Chinese Social Media: a Marketing Masterclass

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The Chinese social media landscape, how big is it really?

Between January 2016 and January 2017, the number of active social media users in China increased by 20%. With over half the population owning a social media account, the Chinese market should be core to the social media marketing strategies of all global brands. 

In addition to greater social network adoption, China has seen a move to mobile with a 39% rise in mobile web traffic in the last 12 months.

How can brands make the most of the Chinese social media?

Step 1: Utilise WeChat, the Relationship Builder

Chinese social media: WeChat

In just five years, WeChat, created by China’s tech giant Tencent, has grown larger and faster than other Chinese social media networks. The mobile-only app currently connects over 850 million monthly active users - an annual increase of 40% (Dec 2015 - Dec 2016).

Chinese Social Media

WeChat’s Western Equivalent?

WeChat can be likened to a combination of:

  • Whatsapp (instant messaging)
  • SnapChat (short clips)
  • Messenger (instant messaging)
  • Facebook (a WeChat moment is similar to a Facebook status)

It has surpassed simple communication functions to become a sophisticated e-Commerce platform... Book a flight, reserve a table, make a payment - it’s a one-stop shop, all from your smartphone.

WeChat for marketing?

  • Construction of microsites and apps to support e-Commerce activity
  • Instant messaging -  communicate directly with fans and increase consumer trust
  • Development of loyalty programmes - share VIP cards, exclusive promotions and e-coupons
  • Location-based marketing
  • Official brand pages - share exclusive information with fans to drive loyalty

Western brands on WeChat

Luxury brands #win at WeChat. According to Bain & Company’s 2016 survey, 60% of Chinese consumers identified WeChat and Weibo as their go-to online resource for luxury goods.

To increase brand exposure in China, British born Burberry signed up to WeChat in 2013. For nearly four years, Burberry has utilized WeChat’s many functionalities to build strong relationships with its consumers.

In light of the Chinese New Year in 2016, Burberry created an app-within-an-app. Followers were sent a virtual gift that led to many opportunities: the ability to send personalized greetings, to browse and buy from Burberry’s exclusive collection and to win a limited-edition Burberry Lunar New Year envelope. As the envelope was only available in-store, the campaign drove footfall and in-store purchases.

“The Chinese social media landscape is the most dynamic, unique and influent in the world”

claims Shanghai-based digital marketing experts, Gentlemen agency.

Chinese platforms, like WeChat, are multi-purposeful in order to meet the demand of the Chinese internet community. An approach that Facebook has begun to embrace, although other Western platforms remain focused on their core functionality.

Step 2: Master Tencent QQ, the Golden Oldie


Chinese social media: Tencent QQ

Despite a lower annual growth rate of 6% (monthly active users), QQ remains a highly popular social media platform in China. However, QQ, at almost twenty years old, has recently met its competitor in its sister company, Tencent WeChat.

Tencent drives the growth of QQ and WeChat.

QQ’s Western Equivalent?

QQ has been referred to as a ‘clone of ICQ’ with a Facebook-like style. It’s most popularly known for its instant messaging service, but also offers online gaming, music, shopping and microblogging functions.

Tencent QQ for marketing?

  • Sharing information amongst interest groups
  • Creation of online games to interest and interact with consumers
  • Utilise the shopping function and encourage e-Commerce
  • Rich media experience: varied content marketing (images, videos, text)
  • Integrated with QQ Mail to drive email marketing

Western brands on Tencent QQ

Tencent QQ is particularly effective for institutions and niche brands. QQ groups can be created to interact with group members to build relationships. The creation of a group also means a brand can build a community around its product or services. Furthermore, brands can benefit from Qzone marketing. In just three days, Oreo’s ‘Zone of Child Innocence’ Qzone campaign triggered 130 million impressions. The combined reach of QQ and Qzone is unparalleled in China.

Step 3: Win at Sina Weibo, the Bounce Back King

Chinese social media: Weibo

Sina Weibo’s growth figures almost rival those of WeChat. The platform drove a 34% increase in monthly active users between December 2015 and December 2016. An unpredicted trend, since media outlets such as the BBC, projected the death of Weibo in 2015.

2016 saw a rapid turnaround thanks to a host of new partnerships and feature integrations. Sina Weibo is now supported by the entire Alibaba ecosystem which enables the platform to fuse with Tmall, Youku, and live streaming apps such as Yi Zhoo.

Sina Weibo’s Western Equivalent

At first, Sina Weibo was dubbed the (bigger and better) Twitter of China, however, it is now more commonly compared to Facebook. While it exercises Twitter’s key traits: @’s and #’s, it is likened to Facebook due to its many other capabilities. Weibo’s functionalities go beyond blogging. Weibo is also used to share music and videos, create photo albums and play games. Users are able to personalize profiles too.

In 2016, parallel to Facebook, Weibo saw a big rise in live video. The platform delivers 470 million daily video views. In China, live-streaming has become the video equivalent of the selfie.

Sina Weibo for marketing?

  • Rich media experience sought after by Chinese consumers - broadcast your messaging in a user-friendly way (image, video, live video etc)
  • Advertising - 75% of Weibo users don’t mind adverts, more than 50% may click on popular ads
  • Influencer marketing -  

    “When a celebrity posts about a brand on their Weibo page, the post engagement can be up to 6,000x that of the brand, and the post can reach a fanbase of 1,800x greater than the brand has”

  • Interaction and engagement: a must-have social platform for local and global brands to connect with Chinese consumers – Weibo claims a 76% year-on-year increase in “interactivity”
  • Encouragement of product and service reviews - Weibo is regarded as a trusted information source
  • Reaching a wide audience, the opportunity to go viral

Western brands on Sina Weibo

Weibo is a powerful and productive platform for B2C brands. The Beauty and Sports industries have successfully invested in the platform to expand their reach in China. Following a recent live-streaming deal with the NFL, Zhang Zhe, head of Sina Weibo Sports, said:

“We strongly believe that social media is a core platform to promote and consume domestic and international sports events.”

Sina Weibo’s live video capability also featured heavily in the 2016 digital strategies of L’Oréal and Maybelline.

Weibo offers an opportunity to businesses unknown in China. Chinese consumers are somewhat different to Westerners, the “just Google it” concept is completely alien. Consumers will typically browse Weibo to discover new brands rather than using search engines.

Step 4: Understand the Chinese consumer


Chinese consumers admire brands that share their heritage, their values, and their story. A brand that does this particularly well is French luxury brand, Chanel. However, not all companies are able to compete with the awe around luxury brands in China and must approach the challenge of the Chinese consumer in a different way. 

Chinese social media users thrive off personal interactions and favor brands based on their social persona. Brands that humanize their language and move away from corporate speak drive more engagement. It’s not just the voice of the brand that needs to be mastered, it is important to ensure content is fresh, interesting and relevant. Chinese consumers also respond poorly to content that oozes a desperate craving to go viral.

“The effective path to building quality, local content and creating impact lies with a launch-listen-learn-respond approach.”

says Chris Baker, Managing Director of Chinese social media agency Totem Media.

At Linkfluence, we have unparalleled technology that allows our clients to listen to and analyze the Chinese Social Web. What’s more, we have a team of local insights experts to support our clients’ social and digital strategy in APAC. If you would like to discuss your Asian market challenges and how Linkfluence’s social media intelligence solutions can help, please get in touch!

Tip: To gather rich data regarding your targeted marketing efforts we also recommend checking out the Meltwater social marketing platform!


Catch more Linkfluence content on Chinese Social Media here!

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