Continuing our investigation of social media in countries around the world my insight this week focuses on a interesting combination of events that is making it much more difficult for businesses to reach target audiences in China – civil unrest and the embargo of the Internet.
When the central government of China is faced with civil unrest or social uprising one way to thwart communication between China and the rest of the world is to cut the Internet. The censorship of human rights and subsequent blocking of social media channels in China has made marketing to the consumer a hit or miss proposition.
Similar to how Twitter was used recently in Iran, social media is being deployed in China to bring to light human rights issues and civil unrest. Unlike the successful information flood coming from Tehran after the countries recent election, censorship and closing the Internet in China has stop this potential use to spread information. It is also hurting businesses wanting to reach Chinese consumers.
It is this type of censorship designed to stop the flow of social and human issues that will really make it difficult for companies who want to use social media and the internet for commerce. If China closed the Web down to stop protests is also closes it to commerce.
The Internet in China has developed into a mainstream medium in the past years, particularly for urban youth who are spending more time online at the expense of watching television or reading traditional print media, Much like in the U.S. and around the world. This online growth makes it the most effective marketing vehicle for companies to target highly attractive segments in the Chinese market.
Citizens in China feel that the mainstream media has not done a good job reporting on corruption and civil unrest which is why their is such an explosion of citizen journalists.
During clashes recently in west Xinjiang province, Twitter’s impact appeared to be limited. Unlike what happen recently in Iran where social media played an important role in getting information on the country’s election out to the world. It didn’t help that the morning after bloody riots the Chinese government cut all Internet service in the region.
China has also blocked social media sites including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. One Chinese micro-blogging site called Jiwai is still running. Jiwai is a Chinese onomatopoeia suggesting babble or chatter.
Li Zhuohuan, founder and CEO of Jiwai, a Chinese-language site similar to Twitter. Li points out that 140 Chinese characters contain double or even triple the expressive power of the same thing in English.
So we have seen the power that social media can produce to spread information but if the pipeline is closed business lose their voice to target and reach online consumers.