social media marketing

Social media marketing in China, not just WeChat and Weibo

21 Jun 2021

China and social media, the landscape beyond WeChat and Weibo

The world of social media is constantly evolving. The Chinese digital market is based on the multifaceted potential of WeChat – the powerhouse app that integrates mini-ecommerce solutions and corporate communication and attracts 1.2 billion users and thousands of influencers – and the dynamism of Weibo, the micro-blogging platform with over half a billion subscribers and 100 million posts per day. However, the Chinese social media landscape goes far beyond these two giants and offers platforms capable of providing new opportunities for communication, marketing and direct sales to the public, each according to its specific characteristics. Let’s get to know them a little better.

Social marketing and social selling, the opportunities of the Chinese market

Local consumers have an increasing possibility of spending, show enthusiasm for new platforms – now widespread also in rural areas – and are actively involved in digital shopping.

Over 1 billion Chinese are connected to the internet, 79% of whom made online purchases in 2020. It is an audience increasingly attentive to the online shopping experience, which expects personalization and originality, but at the same time reflecting the Chinese socio-cultural context, with a modular, punctual, immersive communication. What better tools than social networks to reach this audience and meet their expectations?

Choosing the right channels is therefore a crucial aspect for all brands wanting to approach the Chinese market in the best possible way. While Weibo and WeChat are considered indispensable channels to carefully and constantly watch, there are at least three other platforms with very high potential.

Douyin, the social network where the quality of mini-videos makes the difference

The first to consider is undoubtedly Douyin, namely the original version of TikTok, the most famous app for sharing short videos (up to 1 minute long), which in China has over 510 million local active users, who every month spend over 26 hours on the platform.

The overwhelming presence of influencers and leading personalities from the web and the Chinese star system makes Douyin the ideal space for impactful social media marketing initiatives, especially in the entertainment, food and lifestyle sectors.

What are the strategies that allow to take full advantage of its features?

  • Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) campaigns, able to draw wide attention and bring the target audience closer to the brand’s products, services and initiatives, guaranteeing excellent results through ongoing partnerships.
  • Contests and user generated content, which encourage users to interact with the brand and give it visibility through short clips supported by hashtags for specific topics, offering in return prizes and assorted rewards.
  • Direct social selling, through the Douyin function which allows the sharing of products from the own online shop or from a Douyin store, so that users can link them in their videos in a few simple steps.

RED, the social media that mixes awareness and e-commerce

Another interesting space to watch can be Xiaohongshu, better known as RED, a social network which also incorporates many functions typical of online shops and where users can post product reviews, stories related to lifestyle and everyday life through an infinite catalogue of possible purchases and creative materials.

RED has over 300 million subscribers and more than 100 million active local users every month, 72% of whom are Millennials. Almost all of those who populate the platform store information on their purchasing habits, mainly focused on the beauty, food, fashion and travel sectors.

What are the strategies that allow to take full advantage of its features?

  • Certify the brand, thanks to an optimal and quantitatively significant organization of the featured products.
  • Encourage interaction, with sponsored content, dedicated hashtags, commercial partnerships and private messaging campaigns targeted to users.
  • Analyze data, exploiting the huge amount of specifications collected by RED for developing data driven content and campaigns.
  • Connect online and offline marketing, so as to optimize conversion flows, stimulating not only direct online shopping but also digital awareness which in turn leads to in-store purchases.

Bilibili, the highly inclusive video community

A third social network to consider is Bilibili, populated mainly by young and very young users (78% of whom are aged between 18 and 35), with a large community of singles (80% of subscribers). It is a platform for sharing clips focused on entertainment, mostly games, animation and comics.

The formats used by subscribers range from live streaming to in-depth videos, up to teasers, all characterized by high technical quality and channelled to segments of the community interested in the same topics.

Bilibili attracts over 1 billion views every day, delivering 4.9 billion interactions every month. The total number of subscribers stands for now at 82 million, but compared to the spring of 2020 this figure has risen by 66%. A rapidly evolving virtual world, characterized by great ferment and enormous possibilities as an avenue for making brand awareness.

In short, it is an early adopter tool for foreign brands wanting to conquer an increasingly large and attentive audience within the vast Chinese digital market. Perfect for the most innovative and ambitious companies.

Key ingredients that cannot be missing

Different social networks require different strategies, but all need a common approach which cannot exclude the careful study of the Chinese context – with its social specificities, cultural peculiarities and typical narratives – and a meticulous and flexible planning that allows to capture the audience but also exploit the commercial potential of the platform while keeping intact the unique value of each brand and the Made in Italy hallmark.


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