China’s Ripening Market: Think Globally, Act Socially

7th May 2014 1 Comment

What connection does China have to social media? While it’s well known that Asia’s market giant is the world’s largest exporter (and now also the second largest import economy in the world), what you might not know is that in 2012 alone, 309 million people in China used social media channels. This is roughly the equivalent of every man, woman, and child in the USA using Twitter or Facebook.

By the Numbers
As noted in our last post, 1.3 billion people in the fastest growing major economy in the world don’t use any social network that comes from the West. Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo are China’s answer to the big Western channels, and they can provide unprecedented insights for anyone hoping to enter and win in the China market.

Sina Weibo is the most popular microblog in China:

  • 61 million daily active users
  • Over 500 million users registered
  • Helpful for understanding established, growing markets

Tencent Weibo offers integrated messaging, video sharing, and music sharing. It’s very feature-rich, compared to Sina Weibo:

  • 100 million daily active users
  • 50 million posts per day
  • Supports Chinese and English
  • Effective for perspective into faster growing, lesser-known markets

The Good…
As many as 500 million Chinese could enter the global middle class over the next decade, according to Ernst & Young.

  • 82% of social media users in China are under 40
  • 80% of luxury buyers are 45 and under
  • 60% of the population will live in urban centers by 2020

Within this urbanized (=concentrated buying power), nascent middle class, McKinsey predicts that the upper middle class is poised to become the principal generator of consumer spending over the next decade. But what seems like an easy target may not be so straightforward as the numbers suggest.

The (Not-So-) Bad…
Because 95% of China’s social media is written in Mandarin, a character-based language without spaces, interpreting large volumes of social data presents new obstacles.

But word tokenization and text processing techniques offer precise identification of terms like brands, products, and slang. Mandarin is also supported via character chunking, which allows for more accurate keyword and phrase detection.

The Ugly
China is a tricky market, though. Branding, marketing, and ideas that are successful in Western territories may not translate well to China. With a tech- and social-savvy population, missteps and misunderstandings can spread like wildfire, burning huge investments of time and money.

A Solution: Social Graces
Combining social data with your own internal brand data can help craft an effective strategy for entering new territory, where understanding the culture is paramount to victory in China’s burgeoning market.

Next week we’ll take a look at how cultural blinders have led to some failed forays into China, and discuss ways that social can be leveraged to avoid the same mistakes.

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