Wednesday, 16 July 2014

How to Successfully Market on Weibo Part 1: Content

As I outlined in some of my previous posts, taking on digital strategies for the Chinese market requires an alternative approach that many modern-day digital marketers may not be all too familiar with. Not only do you have to consider differences in SEO and content challenges involving cultural and linguistic relevance that is censor-friendly, but there also comes a sometimes staggering array of different tools, features and platforms that you have to get your head around.

One of these platforms is one I’m sure many people in the world of digital have heard about – Sina Weibo. Weibo, although not China’s most influential social media platform in terms of user count (that honour currently belongs to the 650 million-strong QZone), is really the go-to platform in terms of breaking news and social trends, fiery discussion and of course, social media marketing in China. As such, it’s really no surprise that there are currently thousands of foreign company accounts on Weibo, and there’s no reason why any Western business reaching out to China shouldn’t sign up too.

So how do you successfully market on Weibo? While delving into a 300 million+ Chinese user base with a noisy interface resembling a mismatch of Twitter, Facebook and Myspace may seem daunting, marketing for Weibo isn’t as difficult as it sounds. In all honesty, it’s actually pretty fun, and simply requires some understanding of what works content wise as well as a look at its various paid features. Oh, and knowing Chinese does help too of course, though perhaps I’ll come to that in another post. In truth though, learning Chinese really isn’t as difficult as some might think!

Content Stylings

I don’t need to tell you that content is king, and this of course resonates tenfold with Weibo. Weibo’s demographic is largely made up of educated, tuned-in 20 and 30 somethings who, more so than on Twitter and Facebook, love to comment, share and engage with their peers.

From a company point of view, content that is sharp, topical, funny and shareable generally goes down the best with target audiences. The content feed of luxury brand Louis Vuitton for example, features model shoots, catwalk videos and the odd piece which delves into the company’s heritage. There’s very little direct marketing at all, with the idea to create engagement and boost PR by building an accessible, respectable online personality.

Chinese netizens are also very fond of what they call “cold jokes” (冷笑话), something which is somewhat similar to some aspects of British humour in the sense that the jokes that are “funny because they’re not funny” or come in the form of witty one-line answers that carry tones of social commentary. Sarcasm, although enjoying somewhat of an increase in appreciation in China, generally isn’t too well-received with jokes instead largely revolving around tonal wordplay and self-deprecating irony.

The Chinese internet has also seen the birth of new Chinese terms that are now commonly used in modern society. Examples include “Fu’er dai” (富二代) - meaning literally “rich second generation” - a tongue-in-cheek term to describe China’s new nouveau rich, and “Gei li” (给力) – meaning “give force” - a multi-purpose adjective describing the action of making something more impressive, interesting, or perhaps applying more effort. It’s vital to brush up on terms such as these and ensure that you’re communicating on the same tuned-in level as China’s netizens. Here’s a list where you can delve into some more basic Chinese internet slang terms.

Culture Vulture

Chinese society, despite growing increasingly similar to the West in terms of lifestyle, interests and hobbies, still has many traditional and cultural elements that have a strong influence on every day life. This also rings true with Chinese social media, and traditional values have to be taken in to account when considering content marketing on Weibo.

Filial piety is one of those values, with over 300 million posts with the words “thank you parents” being posted on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day back in 2012, for example. Equally, content addressing issues such as the environment, animal welfare and charity – newly emerging causes that have arisen from China’s growing worldly middle class – also goes down well.

Get With the Trends

Chinese social media trends change like the wind, so it’s important to latch on and make use of the latest hot topics while they’re still hot. Luckily, Weibo has a wonderful tool for finding these topics in the form of a tab similar to Twitter’s “Discover” button, which is helpfully named “Hot Topics”, albeit in Chinese (热门话题). Following on from Brazil’s recent 7:1 hammering at the hands of Germany in the World Cup, a whole string of cooperate accounts jumped in on the action by publishing memes, jokes and gifs that were featured on the Brazil Vs Germany hot topic feed. Weibo’s “Hot Topics” is an interesting expansion on Twitter’s “Discover” tab, and is somewhat reminiscent of what Google Trends offers, only in social media format.       

Weibo’s “Hot Topics” tool also filters out into a variety of industry-specific sub-categories, allowing users to clock on to trend and hashtags relevant to what they want to see. This is a great feature for finding out what your demographic are talking about and type of content is popular for certain niches.

Stay Tuned…

Hopefully, these few pointers on content marketing for Weibo have proved helpful. In my next post, I’m going to have a look at some of the paid marketing which can be done on Weibo by exploring some of the features unique to the platform. Make sure you stick around!

Image credit: bfishadow

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