In a country of continental dimensions, with a strong and millennial culture, its own alphabet, and more than 1.3 billion inhabitants, arriving from abroad and winning the trust and friendship of the locals can be more complicated than elsewhere, especially for Westerners.
For companies, the reality is no different. As fascinating as it is distant, the Chinese market is a platonic love for any brand that dreams of expanding its horizons. Even powerful, world-famous brands find it difficult to establish themselves, especially when they try to implement a global strategy, without customizing their products and communicating to the specificities of the Chinese market.
As in any country, to really immerse yourself in the local culture it is important to “speak the same language”, to understand the linguistic and social nuances, the jargon. If you are not a Daren 达人 (an expert) on the subject, check out this article with 16 Terms you have to know to do Digital Marketing in China. Still, that may not be enough.
The strategy needs to be customized for the Chinese market
This point seems obvious, but it is important to keep it in mind. Your marketing in China can be played independently of your so-called global actions and strategies, and in many ways, it is actually better than it is.
Relying on an isolated and peculiar ecosystem protected by the Great Firewall, not only does all content need to be in Mandarin, but it must also suit the Chinese platforms, with their own formatting, their own algorithms, and Mandarin keywords.
The consequence of this is that your China marketing should not be based on the materials you already distribute in the West. New keywords, banners, logos, visual identity, etc. should be created according to your local market offering. Content that you already have abroad will often not be seen or considered relevant by the Chinese audience.
It is important to remember that the Great Firewall to which he refers prevents Western technology giants from penetrating that country. Facebook, Google, Uber, and LinkedIn simply do not exist in China. The digital landscape there is completely different and that changes… everything!
In summary, it is necessary to keep in mind that we are talking about a different digital universe. So forget Google and its algorithms, Facebook and its ads, and even the keywords used in other languages.
Just like in biology or linguistics, where geographically separated areas eventually lead to the development of completely different landscapes,
Other social networks used in China
You may be asking yourself: without Facebook, how do people keep up to date on such relevant things as who among their classmates at school got married last year? Many in the West already know or have heard of WeChat, known as the Super-Platform, or the App for everything, due to its huge number of features and “sub-platforms”. But WeChat is not the only platform used by the Chinese, and some others are even more suitable depending on the objectives of their campaigns.
The Chinese social networking universe is even more fragmented than in the West, but of course, we have some main, dominant characters.
We have for example the super-platform WeChat, but WeChat is not an open social network. It is actually an application focused on communication and commerce. In fact, WeChat is not a good channel to distribute or consume content from influencers.
Weibo, on the other hand, is a turbocharged version of Facebook. It provides users and influencers with everything that Facebook and Instagram have and also has payment tools, integrated e-commerce, you can even call and pay your DIDI (China’s Uber) without leaving Weibo.
What Weibo does is aggregate and integrate dozens of niche media platforms, such as live video streaming platforms, others similar to musical.ly, YouTube, and others. So in reality Weibo is a super social media aggregator.
Meipai, on the other hand, is a great platform for short videos, under 5 minutes, or live broadcasts. The influencers on Meipai are mostly supported by their fans. But Meipai also has some great e-commerce features integrated into their videos. Pure” video platforms like YouTube are weak in China, and extremely fragmented.
I think one of the great things about Chinese social networks is that many of them are integrated with e-commerce platforms, and this mix is widely accepted in China. Also, it’s very easy to do these transactions on cell phones.
So for the consumer, the purchase is very practical and easy. I can watch a video and buy the dress that the influencer is wearing at the same time, without even leaving the page. All I need is my password or my fingerprint and that’s it. I love it!
I don’t have a favorite channel. I love Weibo for the content and the UX, but I hate the fact that it has become more and more expensive and it is currently very difficult to grow my Weibo audience without a significant investment.
The whole digital universe in China is focused on mobile and brands allocate huge portions of their budgets to social media and influencer marketing because they know where their audience is.
I believe that marketing in China is marked by very rapid adaptations. Companies are constantly reinventing the way they run their campaigns. This probably has to do with the fact that the Chinese workforce, especially in agencies and technology companies, tends to be quite young.
Marketing influence in China through KOLs
In fact, the use of influence marketing in China is even stronger than in the West. With a more adequate technological apparatus to sell online and operating in a culture where their work is more accepted, KOLs are an indispensable part of the Marketing strategy of Chinese and foreign brands. And there are those who say that this potential has not yet been fully exploited by companies.
In China, the culture allows influencers to openly advertise the products they are selling, even including direct on-screen purchase links from their articles, photos, or broadcasts, without causing negative impressions on their audience.
Many products are launched in the Chinese market at events that bring together different influencers in the same physical space, broadcasting live information and promotions for those who buy certain products at that time. Known as “parties” these events generate thousands, sometimes millions of interactions and, consequently, sales.
In conclusion, if you can’t stand them, join them!
As in any country or city, you need to ‘speak the same language, understand the new universe, and produce content directly for this new audience. In addition, it is necessary to know the existing channels and the characteristics that differentiate them.
One of the most effective ways to gain an audience in China is to use Influence Marketing and count on the support of KOLs, which charge to advertise the sponsoring brands to their thousands of fans and followers.