Using Social Media to Reach Chinese Consumers
Facebook and Twitter are banned in China. However, China has 176 million social network users using other local social networking sites, such as QZone; 221 million people have blogs; and 117 million anonymously connect via bulletin board system. So, there is ripe opportunity for companies to reach consumers via the local Chinese social media market. This opportunity is even greater for companies that sell products or services related to the following most-discussed topics of online conversation in China:
• Mobile phones
• Health care
So, what is the best way for companies to engage the Chinese social networking market?
As with any social network campaign, companies should strive to cultivate long-term relationships with users and keeping them satisfied while simultaneously not turning them off with in-your-face, overt advertising. Since media in China is extremely restrictive, word-of-mouth is very effective. This means that companies must strategize to get consumers talking to each other about their products/services. There are 3-steps to doing this successfully:
1. Research. Companies should look into where conversations directly and indirectly related to their products and services are taking place and what is being said.
2. Target. Based on what is learned through research, companies should then target their prime audience via the appropriate platform.
3. Engage. After deciding who to target, companies should enter the conversation in a meaningful, impactful way. This means they should listen to the consumers and then, contribute to the conversation by offering a solution or something relevant, useful, and interesting to the consumer. A company will know if they are engaging correctly based on whether their contributions garner a word-of-mouth effect from consumers.
A great example of a company successfully doing the 3-step process (or at least the second and third steps since I don’t know anything about their research, but I assume they did some) is what Gymboree, a San Francisco based toy and child clothing company, did on Babytree.com. Babytree.com is a social networking site for moms in China that gets 12-million monthly unique visitors, eagerly seeking information and advice from peers on pregnancy and parenting. Gymboree paid Babytree.com $50,000 to have an essay contest on the best ways to educate children. The contest resulted in 60 entries and more than 2,000 comments.
Gymboree correctly targeted their audience by going to a popular website, Babytree.com, where users have discussions that are directly related to its products. Then, the company contributed to the conversation in a meaningful way by hosting a contest on a useful, relevant topic. And, 2,000 comments are proof enough that their effort was a success.