China is a fascinating country to research for multiple reasons. There is a longstanding reputation of social and political unrest that has sparked international debate and when companies choose to enter the Chinese market a new set of rules come into play. For this post I decided to look at how the world’s largest population is using social media to engage with one another. We know that China ranks #1 in terms of Internet use with 243 million using the Internet and 224 million of that group is engaging in social media. So, what are some of the emerging trends and how can a brand use this to its advantage?
The post China’s “Plan B” Social Media Strategy; Interaction after Connection from the blog Little Red Book reviews China’s SNS and raises an interesting point discussing how these networks are evolving. In China, social networks like Tinaya.com and mop.com are powerful because people are connecting over common interests rather than personal contacts. Unlike Facebook where you initially establish your lists of friends by inviting/joining people you know and tend to shy away from people you don’t know; these networks join people over political issues, hobbies, interests, etc.
The post discusses the evolution of social networking in China and the desire for the social media savvy to go beyond simply connecting to interacting with people who share mutual interests. This trend of niche communities compliments Chris Anderson’s theory of The Long Tail which basically says that the new market place is moving from mass to niche marketing.
I think groups connecting over issues rather than personal relationships are likely to have a more substantive discussion when engaging online. They are also more likely to be attracted to similar products and organizations. This trend presents a great opportunity for brands in China. The idea that people are joining social networks to discuss specific topics important to them also places them into easily identified target markets.
Marketers all over the world want to know how to penetrate the 224 million Chinese that are engaging in social media. As importantly they want to spend less time finding their niche market and more time engaging with them. These social networks are essentially doing some of the background research for a brand. The groups are sharing what is important to them because it is what brought them together to have a discussion. Rather than throwing a dart and hoping it lands somewhere near its target, a brand can join these networks to look for groups that are discussing topics they can add value to and then cultivate relationships with future brand enthusiasts.^JT