Brand marketers and PR professionals should use Weibo to engage with customers in Greater China, here are five factors to consider.
I have discussed the differences between Twitter and Weibo (China's microblog) in my previous column and before you argue with me, this column should be applicable to Twitter too. In fact, Weibo is no longer just a Twitter clone as it evolves in its own unique ecosystem. Better yet, Weibo provides even more advantages to marketers who want to leverage on the power of social networking in the greater China market.
So if you are a PR professional or brand marketer, I highly recommend you to be a Weibo-er, in the identity of the official/unofficial spokesperson of your company or even an advocate of your industry. Here are reasons why:
1. Your customers like it.
Are you working for a respectable brand? Are you the PR or marketing in charge? You don't need to be a CEO like Brian Dunn of Best Buy or a recognisable face from Fortune magazine. As long as you can write quality and candid posts about your company or even the industry in general, you can attract many potential or existing customers to be your followers on Weibo. Fans of your brand love reading behind-the-scene stories rather than just the official ones. A successful personal brand on Weibo does help to further your company's PR and marketing goals. In fact, the affluent mass in China admires business leaders/professionals as much as celebrities. Star PR and marketing Weibo-er is a common phenomenon in China. But most importantly, don't forget to claim your verified account badge (A privilege you can enjoy only on Weibo but not Twitter).
2. Your customers don't want to talk to a company logo.
With an official branded Weibo account, you can release important news and stories about your company on a regular basis. However, in most cases, customers might not want to interact with a company logo and a real person is preferable.
Want to do a quick survey to see which colour your new product-line is more popular but don't want to make it too formal? Weibo's customisable polling tool can come in handy. It can be a direct and simple way to gather feedback about your products or even campaigns. Consider it like having a product placement in a friendly conversational tone and avoid making it sound too much like an ad.
3. You can test drive your branded posts before it becomes official.
You can use your personal Weibo account to send a sneak peek of upcoming news about your brand, in a casual manner. Based on feedback from followers, you'll get an initial idea how these posts will go and fine-tune them before making it official through the company's Weibo account later.
You can also toggle between your personal and company's Weibo accounts. A typical trick for some marketers is to experiment a wide variety of posts with their personal account first, then pick the most successful ones and forward/retweet them through their company's Weibo account. Keep the conversations rolling and official tone to a minimal.
4. Connect directly with social influencers.
After meeting some of the most influential bloggers or celebrities at various events, you exchanged a stack of business cards but your interaction shouldn't stop there. Make sure to get their Weibo IDs and connect with them later as these are the people who are always social, you will be better off to interact with them through the social network. Weibo is a hybrid platform and functions like a blog, a social network, and media. Interacting with these influencers through Weibo help add a personal touch to your company and you can also borrow the halo effect from them for your personal brand.
5. You need to participate to feel the dynamics.
I always encourage my clients to manage their own personal Weibo accounts. The number-one reason is they will realise how challenging our job actually is. ;) An even more important reason - Weibo is such a dynamic form of communication that a hands-on experience will definitely help you better understand your audience. If you are using your identity as the manager in charge of the brand, you will experience even more direct responses from your audience. The Chinese affluent mass in general is more eager to interact with brands and even more with the personalities in charge. Having said that, most conversations are candid, so be prepared that not all of them will be positive.
I hope you are convinced and will set up your Weibo account to experiment it soon. Some of the above reasons are also applicable to Twitter. Nevertheless, I believe you can leverage even more on Weibo through your personal participation. My next article will focus on the strategies and tactics to make you a power Weibo-er in PR and marketing. For now, please roll up your sleeves and start Weibo-ing.
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Rudi Leung is general manager, director of digital and social at Tribal DDB/ DDB Group Hong Kong and Guangzhou. He was formerly director of communication planning at AGENDA, an interactive agency network under the WPP/Wunderman group in Asia. He is also an exco member of Hong Kong Association of Interactive Marketing. Rudi previously held roles as VP of Carat Media Services, creative ambassador of Yahoo HK Media Services, and creative director of TBWA\Tequila\HK. In addition to his extensive experience as a creative director and copywriter in numerous leading 4As ad agencies including Ogilvy & Mather, Leo Burnett, and Bates, he has gained wide exposure in advertising for numerous MNC and local advertisers in the last 18 years. Besides advertising, Rudi is a part-time lecturer of HKU Space since 2007. In his leisure, Rudi is an active blogger and columnist of ClickZ, e-Zone, HK Economic Journal, and MetroPop Weekly. He holds an MBA from Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from UC Berkeley Extension, and Bachelor of Arts in Music from Chinese University of Hong Kong.
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