6 Mistakes Western Brands Make on Chinese Social Media

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6 Mistakes Western Brands Make on Chinese Social Media

There are over 634 million Chinese internet users (over twice the population of the US) and 400 million active monthly users on social networks in China. It’s not surprising that online social media has become a key target for marketers and businesses the world over.

Social networking in China is, of course, a distinct and enigmatic proposition for many western brands. Due to internet censorship the traditional networking platforms that we know in the West have not been able to expand here. The market is therefore dominated by local, Chinese-specific platforms. This results in a networking ecosystem that is very unique to the Chinese market.


Here are 6 key mistakes western brands make on Chinese social media:

1) Not engaging with the multitude of different Chinese social media platforms

It is important to have a presence on a whole host of different social networks. The Chinese are very active users and will regularly use a number of different platforms. Cross promotion is key.

Weibo (akin to Twitter) is a micro-blogging platform. It’s the most ‘open’ network for businesses and marketers, as users can see posts from anyone, including those they are not friends with. QR codes linking directly to a brands WeChat account can be embedded in content shared on Weibo. With 400 million registered users, Weibo is a vital platform to have a strong presence on. Content shared here must be short and immediately striking, like on Twitter certain topics trend on Weibo so keep abreast of what is popular on the site.

WeChat is the largest social network in China with over 500 million users. It has developed into a fully integrated networking platform with an instant messaging service for written text, video clips and soundbites. Make sure that you create a variety content that includes text, video and audio for WeChat. It’s vital to set up an official subscription account, your posts on WeChat (unlike on Weibo) will only be seen by those who follow your account so building a following is the first step.



Other important platforms include Baidu Tieba (a community sharing platform), Meipai (a video sharing and editing platform) and Q Zone (largely an instant messaging service but users create groups to discuss certain subject matters). Here’s more information about what to expect on Baidu.

2) Not communicating with users

It is vital that you engage directly with users on social media in China. People really appreciate direct communication. You will need to translate your messages into Mandarin and promptly reply to users. The Chinese are particularly influenced by their immediate social circle. Engaging with potential consumers in a positive way results in positive feedback that can be spread within their whole social circle. The Chinese like to feel part of a brand.

China social media

3) Not creating Chinese specific, attractive content

There are types of content that are popular among the Chinese. Cartoon graphics are popular with many large internet giants such as Baidu and Tmall. They include these kind of images in their logos (Baidu use a paw whilst Tmall’s logo is a cartoon cat). Video media is widely shared if it’s humorous or visually striking. The key is to create highly stylized content that users will want to share with their network.

baidu reputation

4) Neglecting the importance of providing an incentive for online followers.

An incentive must be provided for users to follow your WeChat account as your content will simply not be seen otherwise. Offer exclusive promotions and discounts to those who subscribe to your account. The Chinese are very influenced by exclusivity. The family and immediate social group come first in China so include them in your offers, tailor promotions to cater for the whole family which in turn will encourage them to follow you. Want more strategy? Read 5 Social Media Networks Used by Luxury Brands in China.

5) Misunderstanding the importance of the Key Opinion Leader (KOL)

This is a unique and interesting phenomenon. The KOL is an individual who has a large following who see them as an expert on a particular subject. Users in China are very influenced by the KOL’s thoughts and opinions, so recruit them to post positive content about your brand.

I&C (a French luxury brand)  communicates with Key Opinion Leader and Journalist!
I&C communication China

6) Missing the opportunity to connect offline to online

The QR code is very popular in China, make sure you’re not missing out on this trend. Users will often scan a QR code with their mobile device, this can link to your WeChat account or exclusive offers and promotions. QR codes can be embedded in physical adverts or included on products themselves. The Chinese have a seemingly insatiable desire for mobile engagement that has created this key opportunity for digital marketers. What more information how to use QR codes for the Chinese market? Read Fear and Greed Drive China’s Online to Offline Commerce Craze or O2O Food Wars Overheat at Meituan, Ele.me

QR code

With such a high number of users on social networks it’s vital that a brand develops a strong presence here. The Chinese are increasingly turning to social media for their information as they distrust traditional media sources. With this in mind you’re practically invisible in China if you’re not engaging with consumers on these platforms.

Maximize Social Business