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Chinese social media users are among the most active in the world. Which means social media marketing is your key to success in China. But the key players are different. Here’s our ‘who’s who’ guide to help you navigate the Chinese platforms.

There are one billion active social media users in China. They spend almost two hours per day using social media. And 80% of unplanned e-commerce purchases come from social channels. So if you want to connect with your Chinese customers, social media marketing is indispensable.

But Chinese social media has its own integrated online ecosystem. The average user has nine different accounts – and the platforms are vastly different from their counterparts in the West. Plus, users are mostly accessing them from their (Android) smartphones. Not sure where to begin? Here’s our guide to the key players.

WECHAT

With one billion monthly active users – the vast majority of whom are Chinese – WeChat is one of the most popular apps in the world. If you decide to only focus on one Chinese social media platform, make it this one.

The average WeChat user checks the app ten times daily. For 35% of users, this adds up to over four hours of use. And it’s easy to see why.

Users can run their lives from the app, chatting online, booking cinema tickets and paying bills. WeChat Stores allow users to make purchases online without going to your website. WeChat Pay is China’s leading payment system – used both online and offline. And the app is so pervasive that in the business world, WeChat is replacing business cards and emails. Not to mention traditional customer service channels.

To engage users, you’ll need to craft appealing and easily-digestible content. Memorable interactive games or funny videos are great ways to spread your message. The more creative, the better.

Here’s how to get going:

1. START RIGHT

As an overseas business, creating a WeChat account requires a bit of red tape. But the reward is worth it.

That’s because there are two versions of WeChat for overseas and Chinese users. To connect with Chinese users, you’ll need a domestic (WeiXin) account. Chinese users can search for overseas accounts, but they can’t follow them – which limits your reach from the outset.

To open a domestic account, you’ll need an official business account. And to get this, you need to prove you’re a legal entity registered in China. (This will also come in handy for ranking on Baidu.) WeChat will request your business licence and other relevant documents to prove it.

Don’t be tempted to cut corners in this lengthy process. For Chinese consumers, brand image is an important marker of quality. You don’t want to damage this reputation before you’ve even started. It may take longer, but it’s definitely worth jumping through all the hoops to get a domestic account.

2. DEFINE YOURSELF

Next, you need to decide which type of account you want. A subscriptions account for content, or a services account for customer service? This decision is irreversible, but you can open up to 50 different accounts as needed.

Once you’re in, make it count. Otherwise, any initial attention will fizzle out. If you want to use the app to produce good content, update it regularly and make it high quality. If you’re promising excellent customer service, then make sure it’s fast, reliable and dependable. Your customers will go elsewhere if it’s not good enough.

You should also fill in your account details and make it presentable. Provide detailed, relevant and easily accessible information to make or keep fans. You can create personalized tabs to give your page a uniquely personal feel.

3. KEEP IT PERSONAL

Chinese customers expect personalized communication. It’s never a good idea to send just one message to all users, as this may look like spam.

Instead, look at WeChat as a customer management tool. By providing interesting, relevant content, you can build up a relationship with users. As you get to know them, you can send tailored information and encourage them to tell their friends.

To get the word out, consider combining different content types. Add a QR code to your print material and website to draw people to your WeChat page. This can turn your real fans into virtual ones. For example, lots of businesses offer free Wi-Fi to users who scan their QR code and follow their account.

Good customer service will also help you quickly win fans, popularity and social media clout. Chinese consumers don’t want emails and forms. They want instant, direct communication with sellers. In fact, that’s one of our top tips for Chinese e-commerce success. (Check out the rest of our advice here.) WeChat and Alibaba’s Aliwangwang messenger service allow users to chat directly with sellers at any time of day, building real relationships in the process.

4. FIND YOUR CHAMPIONS

Influencers are hugely important in Chinese social media marketing. Celebrities have millions of followers – and a plug from the right person will reap rewards. Social media insights about your target demographic will help you back a winner.

One thing to keep an eye on is the growth of ‘wang hong’ – cyber celebrities like MiuMiu & Viviandan, who are considered authentic and personal. If you can get them on-board, they could introduce hordes of new customers to your brand.

Paid advertising is also an option. Ads can appear on users’ Moments page or at the bottom of articles. You can also send push notifications to users. WeChat Moments also allows brands to include six-second or 15-second videos as a teaser to be shown on a user’s timeline. Interested viewers can click on the video to reach an internal ad page with the full commercial.

WeChat is China’s most popular social media platform. But it’s not without competition. And it’s rivals are also worth considering.

QZONE

Created by WeChat owner Tencent, QZONE (or QQ in China) has 823 million monthly active users. Like WeChat, it also offers a wide range of features. Here’s how it’s different:

  • 60% of QQ users were born after 1990. By contrast, 98.5% of Chinese people aged 50-80 use WeChat.
  • While WeChat user numbers are still climbing, QQ’s popularity peaked in 2016.
  • QQ offers more content, gaming and entertainment features, in keeping with its younger audience. QQ Highlights recommends content to more than 100 million daily active users.

If you’re targeting a younger audience, QZONE could be the platform for you. Particularly for e-sports, gaming and beauty content.

WEIBO

Known as the Chinese Twitter, Weibo is a great way of building your brand identity while engaging with users on relevant topics. It’s also a good place for online influencers to promote your business. Other advantages include its well-established paid advertising system and its analytics, index and trend tools.

  • 465 million monthly active users.
  • 70.8% of Weibo users have at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Unlike WeChat, Weibo influencers can link directly to online marketplaces like Taobao or Tmall.

YOUKU

Youku is the Chinese equivalent of YouTube and receives over 1.18 billion daily video views. It’s a good place for building brand awareness and researching the type of video advertisements that work. The popularity of video in Chinese social media means that this website shouldn’t be overlooked.

DOUYIN

Known as TikTok outside of China, Douyin is growing rapidly. It offers mainly short-form video content. A partnership with Alibaba’s Taobao e-commerce platform integrates social and shopping. Luxury brands such as Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Chanel are all advertising on Douyin.

  • 400 million monthly active users (in China).
  • 66% of users are women.
  • 40% of users are 24-30 years old.

LITTLE RED BOOK

Smaller social media sites cater for particular target groups or sectors. Little Red Book allows overseas agents to market luxury fashion and beauty products. It’s particularly popular with young urban women and has 100 million users.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Mass marketing won’t cut it on Chinese social media. Your customers favour small-scale interactions with individuals. To make an impact, you’ll need to provide tailored, meaningful content to each of them – and take the time to build strong consumer relationships.

Want your brand to be seen and heard on Chinese social media? Check out our global social media service, then get in touch with our digital team – we’d love to hear from you.

Photo by Aaron Greenwood on Unsplash