With marketing communications serving as a relatively new industry in China, reaching the right audiences requires a strategic approach. In social spaces such as WeChat and Sina Weibo, effective communications should influence users where they already are – within these social channels. But what tactics are most successful across these online platforms? What strategic tasks can allow a brand to stand out in these spaces, and within the greater Chinese market?
On an episode of The Negotiation, podcast host Todd Embley discussed this topic with Alex Duncan, co-founder and product lead for KAWO, a platform that helps global brands excel on social media. Duncan said: “Brands have to be aware that social media is an incredibly [key factor] in making decisions here in China for consumers.” He added that from travel destinations to product purchases and participant activities: “[Chinese consumers] use social media as a touchpoint to see what their friends and connections and what influencers on these platforms are doing. That informs their decision making.”
As a result, for brands who want to drive revenue in the market, reaching this active audience is essential.
Weibo, which launched in 2009, has more than 500 million registered users while WeChat – released in 2011 – boasts an audience exceeding 1 billion; these are two Chinese social media channels with a significant number of users that any brand’s marketing efforts in China cannot overlook.
So, how can brands leverage these platforms? Here are the most effective tactics for creating an impact when using WeChat and Weibo:
- Planning is a core step. From deciding which platform better suits a brand’s needs to identifying the target audience, a solid plan of action helps the marketing process to unfold. Planning allows organizations to: spend their dollars more wisely; interact with social users in a smarter way; and attract followers.
For instance, Weibo allows an organization to promote itself via paid, owned and earned media while WeChat, as Duncan noted on the podcast episode, only approves of select avenues for promotion. This is done to ensure that users get the most authentic experience when using the app. How should brands proceed, then? Determine what content benefits both the audience and the business most, where the target audience exists, and plan and execute accordingly.
- China’s social users demand quality. To capture their interest – and potentially, their dollars – create quality content for digital consumption. As China Business Review outlined regarding Weibo (also applicable to WeChat): “Ensure the quality of your content and post valuable content at the right times.”
China Business Review suggests taking advantage of trending conversation topics and social events to drive engagement. Marketing teams can do this through quality measures like storytelling, video and native advertising pieces. Referencing a strong data correlation between low-quality posts and individuals unfollowing brands, Duncan agreed with the need for “value-add” marketing in his Oct. 17 appearance on The Negotiation: “You’re going to have to listen to the users; you’re going to have to understand what their wants and needs are; you’re going to have to connect to them and create content that is [high] quality and delivers value to your users.”
- Engage active users. Whether it’s utilizing Weibo’s “Super Topics” or WeChat’s in-chat sponsored articles, engagement is most aided by actively pushing high quality content through the correct avenues. Investigate both social channels and the areas that host the most activity. Then, creatively drive content directly to users.
The options here are plentiful, including creating a WeChat mini-program that provides a business service; or an informational article that is likely to be shared on Weibo. An organization’s industry can help dictate the specific mediums and tools that may garner the most interest.
- Track data and re-invest in successful social tactics. Although many communications areas are seeing fluctuations in use in China, it’s vital to note that marketing – on social media or otherwise – often requires repeated touchpoints to motivate someone to move. And one-time advertisements or informative topic discussions can often fall flat. But by creating multiple high-quality touchpoints to a social user, as well as ongoing efforts, campaigns can create a memorable imprint on a user that may drive an action.
Added Duncan: “You’re now in a situation where you’re really competing against a lot of other branded messages, so it’s really about raising your game, finding your audience and really starting to understand them better and create content that engages with them.” And through tracked data and optimization, businesses can reach target audiences in the ways that consumers prefer.
Tactics for engaging with and reaching social media users – from the Western world to China – rely heavily on the end user: their preferences; their digital footprints; their motivations. A solid plan carried through with quality content and data-driven actions, among a variety of other strategies, can set businesses up for success when marketing across China’s most-used social platforms.