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How to Leverage Chinese New Media: Q&A with JX Tan

· Chinese Marketing,PR Management,Chinese New Media

Introduction: Melanie Marten, PR Consultant at thecoup.de, interviewed me and translated this interview into German. With her permission, I am re-posting the English version of this interview.

Melanie Marten (MM): I spoke with JX Tan, Principal Consultant at Momentum Digital, about Chinese New Media and how German brands may successfully leverage Chinese content consumption patterns to gain brand visibility and sales. JX has over 3 years of experience helping foreign brands gain a foothold in China, a massive but highly competitive market.

MM: Can you please briefly introduce Chinese New Media and why it matters to brands?

JX: Firstly, Western social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter are banned in China. Therefore, the Chinese are using their own solutions to communicate on social media. WeChat is the biggest platform with over 900 million monthly active users. It is truly a super-app with messaging and complementary services like payment, social media and news built around it.

When we say Chinese new media, this is referring to an ecosystem built around WeChat and other mobile apps to address the following content consumption trends:

  • Mobile First: According to the China Internet Network Information Center, 723.6 million out of a population of about 1.36 billion access the internet via a mobile phone. That’s more than the number of people in the European Union!

  • Very Active: According to Tencent (WeChat’s operator), a third of WeChat’s 963 million monthly active users access this app for four hours or more a day.

  • Personalized Content: WeChat has competition for eyeballs. Toutiao, a news aggregation app, is popular as well. By tracking user’s swipes, time spent on each article, comments and location, Toutiao can identify preferences and push personalized recommendations. The existing news portals responded to this challenge by allowing third-party content on their platforms and giving users greater autonomy over what content is shown on mobile apps.

  • Word of Mouth Matters: Based on this McKinsey survey, over 60% of Chinese netizens said they considered word of mouth in their purchasing decisions. Most New Media platforms allow readers to share interesting content pieces and this serves as an implicit endorsement within their social circles.

Therefore, when your brand is seeking to engage Chinese consumers, you need get your brand to their mobile eye-level and think about generating positive digital word-of-mouth. This is where Chinese New Media comes in.

MM: Any examples of how Chinese New Media works?

JX: One big advantage is that Chinese New Media is an opt-in system. To cite an example, if I am interested in investing in overseas properties, I may choose to follow a WeChat account of a service provider XYZ that gives me regular updates in various overseas property markets and shares interesting listings.

XYZ knows that not every WeChat user will consume news through WeChat. To optimise its reach, it will also post content on other news portals like Toutiao, iFeng, Sina and NetEase. Its content can then be delivered to mobile app users of these platforms who have opted to receive news related to overseas properties.

For a brand, working with relevant service providers like XYZ is more effective than a standard press release since XYZ’s audience has opted in which is typically a strong indicator of interest relative to sending a press release that may not be published by a publication or read by your target audience.

There also has a good SEO effect since Baidu, the predominant Chinese search engine, will pick up that your content is being published on multiple platforms.

MM: This sounds great but what’s the downside of Chinese New Media?

JX: Chinese New Media requires greater effort from a brand since content needs to be newsworthy to attract eyeballs. This means that an advertorial can’t be about “me, me, me” for a brand since readers are more likely to switch off. A far better approach is to talk about the value that a product or service will deliver to its users. To get additional inspiration, readers may wish to take a look at this compilation of innovative Chinese B2C case studies.

Chinese New Media content also needs to be supported by Chinese social media. The impact of New Media content tends to be short-lived as content is updated quite regularly and eyeballs will be attracted elsewhere. By tapping on social media platforms, brands can support their content by offering complementary content such as product videos. If you seek a more holistic view of the Chinese social media landscape, you may take a look at the diagram below (Source: Kantar).

Chinese Social Media

MM: What's the role of video for Chinese marketing?

JX: Similar to short video platforms like Instagram, there are short video platforms and apps in China where users can record short videos and share them with friends. In addition, professional short videos are also regularly featured on news portals. There were 153 million Chinese regularly watching short videos in 2016.

For brands who are just starting their marketing efforts, popular video categories include product reviews and promoting brand culture. Similar to Chinese New media content, video content has to be creative to stand out from the crowd.

 

Focusing on Chinese New Media content, most portals allow their users to search videos using keywords so adding videos will definitely help your content’s visibility and provide material for social media promotion.

For brands who are just starting their marketing efforts, popular video categories include product reviews and promoting brand culture. Similar to Chinese New media content, video content has to be creative to stand out from the crowd.

MM: How do the Chinese perceive German brands?

JX: This deserves a more thorough discussion as this involves culture and specific geographies. For example, Qingdao, Shandong, used to be a German treaty port and boasts many beautiful buildings built by the Germans. Let’s discuss this in our next discussion.

MM: Thank you!

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