In the second part of our run down of top Social Media tips for western luxury brands looking to enter the Chinese market Arnold Ma, Digital Marketing Director of specialist Anglo-Chinese digital marketing agency Qumin, continues to take TFOL through the essentials of creating a social strategy targeted to Chinese consumers.
As discussed in the first part of this article, carving out a niche in the Chinese luxury market isn’t achieved by simply adopting a ‘one size fits all’ marketing approach. In the case of a market as complex as China, social strategies need to be informed by local cultural and consumer insights.
The Importance of Identifying and Mobilising Key Opinion Leaders
Most articles on social media in China highlight the lack of Facebook and Twitter, however, in the case of the luxury market this is mostly irrelevant. What is essential to understand however is the key mainstream social media outlet, the function and importance of specialist platforms and then how to utilise the all-important Key Opinion Leaders – KOLs.
Sina Weibo remains at the heart of China’s Social Media and dwarves all other social platforms. With over 500 million registered accounts and more than 50 million daily users, the massively used micro-blogging platform whose audience consists primarily of urban white-collar workers is the natural choice for large scale activity. Its use by luxury marketers is invaluable when attempting to reach large numbers of consumers effectively.
If you were to use just one social platorm it would have to be Sina Weibo, its breadth of reach easily sweeps in the majority of luxury buyers in China. Kai-fu Lee, former head of Google China described it as, ‘the media of choice that people flock to to find or share information and to voice or hear opinion.’ Western luxury brands to have used Sina Weibo to great success are Coach, Bottega Veneta and Burberry.
Use Specialist Social Platforms To Target Specific Sectors Or Consumers
In addition to Sina Weibo there are also myriad specialist social platforms. For example, a luxury brand seeking to engage an audience passionate about luxury watches would be wise to use iWatch 365. With members consisting of hundreds of thousands of predominantly male, premium watch buyers all discussing nothing other than watches, it’s easy to appreciate how specialist platforms and KOLs using such platforms are of vital importance to brands. Some users are single brand authorities, while others specialise in sports watches or limited editions while yet others are focused on what is popular within peer groups or in geographical areas.
KOLs and their followers have voracious appetites for learning about, broadcasting and discussing news and information. For watch brand owners and retailers, feeding KOLs with information can be hugely beneficial, but it cannot be forced. Just like any social media strategy in the West, Chinese consumers can see when there is an attempt at manipulation.
The same principle applies to KOLs in other luxury sectors. Make them information heros and they will broadcast messages far and wide, but be aware that you must provide substance and not distribute information too widely. As much as possible of what you provide must seem exclusive and insightful.
Aside from the more specialist sites there are those that cater for particular consumer profiles. P1 is a ‘millionaire only’ site considered a Holy Grail by many brands. With different bands of registration based on income, membership is extremely limited. Prospective members must be recommended by 5 existing P1 members, effectively upholding the demanding membership credentials which in turn, ensures luxury brands hoping to use the site’s laser-sharp, targeted audience of potential consumers.
P1 members number in the millions and there is no question that frequency of use is extremely high with ‘luxury’ being the only subject matter. Interestingly, P1 members appear to be primarily, of the rich second generation using the platform to flaunt purchases. Like any social channel, luxury or otherwise, it is vitally important to understand its membership before assessing whether it’s a good fit with your strategy’s objectives. Unless your product is an overtly branded high end trophy product then the use of P1 should be carefully considered.
Moreover, P1 is losing attraction amongst users. Less than 12 months ago it was an essential regular visit among the core user group. Now it is being replaced by alternatives as the landscape constantly changes. Everyday significant new developments take place.
Keep Up To Date With New Emerging Platforms
P1’s waning popularity illustrates a crucial point about social media marketing in China. There are so many platforms that constantly change, fold and emerge that effective targeting and monitoring is essential. For this reason, even brands with large social media budgets should focus on more mainstream platforms with high use among High Net Worth Individuals, such as WeChat and Sina Weibo. WeChat in particular has proven its superiority amongst social platforms with only Sina Weibo a direct competitor. With more than 300 million users and the latest Chinese language version offering a new mobile payment and social gaming component, many are wondering whether WeChat (and its international off-shoots) could see it become China’s first global brand.
Integrate Social Media With SEO
For beginners in Chinese social media it’s crucial to start right and build carefully at every stage. It’s also essential to integrate social media with SEO. The successful use of social media will create desire, but Chinese consumers are far more inquisitive than counterparts in the West. Not being able to quickly find additional information about a product undermines its equity, and focus can quickly shift elsewhere.