I’m just back from representing 360PR at the PROI Worldwide 44th Annual Meeting in Hong Kong, a summit with our global partners – 60 leading independent PR agencies across more than 100 cities in 50+ countries. One of the most eye-opening seminars was “An Introduction to Digital/Social Media in China” led by Arthur Hagopian, digital director of global brand solutions at partner agency Strategic Public Relations Group, the largest public relations consultancy in Hong Kong.
With powerhouse networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube all blocked in China, the social media landscape there is far more diverse, and at the same time cluttered, than in the U.S. After all, China has over 618 million internet users, which is equivalent to 45% of China’s population and one-quarter of internet users world-wide.*
China’s social networks include nimble and sophisticated players such as WeChat, TenCent, Sina Weibo, RenRen, Douban, Ushi, and Dionping. The list goes on, and each network has its niche: from celebrity video sharing on Sina Weibo to professional networking on Ushi.
Consumer motivations and how brands make their mark on social media are also vastly different. The major cultural difference? Chinese netizens are looking for ways to express their freedom on the Internet. According to the report “The Uniqueness of Social Media in China,” 73% of Chinese netizens agreed with the statement: “Online, I feel free to say and do things I wouldn’t do or say offline,” compared to about a third (32%) of US netizens. Chinese users are also more engaged in their online lives. 86% of Chinese youth live “some of their lives” online, compared to 42% of American youth.**
Despite our differences, the do’s and don’ts of social media are fairly similar cross-culturally. Bottom line: It must be accepted that companies and organizations no longer own their brands—their consumers and communities do.
Below are a handful of takeaways provided by SPRG that I believe have implications for brands leveraging social media in the US, too:
- Know your customer (intimately)
- Pull don’t push
- Provide useful/interesting/helpful content
- Serve audience (customer) needs
- Answer questions (be responsive)
- Rushing to action without a plan
- No listening/monitoring capabilities
- No content guidelines: brand & product style guides
- No creative content development
- Insufficient resources: weak audience engagement
- Pushing sales too quickly (too hard)
- Heavily showcasing new/existing products
*We Are Social, April 2014.
**Data Source: The 32th Statistical Survey Report on the Internet Development in China by CNNIC, June 2013.