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American Brands Use Chinese Social Media

by on August 6, 2010

China’s social media network is a marketer’s goldmine! According to Wikipedia, there are 420 million internet users in China. American brands wanting to reach a Chinese audience via social media should forget about Facebook and twitter because China has its own social media sites, and the top five social media sites are:


According to the Oglivy One Connected social media study in China:

  • 71% of respondents watch commercials online
  • 43% have befriended a brand online
  • 74% of discussion initiators that engage with brands are on
  • 60% of discussion initiators that engage with brands are on QQ
  • 55% of respondents either initiate or engage in conversations online

(The number of participants for the study was unclear, but Oglivy believes that number of people surveyed is a representative sample of the online behaviors of Chinese internet users.)

So for an American brand that is wondering whether or not they should use social media to reach its Chinese audience, the answer is yes. When considering the above insights, there is no reason not to engage with your target audience, unless you are trying to reach an older or more rural population. Social media is a low cost way to reach out to target audiences that live in urban areas. Besides, you get to directly engage with customers and consumers of your product. Doing so, will increase their brand loyalty and eventually, they will turn into brand ambassadors because they will spread their positive interact with your brand to their friends.

Lipton is a good example of a company that has benefited from using China’s social media networks to engage with their target audience.

According to an article in the China Daily, Lipton held an online hug-sending event on in which users received credits for hugs sent to others and subsequently for hugs forwarded on to other users. The idea behind the event was that Lipton’s milk tea is as warm as a hug between friends. Simultaneously, Lipton combined this online activity with its retail business by providing lucky numbers on Lipton milk tea packaging that could be exchanged for virtual credits.

A follow-up questionnaire revealed that 46 percent of the 50,000 participants polled said that they bought at least one box of [Lipton’s] milk tea because of the online activity. In addition, Lipton’s brand awareness increased by one to two percentage points in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.

The China Daily article, also noted that BMW, Adidas, Samsung, and McDonald’s conducted social media campaigns and that the McDonald’s campaign attracted 10 million people to make purchases at the restaurant, according to Nielsen research, and the brand’s favorable impression amongst consumers improved by 33 percent. The way McDonald’s used social media to their benefit was by having a reverse auction on China’s version of eBay,, where bidders would bid down the price of products such as iPods, digital cameras, laptops, etc. Users would bid down the cost of the item to the cost of a super value meal, and the winner would receive the item they bid on. This campaign attracted 2,580,000 daily visitors to the contest. This auction was implemented to increase the awareness of McDonald’s Super Value meals and it did. The campaign went viral; user generated ads like “How to get a-16.5rmb-laptop at the McDonald’s Taobao shop!” popped up everywhere driving hordes of traffic to the site.

Lipton and McDonald’s are two different, yet excellent examples of how an American brand can use social media in China to raise awareness of their product and increase sales. I would advise that American companies, looking to engage their target audience  have a broad or a young audience when considering to use social media to spread their message because most of the influential persons that these campaigns targeted are under 30 years old.

In conclusion, social media has proven to be effective for two American brands in China and could work for other U.S. companies that want to conduct business in China. The campaigns yielded tremendous ROI, increased brand awareness, and has left favorable impressions amongst the target audience. Social media campaigns are good to implement is because they are low cost, in comparison to TV, print, and radio advertising. And in China, the government is not regulating social media as they are other media vehicles, so you get to truly engage your target audience where they are when they consume media.


From → China

One Comment
  1. Good post and supporting examples to make your point that American brands would be well served to use social media when marketing themselves to a younger audience in China. One thing to be careful about that I spotted several times in your post was making sweeping general statements or drawing big conclusions before you have proved them to the reader. Here are two examples:

    1. “So for an American brand that is wondering whether or not they should use social media to reach its Chinese audience, the answer is yes.” This is a fair conclusion to reach, but not BEFORE you tell the stories of Lipton and McDonald’s. Prove this with your examples first, and then draw this conclusion and it will be much stronger.

    2. “And in China, the government is not regulating social media as they are other media vehicles …” Is this really true? If so, where did you find this bit of information to come to this conclusion. It seems counterintuitive since you already stated that China is very actively monitoring and blocking Facebook and Twitter among other sites.

    If you can prove this points and put them in the right location, you can avoid interrupting your flow and unintentionally undermining the points you want to make. Aside from those small points, though, a well researched and written post. (5)

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