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12 Tips for Success in Chinese Social Media

We get inquiries all the time from companies that are looking to get into Chinese social media and wondering how to go about it. That’s a very complicated question, and the answer can vary quite a bit, but I came across this list of tips from Jin Pengyuan on Sina Tech’s new Entrepreneur column and it’s a damn good start. The full list has fifty tips, each the length of a Chinese weibo post, and it is definitely worth reading. But I thought I’d translate a dozen of the most important tips here for those who can’t read Chinese. (Note: In some cases, I have condensed or otherwise edited these tips for clarity, so this isn’t a direct translation. The emphasis is also mine.)


If you’ve decided to enter social networks, don’t expect to be praised and worshipped every day. Even the great Steve Jobs had people cursing at him. If your competitors hire an army of commenters and start making up negative responses for everything you post, what can you do? Even your smallest mistakes can be siezed and broadcast out in seconds, so companies with weak nerves should stay far away from social media.

You spent hundreds of thousands on the master with the 80-page Powerpoint, will you spend hundreds of thousands on ten thousand followers? Don’t believe the crap about how much money one follower is worth, think about what your goal is in acquiring these followers. Even if your brand has some recognition in real life, you may not be able to beat a Guo Meimei. Eliminating the distance between you and your customers takes endless communication and time, and after all, isn’t time money?

Don’t think you’re going to become the next whoever, when you think like this you have already lost. Whether you’re a brand or a product or an actual person, are there ever two who are exactly the same? Also, don’t expect to become a success story one month after you enter social media. The people who promise you this are liars. On a long road know the strength of your horses, time reveals the true nature of people. Actually on entering social media, the first think you’ll learn about is enduring loneliness.

Social networks are a mirror, so don’t be afraid to be criticized. The real truth can only come out when you’re actually communicating directly with your customers. Seeing yourself clearly is key here; if criticism is coming from your loyal followers then it’s quite accurate, and this is one of the reasons you want followers to begin with. Plus you can see through criticism what your competitors are up to, which is great.

If it’s a social media platform, then it has fake information and followers on it. Faking your way through things is simple and low-cost, but how can you do anything properly if you’ve become used to faking things? If you buy or trick your way into getting tens of thousands of followers, you will get hundreds of interactions a day, but this becomes a vicious cycle. The real customers you actually most want to communicate with will be driven off by the fake stuff.

As far as content goes, we all know that content marketing is good, but how can you write content? Is there such a thing as completely correct content? No, not unless your post just says ‘the sun rises every morning.’ Any content is going to get doubted, but if you put it through an auditing process [before posting], everyone has their own opinion and after it has been revised into oblivion, can it possibly have any personality left?

If all you want is follower retweets, having money is enough. You can partner with the platform, you can buy big retweet numbers, you can buy opinion leaders, you can give prizes out for retweets…but do your followers want the same things you do? And is your money unlimited? When you make an investment, you need a return, right? So you need to think clearly about what you want to do on social networks, that’s what’s most important. If you’re not sure what your goals are, then don’t be in any hurry to get into social media.

In this industry, those who use foreign countries as their standards are going to meet with tragedy. Know what your audience is thinking. Do your consumers care about Obama’s election? No. They care more about whether or not the October vacation is about to end.

Politics. Gossip. Porn. Anger. These are the cornerstones of social media activity. But for a company, you can’t touch politics, gossip is the prerogative of the media, porn is vulgar…so what can you do to increase activity levels? For the most part, you’ll have to rely on one-on-one communication.

Don’t try to create new words or play the profound thinker. Even today, marketing is about holding the hearts of the customers, and on social media, Sister Feng has way more followers than the poets and scientists do. In branding, it’s important to talk like a regular person.

Try, fail, try again, maybe fail again. No one can guarantee success on the first try, but we need meticulous planning, we need an approach before we begin, and we need KPIs to measure our success. I would rather come up with a dozen plans to attack a single problem than put all of my eggs into one basket. So often we know that we’ve failed but because we only had one plan we end up working until the plan has been fulfilled anyway; how tiring!

Talking like a regular person is the most fundamental requirement for entering social media. What does that mean? 1. Honesty 2. Logical clarity 3. Confidence 4. A desire for equal communication and 5. Respect for others. Honest means don’t bullshit, logical clarity means know what you’re doing, confidence means you give happiness to others, equality means don’t put yourself above others, respect others means listen.


Although that’s a lot of tips, it’s just the tip of the iceberg (see what I did there?) so feel free to check out the full article if you’re interested. If you’re looking for one major takeaway here, it’s that you should be honest and communicate directly with customers on Chinese social media. That might seem like common sense, but since there are still plenty of companies buying followers by the truckload for the sake of vanity, it’s a lesson not everyone has yet learned.

[Via Sina Tech]


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