Real-Time Social Media in China

How marketers in China are racing to setup realtime social capabilities

July 30th, 2015

Its becoming harder and harder to break-through on social media for brands in China. Whats hard is creating compelling content that truly breaks through the noise on very busy social media channels like Weibo and WeChat.

Its becoming hard to create the type of content that organically does the work of expensive paid media efforts. As a result, smart brands on social media are not only creating original, ingenious branded content for “viral campaigns” but are starting to look at how they can leverage big news events to piggy-back on audience interest.

When big news hits in China about business and pop culture events, (celebrities getting married, big international events like the Oscars, NBA finals, or a new movie release…), audiences go rushing to social media to dig into the story.

Real-time, Big time

Big events like the Oscars, Superbowl and World Cup get a lot of attention when it comes to real-time social. Thats because these big, universal events are easy to relate to, watched by most and simple for brands to connect with. The tweet that Oreo sent out during the Superbowl of 2013 when the lights went out in the stadium, re-assuring people that they could “still dunk in the dark,” was an obvious success. It resulted in millions of re-tweets and an avalanche of free media coverage. What wasn’t so obvious though was how brands could employ real-time social into smaller, more regular events/trends – when only smaller audience segments are watching. On the surface, it looks like the type of effort that only makes sense during big events.

Real-time social is now starting to move from big, universal events into much more discrete audiences and events. To make it work with smaller events/trends, brands need to (1)Very narrowly target audiences, (2)Take a deeper look into what those narrow audience slices are interested in, what really matters for them, and then (3)looking into when things that matter are happening.

The China angle

Is there a place on the planet where mobile and social matter more than in China?

Sure, the social media ecoystem in the US is richer, more well designed than in China. But, as evidenced by WeChat’s 547 million monthly active users (MAU), China is fixated on social x mobile.

Realtime events play out on both WeChat and Weibo in China. It’s WeChat that holds audience attention, with its incredible monthly and daily user activity. Recent user surveys show that greater than half of users check WeChat more than 10 times per day (25% check it more than 30 times per day!). With that level of daily user involvement and tight friend-to-friend connections, WeChat is likely to be the place that news breaks first.

Whats interesting is that Weibo (with much, much lower MAUs), is critical for realtime communications. Audiences might discover the news on WeChat but they still turn to Weibo to fully explore the topic. With its open network of connections (and free-flow sharing), Weibo provides a better gauge for how big and how important the news really is. Weibo also offers a much greater number of perspectives on the news, from a multitude of connections – close friends, media, influencers and brands.

So, brands participating in realtime efforts use both WeChat and Weibo but Weibo may still be more important. During its sponsorship of the World Cup in 2014, Tencent (holding company for WeChat), used both WeChat and Weibo to push out realtime responses on soccer matches. The results on Weibo eclipsed WeChat; through Weibo they achieved 510 million impressions, on WeChat they got 44 million impressions.

The real-time routine

A bit part of what realtime is about for audiences is in keeping up with the broader social discussion …and not getting left behind. Here’s how brands can stay in the discussion, by being thoughtful and adding value.

For brands looking to participate in realtime social marketing, they should setup the following routine:

1. Listen to what’s taking place on social media and news sites

This should take place on two fronts; (i)light monitoring of mass audience news, (ii)deep investigation into niche audience groups to find things that matter most to segments.

2. Evaluate the trend for audience fit and amplitude

Trends/news have to be important enough with your audience(s) for you to contribute to the story. Mass events don’t always matter to your audience(s), niche meme’s aren’t always big enough to capture wider appeal. Find the right balance based on objectives – awareness versus engagement.

3. Find a fit with the personality and values of the brand

Brands that want to participate in realtime, should have a well defined brand personality and style guide. Without a clear set of brand values (voice), its difficult to respond appropriately and have the message benefit the brand. Realtime responses can result in counter-productive results if the brand takes a negative tone, mis-represents itself or gets involved with in-appropriate news.

4. Ideation of creative that adds to the story (offers value to audiences)

With a clear idea for what audiences want from a trend and the strong anchor of a brand identity in place, brands can create ways to add value to the trend/news. The creative should be clearly linked to the news and should provide greater depth to the event, provide more humour, greater engagement for those who care.

5. Seeding the creative into targeted audience sets

Based on the final outcome of creative, brands should look to influencers/KOLs who are close to the trend/event to help spread responses. Unless the brand has done a superb job of cultivating the users who are very engaged, then its important to make some efforts in spreading the response. No point in spending all the effort for nobody to see it …And with how quick news moves, its costly to wait too long in getting the response out.

Posted in Real-time Social, Social Media