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Are You Using Microblogs and Mobile Apps to Engage Consumers?

  |  May 18, 2011   |  Comments   |  

While microblogs and mobile apps are the latest Internet marketing trends in China, consider these factors before using the platforms.

In the past few months, social and mobile marketing have become the new learning to be implemented in Internet marketing. The former mainly refers to microblogging, while the latter refers to mobile apps.

On microblogs, we can find a wide variety of information covering nearly every topic you can think of, even a new solution to motivate consumption by linking your star signs with group-buying activities. The increase in apps and the strong interest from advertisers have also reflected the mega trend of mobile marketing. While the prospect looks promising, we need to think carefully before rushing to follow others.

In fact, both microblog and apps are only 'carriers'. The key factor in our communication is still the 'information' or the 'messages' we want to deliver. Carriers can be ever-changing and the challenge for all marketers is to deliver product information or brand messages efficiently and effectively by making optimal use of carriers. This may seem clear and easy to understand, but in practice, many practitioners still focus on carriers and ignore the importance of information. Many marketers have a blind worship of new things. It is similar to a football game. A champion team consisting of all freshmen will be regarded as much more distinctive and outstanding than a team with old star players. However, the team building, training, tactics, physical strength, cooperation, and even the weather on the match day are critical factors that will influence performance. We cannot only count on freshmen because they are new.


Let's look at microblogs first. There are as many as 2,400 governmental microblogs and one banking brand has more than 70 accounts. The large numbers indicate the popularity of the new channel. However, I'm curious what are their objectives for having microblogs? To ensure timely communication with consumers? To enhance brand image? To listen to consumers? To do marketing? To do e-commerce? The answers sound great. But are they really doing these things? Are consumers really able to complain through microblogs or express their dissatisfaction about the product or brand? If the microblog is ruled by the voice of the brand alone, how do you expect to communicate with the consumers?

The microblog is undeniably a good platform to spread your information all over at a fast speed, especially when you have a huge amount of followers. However, it is becoming more and more difficult to attract and sustain consumer interest to encourage them to forward the brand information automatically and frequently. And some international research findings even point out that the reason for consumers to give up following a brand microblog or a branding page is the 'lack of useful information'. Consumers have been exposed to a wide variety of information in so many ways, how do you stand out?

Mobile Apps

Compared with microblog, mobile app offers more flexibility with either multi-functions or single function. But what 'carriers' shall we choose for apps? Maybe many of you will consider the iPhone and Android as the first choices. However, even if we assume iPhone sales reach 10 million, it accounts for only 1 percent of the overall mobile phone users. Is our target only for the 1 percent? What shall we do with the rest? And what other information shall we include in the app, apart from product introduction, game, store guide, and promotion? How do you link the app with consumers' interest? Can we integrate some practical functions on branded apps? This will make app marketing more interesting and more effective.

All marketing challenges are related to 'information' – how do you plan, package, and deliver information? Both microblogging and mobile platforms are only playing the role of 'delivery'. Setting up a microblog account is only the beginning. We need to think about smart ways to attract consumers to follow and forward the messages.

Similarly, when we develop an app, we also need to find solutions to encourage consumers to download. There are more than 100,000 choices in the app stores. How do you get consumers to choose your branded app? The information and function it contains are always the determinant factors. And we should have a complete plan to deal with all possible challenges from consumers. Be well-prepared before rushing to follow trends blindly.

I hope the new learning from Internet marketing can really help encourage new insights from advertisers and agencies. A microblog or an app is not a simple marketing activity. It is a kind of promise to assure your target audience that 'we are here by your side'. So please pay attention to the 'information' if you really want to make optimal use of these new platforms and establish effective relationships with consumers. This should be the most important change we need to apply from the new learning.

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James Wu

James is managing director, Digital Operations and Innovation at GroupM Interaction China responsible for social media and creative production, tactical planning, mobile marketing and new business development. With more than 10 years of experience in digital media, he had demonstrated expertise in interactive and technology industries when working on big brand names in Greater China. James started his career in 2000 with United Advertising in Taipei as an interactive account manager. He then moved to Euro RSCG Taipei as interactive business director responsible for blue-chip business like Intel, Microsoft, and MSN. James relocated to China in 2007 to help build and manage the digital team for OMD, servicing clients such as J&J, GE, and Standard Chartered Bank. In 2010, he was promoted to managing partner for continued growth and instrumental in the business success of MediaCom Interaction in the country.

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