Will social media burst in China? Probably not. Instead, social marketing will burst if we continue to let the myth and hype weave the market.
As far as I know, the first Chinese social networking site launched six years ago as a clone of Facebook was called Xiaonei.com. It was the first website that signified China was going social. Ever since, social networking sites were springing up from Kaixin.com, Xiaonei.com to 51.com, just to name a few.
The evolution of social media has not been relevant to the evolution of the marketing practice. It took years for us to realise what could possibly be done with Facebook for marketing. It even took more time for marketers to get the math right when it comes to budgeting ad spend for social media.
Having said that, since marketers are natural followers of whatever looks hip, I dare say that social media can survive with the hype. In fact, even in China, marketers are now fond of using Sina Weibo for marketing campaigns.
Still, the law of diminishing returns indicates that every marketing campaign has its life cycle so as every hip media has its momentum.
In my opinion, hip marketers who rush to the Weibo social space don't believe in science. The "center of influence" portrayed by Weibo is equivalent to "the number of fans that you can get from the social space" is obviously wrong.
Why do I disagree with using number of fans as the sole metric? I believe that there is a fine line between insight and indicator. An insight should be a combination of a series of indicators. For example, fans of your Weibo marketing campaign might indicate how active or inactive your social campaign appears to be on the surface. Yet, if you can add an indicator of the frequency of tweets, it tells why and when you've got those fans. If you correlate both indicators over a period of time, it can show you the momentum.
Furthermore, if you are into analytics, you must know about the listening metric, value of internal and external conversations, and of course, the fancy buzz word called sentiment analysis. In reality, all the existing analytics for social marketing are mostly done using keyword tracking and semantic analysis.
Speaking of semantic analysis, it is generally understood to be equivalent to sentiment analysis. As a matter of fact, semantics is not sentiment because the meaning of linguistic expression simply is not opinion. In semantic analysis, you can only analyse an aggregation of similar keywords or phrases for guessing the tendency. As for sentiment analysis, owing to the result is very subjective and the process is done mostly manually, its accuracy remains a doubt.
There is another missing piece for measuring the Weibo marketing campaign: Feedback loop. This is when many marketers build baseline fans and communities elsewhere and completely abandon their home base. Imagine if you are a restaurant owner and the eatery's front door is buzzing with a lot of applauding people but they don't pay a visit to your restaurant. This is exactly what is happening on Weibo. I seldom see an insight that cross-references the social metric with the web analytics.
It's time for social analytics to go beyond listening. A good marketer should always convert the noise into something basic but very important - traffic to the website.
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Eddie is the founding partner of Frontiers Digital and the Executive Director of Milton Exhibits Group. Although Eddie studied classical theory of sociology in college and has a MBA, technology always has been a passion with him. He believes that a combination of technology and communication is what the modern marketing is heading towards in the future. Eddie is a member of Search Engine Strategies Global Advisory Board.
March 19, 2014