Engaging the Chinese Market: The Appeal of Social Media

Emanuel Longo | August 20, 2013

Welcome to the first post in our ongoing blog series focused on engaging the global market! Our hope is to provide innovative business strategies for success in both established and unexplored markets.

China’s role as an e-consumer powerhouse is unquestioned at this point. With current estimates at 193 million online Chinese shoppers, it is expected that by 2015, online sales should breach $420 billion.1 Yet, these figures attribute to only 14 percent of the total population.2

The potential for market growth is astounding. Executives must ask themselves, how can one promote more users towards online sales, and how can one best engage the current e-market?

The answer lies in social media. According to McKinsey&Company, Chinese consumers “are more likely to consider buying a product if they see it discussed positively on a social-media site… [or] if a friend or acquaintance recommends it on a social-media site… Chinese consumers prize peer-to-peer recommendations because they lack trust in formal institutions.”

A staggering amount of people use social media, as well. A McKinsey survey of 5,700 Chinese Internet users reported that 91% citizens logged onto social media sites in the last six months, far greater than that of Japan (30%) or the US (67%).

Engaging the Chinese market through social media, whether it be blog posts on current technology and trends, positive product reviews, or general peer-to-peer recommendations, would be highly beneficial to any business. However, utilizing social media comes with a few challenges.

Hong Kong - ChinaUsing social media to appeal to the Chinese market will require executives to collect data in a different method than done for previous advertising campaigns. The data collected previously may be ineffective when directed to the online market. Even if the data is applicable, China’s strict Internet censorship rules block many of the big-name sites we rely on, like Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc. Not only will the user have to adjust to the new platform, but it may void many of the social-media strategies that businesses have learned and practiced. There are similar sites, such as Qzone, Renren, or Kaixin, but the user will inevitably face an irritating initiation period.

To reach the Chinese market through social media, a strong, native-speaking linguist is essential. In addition, McKinsey&Co recommends that executives “decide what they would like social media to achieve for the business,” such as “product development, brand and marketing strategy, sales-lead generation, and customer service and support.” From there, companies must study the social-media environment, engage the online presence, and monitor any received feedback.

We recommend keeping these tips in mind when expanding your business into the Chinese market!

1 https://www.bcgperspectives.com/content/articles/digital_economy_globalization_china_digital_3_0_fast_furious_e_commerce/
2 http://mashable.com/2012/05/20/ecommerce-china/


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