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How to tap into Chinese market: the complete list of marketing channels in China part 2

How to tap into Chinese market: the complete list of marketing channels in China part 2

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In the previous article, I have introduced the Push Channels of marketing in China, both online and offline. And in this article we will zoom in on online/internet marketing, and introduce a popular and effective method of digital marketing: Community Marketing, namely to raise brand awareness and promote products/services among online communities in the internet world of China.

A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values, or that is situated in a given geographical area (e.g. a village or town). So I define “Community Marketing” to be all the activities of setting up organizations’ own communities or being active in other communities to promote your products/services/names in a certain group of people (Community).

Thanks to the internet technology, nowadays everybody can be a media. And in this “We Media”
stage, traditional marketing of “pushing” products/services to mass audience is out of date, or at least not enough. Cultivating or identifying “Communities” of your products/services/values/knowledge, etc., and interacting with members of these communities, either online or offline, is playing more and more vital role in marketing in China.

Goglo xiaomi shenyangWe could set up and cultivate communities by our own. One of the largest global smartphone suppliers Xiaomi started from “xiaomi” online forum, to interact with smartphone users and convert them into Xiaomi fans (this group has a nice name “mifen” in Chinese, means fans of Xiaomi ) and ultimately customers of Xiaomi. I call this type of community marketing “We Community”.

It is also possible to thrive from other communities. As explained in the previous article, China has the largest internet population in the world, and these “netizens” are very active online, which lays a good soil of online communities, i.e. Weibo, Wechat, Maopu, Zhihu, etc.. Active in these communities and feeding contents to promote your products/services directly or indirectly, in a SMART way, can be a very effective way of marketing. For example, before the official launch of new products/strategies of companies like Sumsung, Tencent, there would always be hot discussions about these products/companies among online communities in China, and thus when the official launch comes, it could easily give a boom. And I call this type of community marketing “They Community”.

I will go through both of these two types of Community Marketing, and list the popular channels of each type.

We Community

It is always essential to set up our own communities when starting up a new business, or entering a new country. In China, we call it “集粉” (“ji fen”, collecting fans). The methodology or general approach of setting up our own communities in China is more or less the same as that in Europe. However, the specific platforms are different. For example, I have been asked many times by business owners/business development managers in China of how to expand their business into Europe. My answer would always be: on top of whatever great marketing strategies, get a VPN and create an account for yourself on Facebook first! Yes, Facebook is not accessible in China unless they “skip the wall” with the help of an IP agent. The world is quite different “beyond the wall”, it is not only about language. Different consumers behaviors, different values, etc.. And here, I will list some channels that are popular in China.

1. Website Localization

In Europe, most of business, from Fortune 500 to a small snack bar, have nice websites. Same in China. However, there are small differences.

1) Language. Of course everybody understands that people in China speaks Chinese. But not everybody is doing according to that. If you want to sell your products/services in China, get your company a website in Chinese language, a professional one with content written by native Chinese speaker, or even those Chinese who grow up in China. Knowing Chinese language is one thing, knowing what stories and language tricks could easily raise interests of readers is another thing. So please don’t laugh at any grammar mistakes/childish sentences in my articles if any, as I grow up in China, not England;

2) Domain name. Please don’t expect the Chinese, who are used to reading logogram Chinese characters, instead of Latin letters, to remember your lengthy English, Dutch, German, French domains. Many times I just want to cry when people tell me their website domains like jassenvannederland.com. In particular the combination of these latin letters does not ring a bell to we poor Chinese. So if you are serious about the market in China, it’s seriously suggested to get a Chinesized domain name and a local brand name;

3) Hosting. This is an important one, while 99% of Europeans are not aware of. Many people in Europe might wonder: we have a nice website in Chinese language, but why still no traffic coming from China? That should be attributed to this great initiative of Chinese government: “Great Firewall of China”. This wall screens all the websites from outside China, reviews the contents by “sensitive keywords”, and thus loading speed of these websites are reduced a lot in China, or even can’t be loaded. Therefore Baidu and other search engines (Google is banned in China) can’t obtain the contents of your websites properly, and your audience in China can’t reach you easily from search engine. The solution is to host your Chinese websites in China. We will discuss this topic soon in particular, or consult Goglo for specific actions.

Keywords: local local local

Goglo Great Chinese firewall

2. SEO

Search Engine is always one of the biggest traffic source, or source of “We Community” members. SEO in China shares similar theories to SEO in Europe, only are the language and search engines different, namely the keywords that you could think of are different from what Chinese people intend to input in the search engines, and the algorithm that Baidu, the largest search engine in China, holds is different from what you have learned from Google.

Furthermore, apart from having almost all the functions of Google, such as “image”, “video”, “maps”, “translation”, etc., Baidu has even more, like “Baike”( similar to Wikipedia), “Zhidao” (similar to wikihow), “Tieba” (a massive complex of online forums), “News”, “Music”, “Web Directory”, etc. Baike functions as Wikipedia, but every company/organization/content owner could add contents and backlinks by themselves, which requires certain rules and sometimes money. But if your organization/business appears in Baike, it could add credibilities to your reputation in China, and help with SEO as well.

Baidu even has vertical modulars, namely functions in different industries, for example, “Baidu Youke” is like a search engine only for online courses, “Baidu Fang” is for real estate, “Baidu Lvyou” is for tourism, “Baidu Jiaoyu” is for education, etc..

