a surprise to see that 60 percent of the marketers we surveyed have already adopted it,” said Wang. “Starting with its Chinese name, lingYing, Linkedin has been investing in Chinese localisation with a series of marketing campaigns.”
In addition, three-quarters of the marketers surveyed plan to increase their social-marketing budget in 2016; 38 percent plan to increase it by 10 percent to 24 percent and 21 percent plan to increase it by more than 25 percent.
However, the widespread adoption of social tactics is not translating into satisfaction for all marketers.
“Our research found that Chinese marketers too often flock to social tactics that are easy to roll out and administer while ignoring the ones that work best,” said Wang.
The study found that the two tactics receiving top satisfaction scores relate to forums and communities—advertising on public ones and maintaining branded ones.
Although fewer than half of the marketers surveyed have adopted forums or communities, more than 75 percent of those who did were very satisfied.
“Similarly, setting up and maintaining a branded account or page on a social site such as WeChat and Weibo is easy and inexpensive, so the ROI looks good and comes quickly,” said Wang. “Which is why most marketers adopt the tactic as their first social marketing step and feel good about it.”
The research firm is recommending marketers garner a clear understanding of their target audience and objectives, which will better enable strategy planning and the technologies—tactics and platforms—to execute it.
To get a better sense of what is working for the brand or not, Wang said marketers should use the customer lifecycle to measure social efforts.
“Start by examining which of your social programs support each stage of your customers’ journey, then analyze which social platforms and tactics you use for each programme,” she added.
“See whether those tactics move your audience to the next stage of the lifecycle: from discovery to exploration, from exploration to purchase, from purchase to engagement, and from engagement back to discovery,” she said.