Social Media Marketing in China
Social media is widely used in the world’s second-largest economy than it is used in other countries, such as the United States. Chinese consumers follow the same decision-making process as their peers in other countries, and the basic rules for engaging with them effectively are reassuringly familiar.
In addition to having the world’s biggest Internet user base (513 million people, more than double the 245 million users in the United States), China also has the world’s most active environment for social media. More than 300 million people use it, from blogs to social-networking sites, microblogs and other online communities. Moreover, China’s online users spend more than 40 percent of their time online on social media, and this figure continues to rise rapidly.
This appetite for all things social has stirred up a large number of companies with tools more advanced than those in the west. For example, Chinese users were able to edit multimedia content in social media more than 18 months before Twitter users could do so in the United States.
The explosive growth of China social media shows no sign of slowing down, and this trend is partially attributed to the fact that it’s harder for the government to monitor social media than other media channels. That’s one reason why the Chinese market is unique. When you shape your own social media strategy, it’s important to fully understand some other nuances of the country’s consumers, content and platforms.
China’s social media users not only tend to be more active than those of any other countries, but also have multiple social media accounts in more than 80 percent of all cases, compared with just 39 percent in Japan. The use of mobile technologies to access social media is also becoming increasingly popular in China: there were more than 100 million mobile social users in 2010, which is forecasted to grow by about 30 percent annually. Finally, since many Chinese are somewhat skeptical of formal institutions and authorities, thus the advice of opinion leaders tends to weigh more for netizens in social networks. For example, an independent survey on moisturizer purchasers observed that 66 percent of Chinese consumers relied on recommendations from friends and family, compared with 38 percent of their US counterparts.
The competition for getting more consumers is fierce in China’s social media field. Many companies regularly employ “writers” to seed positive content about themselves online and attack competitors with negative news. For instance, negative publicity about companies, such as allegations of product contamination, could prompt lots of microblog posts from competitors and disguised users. Business that is trying to manage social media crisis should carefully identify the source of negative posts. They should prepare countermeasures based on whether the negative posts come from competitors or from real consumers. Companies must also make good use of “writers” for insights of the market, and it’s necessary to compare the performance of their brands with that of competitors. Or else, they may have the risk of drawing the wrong conclusions about consumer behaviors and brand preferences.
China’s social media is very fragmented. Each social media platform or e-commerce platform has at least two major local players: in microblogging (or Weibo), for example, Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo; in social networking and instant social tools such as Wechat and QQ. These players have different strengths, focus and geographic priorities. For marketers, this fragmented market increases the complexity of the social-media landscape in China and requires more resources and expertise to better deal with it, including many partners to help guide the way. As the competition is always evolving, marketers who look for partners should closely monitor the development of social platforms and players.
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