The digital ecosystem in China is vastly different from the rest of the world. If you haven't heard, your usual Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and etc are all not accessible in China. As such, your regular suite of marketing activities wouldn't cut it in China.
So, the question is: as a company or brand with limited resources, is it still possible to effectively reach your target audience in China?
The answer is YES!
Below are 3 social media platforms to get started with for some marketing quick wins. These 3 platforms were chosen for their large audience base, ease of content creation and relatively easier to attain organic reach.
WeChat is almost ubiquitously called the internet of China (Watch this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec77S25kuVs from the NYT to get an overview of what this really means). As a Super App with a whole suite of functions for communication, collaboration, social networking and payment. To the Western mindset coming from Facebook and WhatsApp, the diverse feature and functionalities can be quite overwhelming. You only need to know that WeChat has indeed transformed the way Chinese consumers communicate with each other, with Brands and shop in retail.
- 1 Billion DAU
- Used for communication, discovery, social networking and shopping/payments
- 2 types of Official account: Subscription and Service (RMB 300 to setup)
- Subscription accounts can post 1x per day
- Service accounts can post 4x per month
- Mini programs are light-version of apps usually for specific functions and utility based
- Advertising available in 2 forms: Moments Ads and Banner Ads
With close to 1B active users you can potentially reach everyone in China, though in reality you really wouldn’t want to do that since the whole of China might not be the right audience. Every geography and demographic in China has also very different behaviour and you would do well to understand your audience and engage them in the right way.
On WeChat Brands can set up Official Accounts and there are 2 types: Subscription vs Service Account.
Subscription account are good for content driven brands, as it allows for posting 1x every day. All subscription content are folded under one folder and appears as a content feed (revamped late 2018 to improve content visibility)
Service account are good for large Brands who are looking for more integration with their existing work flow, i.e. Customer Service live chat, WeChat payment. However, Service accounts can only post 4x each month.
You need to understand your business requirements carefully and make the right setup choice. As switching accounts later on can be costly.
Once you are setup, you can go about customising your account menu and simple autoreplies.
For content, whether you post daily or 4x a month, the format of the post is the same and you can post out up to 10 articles with each post. A gentle reminder that quality trumps quantity anytime, so don’t worry about now having enough content.
WeChat has cultivated a reading culture among Chinese consumers and they are comfortable with long form content. Images and video content are also becoming the norm so experiment with that too. In terms of type of content, consumers like unique interesting content and “dry goods” type content. As always, images and video content works best.
Another unique aspect about WeChat is it allows brands to create unique landing pages (or minisite/microsite or commonly known as H5 in China) that can be linked to from within the Brand official account.
Some good accounts for reference: Airbnb, H&M, Naked Resort, etc.
Toutiao, news aggregator app under Bytedance, is a leading news app in China. Essentially, it's not a media platform, but an aggregator of news content whether it's article or videos.
- Leading news aggregator
- 200M DAU
- Brand Account
- Reach audiences through algorithmic recommendation
It's fairly straightforward to setup a brand account, and there is a standard RMB 300 for verification purposes. Brands account are called Toutiao Hao 头条号 and brands can then publish article content or video content through the self serve platform.
To be really honest, it is fairly difficult for a brand content to have much reach as your account would not have any fans. However, because Toutiao uses algorithms to recommend relevant content to it's audience, there is a good change that your content will be recommended and reach a significant out of audience.
There is no magic formula, unfortunately, to make your content go viral through the algorithm. The best you can do is to have interesting content that has keywords that resonate with the audience or the trends. And, the reason why I recommend Toutiao is because you can repurpose Wechat content fairly quickly, add on the right keywords and publish it very quickly on Toutiao. So, essentially, you get to kill 2 birds with 1 stone.
Some brand accounts you may follow for reference:
Douyin (or TikTok in the rest of the world) is the darling social media platform in China right now. It is also part of Bytedance, which also owns Toutiao (above). It is a short video platform featuring both PGC and UGC content. Think Instagram Stories, but with upwards scrolling instead of horizontal scrolling. It has a strong captive audience who typically are scrolling through the app at least 1-2 hours a day. (Yes, it’s addictive to watch random people lip syncing to pop songs and doing mundane stuff like eat noodles.) This platform is suited for brands targeting young millennials (20-35) in Tier 1/2 cities.
- 200M DAU
- Brand Official accounts available (RMB 600 to setup)
- Hashtag campaigns to encourage engagement with consumers
- Short vertical videos (up to 15s)
- Music is important
- Keep it entertaining or educational
Start by creating a brand official account and pick a unique, descriptive profile name. (How to create a brand official account on Douyin?)
On Douyin, the content has 2 extremes: highly choreographed content by PGC and simple and catchy content by UGC.
As a start, you can repurpose existing vertical video content, otherwise, you can get a staff to use a mobile phone to produce short and simple videos about your brand or product USP.
The principles of social media applies, so keep it short and informative or entertaining. Douyin, very much like Toutiao, leverages algorithms to determine the popularity of a content piece. The algorithm will then promote popular content for you free of charge by showing it to more people through the discover channel. So, it’s important your content is unique, interesting and engaging and not run of the mill branded content. You also can add up to 200 chars on each piece of content and add hashtags for greater discoverability.
If you have budget to invest, you may consider engaging influencers to create relevant brand video content for their audience.
Some brand accounts you may follow for reference: Dior, Alipay, etc
Of course the devil is in the detail, or more precisely, the execution. So, I put together a cheatsheet to get you started on planning and setting up your Social Media accounts in China.
Download the China Social Media Quick Win Cheatsheet Here">here.