East meets West: Chinese and Western Social Media 101中西方社交媒体互动问答

This is the first in a series of joint blog posts with Evermotion, an online marketing company based in Beijing. We’ve begun a dialogue with Evermotion to understand the different worlds of social media marketing in China and in the west. Enjoy the questions and please, add your comments or questions.

West asks East


1. Can you explain the recent changes that Tencent has made to their platform, and why businesses should have a Tencent Weibo as well as a Sina Weibo?

As a Chinese saying goes, first impressions are strongest.

Sina Weibo launched earlier than Tencent Weibo, and Tencent has often been regarded as a copycat company.

Because of this, Tencent Weibo develops very slowly. According to the statistics, Tencent QQ Zone (like MySpace) and pengyou.com (like Facebook) has more than 1 billion views every day. 

Tencent QQ (instant message) has more than 700 million active users, and QQ Zone has more than 550 million active users.

Tencent is taking action to attract QQ and QQ Zone users to use Tencent Weibo. 

Tencent wants to integrate the advantages of Facebook and Twitter together to create a new platform.

In order to make a profit, Tencent has opened this platform for advertisers to do social advertising, with targeted advertising, and audience engagement. 

Many businesses are beginning to pay attention to Tencent Weibo, but they still use Sina Weibo because Sina Weibo is more mature than the former. Here is the 2012 China social media landscape. 











2. What is the biggest problem that marketers in China are facing online?

The biggest problem is Chinese people don’t have a strong awareness of using social media to do business.

In the early days, businessmen aim to get as many as possible followers on their Sina Weibo. However, some companies hire third-party companies/agencies to work on social media marketing campaigns, with the objective of growing follower numbers.

Now, business owners are beginning to realize that the quality of followers is more important than the quantity.

As a person who provides online marketing strategy for companies, I’d like to raise people’s understanding of social media business. They need to think and solve problems facing them into a new media industry. Don’t be short-sighted;  have a long term goal in your minds.








3. What’s the biggest opportunity that marketers in China are facing online?

I think the biggest challenge is that many businessmen regard Sina Weibo as the only one social media marketing tool.

However, there are QQ Zone, Renren, Douban, Meili shuo and Mogu Jie etc that play a very important role in Chinese social media industry.

Nowadays, more and more decision-makers pay attention to social marketing.

Many of them allocate funds from PR into social marketing.

In addition to that, the Chinese e-commerce market is developing rapidly, which will attract more businesses into social media marketing.











4. Are ordinary companies (i.e. not ecommerce) starting to use social media for marketing or customer service?

Certainly. Many non-e-commerce companies focus on social customer service, especially FMCG companies.

The deep understanding of social media customer service is building a business SCRM (Social Customer Relationship Management) ecosystem.

I believe building the social media ecosystem will be the main trend in the future.


5. What are the big upcoming trends in social media in China?

The trend is going social.

The essence of social media is having a conversation.

The core part of conversation is content.

Therefore, with the development of Internet technology, “accurate marketing” would be the biggest trend.

Online advertising is performance-based, and becoming more measurable over time. In other words, those who invest into social media marketing should benefit from the social media marketing revolution.


East asks West


1, How do you think of the current users habit in social media in the west?

Social media is an everyday part of life for people in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

While a few years ago, social media was only for a few people, now social media is playing a big role in people’s lives – influencing something as simple as food purchases, right through to complex B2B sales.

Demographically, social media is relevant for all ages. In the USA, social media users are better educated than the general population, and are beginning to use mobile to access all forms of social media.

Increased mobile use is removing the barrier between the “virtual” world and the “real” world.

So social media is normal now, but still people do not realise how profoundly this changes our habits.

Whereas before, we relied on a few professional sources for information, most people now have an equal voice to share their opinion or information.

This has implications for business, educational and social institutions, and even government. (Though not, of course, in China).

2, Is there any local platform becoming popular in the west like Weibo in China? If yes, would you briefly introduce it?

Facebook is by far the west’s most popular social media platform, with over 900 million users around the world.

Even in countries like India and Brazil, where Google’s Orkut platform was once very popular, Facebook is becoming the default social network.

Part of Facebook’s success is that it has embedded the social experience across the web.

Users don’t only interact with a brand on Facebook.com, they can also use Facebook’s “Like” button on a company’s website.

Pinterest is another website that has taken the world by storm.

It’s a photo sharing site that Chinese networks like Kaixin001.com have already begun to imitate, and it has proven to be a very engaging user experience and delivered more traffic to websites than Google+, YouTube or LinkedIn.

Pinterest signals the importance of visual marketing.

If your value proposition can be captured in a single, compelling image, it has a good chance of being shared.


3, How do you think of the differences between twitter and weibo, do you think they begin to learn from each other and how?

To help Western people understand Sina Weibo, Sina Weibo is described as “Chinese Twitter”, or a “twitter clone”.

But in reality, Sina Weibo offers a far richer user experience, and features that are more like Facebook than twitter.

Having said that, Twitter seems to be unaware of the opportunities to learn from Sina’s microblogging experience, despite many Chinese people who use both Twitter and Weibo pointing out the opportunities.

Specific features of weibo that aren’t found in Twitter:

  • Photo and video embedding
  • Music sharing
  • Threaded comments
  • Groups


4, What are the opportunities and barriers of social media marketing development in the west?

I believe the opportunities are the same in the west and in China – to use social media as an integrated tool that will benefit the whole of business.

This means attracting new customers (marketing) and also providing good customer service (experience) which in turn leads to word of mouth, which greatly reduces the need to spend money on marketing.

Social media needs to be owned by all departments of a business.

At the moment, it is handled mostly by marketing and communications, with contact centres also finally discovering the role of social media.

It affects everything so everyone needs to be involved in co-creating a standard policy.

The policy then needs to become a culture, so staff need to know how to engage on behalf of the brand.


5, Would you predict the upcoming trends of social media in the west?


Social media is just one part of a large set of trends that is revolutionising business.

We call it “The Invisible Revolution” and its three key effects are empowered consumers, the hunt for authenticity, and co-creation.

To explain these briefly:

1. Empowered consumers are those who realise they have as much power to communicate as the brands they buy from. Therefore, they expect good service and will complain online when their needs aren’t met. Because brands don’t like to lose face (yes, even Western brands!) they will put more priority on making these empowered consumers happy.

2. The hunt for authenticity means people want to know where and how a product was made. Just as we’ve become used to behind-the-scenes extras on DVDs, consumers want to see “behind the scenes” of their favourite companies. We’ve seen examples of this when people call into question the way Apple makes their products. Because the internet has made the world smaller, people are more aware of ethical and environmental issues.

3. Co-creation means that consumers can be part of the process of creating value together – and if you as a consumer are involved in creating something, you are much more likely to buy it.






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