Keywords: Baidu, Baidu, Baidu

Baidu products

3. Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Google+ are not available in China, but we have local social media:

1) Wechat: wechat has half billion users. The rich functions it holds distinguishes itself from whatsapp only as a messenger app, and it features as a messenger app combining functions of Whatsapp, eBay, Facebook, Paypal, Uber, etc., the new function “Service Account” which is to be launched soon, is said to be able to make thousands of apps disappearing. Please check my previous article introducing Wechat and Wechat official account, including instructions of how to get an official wechat account to promote your business in China and set up your own community.

Wechat is to be a 2nd largest traffic source for your business in China, only after search engine.

2) Weibo: microblog like twitter;

3) Blog: Sina blog is now the most popular one among all the blog platforms in China;

4) Online Forum: companies could always set up an online forum by their own, either on the corporate website, or a new one (in the name of products/services/knowledge/social group depending on the marketing strategies of your business. The cost is high though, while effects can be splendid.

4. Video Media

Youtube is banned in China as well, but go to Youku, tudou.com, Iqiyi.com, Sohu video, Letv.com, etc. Video marketing is deemed to have one more boom in 2016. So, go and run quickly to set up a channel for your business in China on these online video media, or hire a local agent like Goglo who could do all these jobs for you, including filming and Chinese voice-over both in China & Europe, video strategies, video optimization, etc.

5. Official Accounts on different Media platforms

Apart from these traditional platforms for you to collect fans and set up community around your business, there are also quite a few other channels where you could display presence of your business by having a company account/page/showcase there:

1) 36kr.com: a news forum targeting internet entrepreneurs and investors;
2) toutiao.com: a newly-set up news media but very successful, in particular with its news app in smartphones and occupies high market shares among mobile internet news;
3) other large news platform like sohu.com, tencent.com, sina.com, etc., have wide network all over China and make themselves outstanding from others by its regional news platforms, i.e. tencent Beijing, tencent Wuhan, etc.. It is helpful to work with them when you set your target customers towards people in a certain region.

Remarks: carefully select the right platform where your target audience are active at.

Goglo social media in china

They Community

The key factor of success to make good use of “They Community” is Ruan Ying Xiao (soft marketing), to drive engagement, conversations, interactions, awareness from the traffic/audience of communities.

Please don’t believe the discussions about Apple in different online communities is spontaneous when Apple is to launch a new product; a large part of them are paid fans (we call these group of people “shui jun” in China). Also, you might rarely see any banner advertisements about Uber in airports or TV programs in China, while you would be surprised about how many people are talking about Uber there. Thanks to the deep cooperation with different online communities, renown bloggers, Uber can be a good example of success of “They Community” in China.

The players in auto, baby products, fashion, consumer electronics, commercial services simply can’t live without “They Community”. Here are some typical communities that you could be active.

1. General: Tianya.com, Mop.com, douban.com, zhihu.com, etc.

2. Industry:
a. tourism: Mafengwo.cn, Baidu tourism, qyer.com, etc.;
b. real estate: soufang.com, anjuke.com;
c. Baby products: Babytree.com, lamabang.com, etc.;
d. Fashion: mogujie.com, meilishuo.com, which have both been converted into “Social e-Commerce” platforms.

If you would love to have specific community list of your industry and make smart plans of penetrating into these communities, please kindly contact with Goglo.

3. Social Network: wechat groups, douban groups, kaixin.com, etc.

Each group has its own distinct label, for example, almost each city would have different social groups of “travel in Europe”, “books from Europe”, etc.. so once you identify the target customers, go and find these groups. But the key is to have good relations with the group admin, and try to avoid any hard advertisements, which could easily piss off the group members and be kicked out or even blacklisted.

Either “We Community”, or “They Community”, the key is content. Quality content which could raise interest of the audience, drive engagement, enhance interaction and introduce products/services in a smart approach could help enormously. Network (Guanxi) is also important. Good network could bring you to the target group easily, where sometimes does not even give access to money. But remember it costs money and time to maintain network, and knowledge of local socializing of course.

Together with the previous article about “Push Channels” in China, and this one about “Community Marketing” in China, we basically get to know how to start with marketing in China, either online or offline, and the two typical methods (hard Advertisements and soft Advertisements) of raising brand awareness and generating traffic to your websites. In the next article, I will introduce “Word of Mouth” Marketing, which is another typical way of marketing, and very effective in terms of order conversion rate.

Would you love to know more about how each channel works, or you might be excited to set up your footprint from one of them ? Feel free to drop us an email or make an appointment via here.

About the Author: Susie Huang

Susie is a Chinese native living in the Netherlands. She got her bachelor degree in China and afterwards worked in Shanghai in sales & marketing for a few years. Then she came to Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands for an MBA degree. Since then Susie has worked for several Dutch companies, and finally decided to become an entrepreneur herself and founded Goglo Consultancy, to help European business to extend its reach in China.

” Being passionate about what I am doing, my sense of achievements relies on tAvatar-Susie_V1he results that we help you to achieve”

    – Susie Huang



June 23, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Thank you for your forum topic.Really thank you! Keep writing. Deatherage

Johan van der Haar

January 24, 2016 at 3:20 pm

Excellent article, very much down to earth!


    January 24, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Thank you for your comments and compliments!

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