Shanghai takes one by surprise every time. The scale and pace of the city, the throngs of people, the commercial activity and yes, the avid netizens. Everyone seems to be checking in, uploading pictures, chatting on Weibo and ordering something online. No, really. Of the most valuable social media brands on the planet, just see how many are from China. Chinese social media brands are the second most valuable set, as proclaimed by HZW, the University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration Zurich http://www.resonancechina.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/bv4-mwsmb-2012-en.png
This is Social Media country. Brands sign off on their billboards (okay, outdoor hoardings) with their Weibo accounts, not a www address. Visiting cards routinely have Weibo accounts printed. Personal anecdata reveal that it is easier to get a response to a Weibo than an email. Talking of data, this is a good time to glance at this infographic. It lays out the social media landscape in China.
Via: Best Free Online
What makes the Chinese embrace Social Media so avidly? Like much else in China, the answer lies in the way the government monitors and controls information dissemination in the country. Citizens find it easier to trust one another than believe the official lines recited by media. Rumours floated by netizens, counter arguments by “50 cent parties” (a derogatory name for netizens who are allegedly sponsored by the Party to attack dissidents and protestors online, make Chinese social media an interesting spectator sport. David Pilling of the FT has an interesting post on them here.
But, I digress from the world of digital marketing.
Perhaps the most exciting Social Media service is Weibo. Weibo (pronounced as WAY BO) is the generic word for microblogging, ala Twitter. There are many Weibos, the most famous being Sina Weibo. Sina Weibo is best described as a hybrid of Facebook and Twitter. That makes it a powerful and compelling service. I found this video on how to use Weibo as a non-Chinese. Dive in here:
If you want to sign up via email, go here. Using Chrome, one can get some machine translated gossip, hilarious mostly but sometimes quite instructive. Would urge following some global brands to see how they adapt to the Chinese landscape.
Brands are using Weibo quite interestingly. Take Bentley, the luxury carmaker, once a darling of James Bond. China recently became Bentley’s largest market, displacing the long time faithful USA. Chinese luxury automotive consumers are beginning to embrace SUVs. Bentley decided to solicit direct consumer feedback and opinion on the EXP 9F, an experimental SUV, via a specially designed Weibo app. I quite like the way this interactive medium has been used – not just for marketing messaging, or engaging conversation but giving potential consumers a real stake in shaping the product. Read more about it here and test drive the app here (you will need a Weibo login).
Jiepang, China’s version of Foursquare, is another service I find quite innovative. Given the emergent trend of SoLoMo (Social-Local-Mobile), Starbucks tied up with the check-in service for a special Valentine’s Day promo – lucky folks could get mobile phones, free coffees for a couple and a date. Oh, two badges too, for checking in. The video is via Youku, the Chinese Youtube.
For more details on the campaign, in English, read this.
It is rather difficult to call a service China’s version and yet call them innovative. As Steve Jobs proved, it is not the first to market who thrives, but the most innovative. If you are a laggard, chances are you are learning from the pioneers and their mistakes; quickly adapting and evolving to a better place, after noting what resonates with consumers.
We have to watch and learn from what is happening here in China. Jugaad. Or Shanzai. The result is the same. Cheaper, better and hopefully faster.