Latest research by CNNIC reveals by December 2011, China had over 480 million Internet users and over 300 million Weibo accounts were registered. The massive wave of Weibo communication has inevitably changed the way online content are being consumed. And the ways for brand marketers to get more actively engaged with their potential consumers are changing too.
"Weibo marketing" has essentially pushed brands from using conventional tools of online marketing; mainly display advertising to concentrate more on engagement models.
What does that mean? Lifestyle brands that win attention by projecting certain values will now benefit more from Weibo marketing.
Why? Because Weibo, like many other social media platforms, is all about projecting one's image and proposition with witty words (within 140 characters) and interesting images or videos. As for the brands, it's a perfect platform to take on consumers who can "share" the same lifestyle values.
We have also witnessed Weibo has provided luxury brands a nice platform to get online. In the past, most luxury brands were relatively reluctant in marketing digitally because the majority of Chinese Internet users were too young – we all agreed that the Internet boom was fused by teenagers who have spent hours in Internet cafes and on online games!
With Weibo getting highly popular amongst a more upscale user group (and more particularly for Sina Weibo that has sparked the use amongst celebrities from all walks of life), luxury brands are adopting Weibo as a priority, self-owned digital marketing platform.
So, after two years of extraordinary growth, what more to be done on Weibo marketing?
Looking into the coming year, Weibo marketing will be even more challenging, and yet more interesting for marketers:
1. Growth and Engagement
Like marketing on any other social media platform, to market on Weibo will require engaging content that are worth sharing. Localization is also key to bring the brand closer to your Mainland Chinese audience - you don't have to master all the local dialects across China, but obviously writing in Mandarin and Simplified Chinese is fundamental. Mind the use of "Internet languages" - always make sure you're writing in the right context.
Think of managing your brands' Weibo account as if you were to deejay your brands' very own TV or radio channel. You have to brand your programs, select, plan and edit your content to capture the right audience. Don't forget to award loyal audiences with special privileges or innovative experiences.
2. Real-name registration
The Chinese authorities have requested all Weibo accounts to be registered with the users' real names. Regulation may positively affect the quality of user base, by eliminating robot accounts. It will also give marketers more realistic measurement benchmarks.
On the other hand, the "spokesperson culture" is still considerably important for marketing in China. Spokesperson gives an important anchor for potential customers to associate themselves with brands. The same goes for Weibo marketing – a Weibo post as retweeted by a celebrity account will get more credibility and thus feedback.
Celebrities and grassroot influencers will therefore become critical resources to market on Weibo. Ask if you are ready to fund for and work with this group of new opinion leaders.
3. Integrate with e-commerce and m-commerce
As Weibo marketing enters its third year - it will become reasonable for brands to get monetized benefits. Technological advancement will soon support the integration from Weibo promotion to e-commerce and m-commerce. Think ahead about how to get your products ready for that too.
Weibo is still a rather open platform - and there is no secret formula in how to win eyeballs and fans' hearts. Start embracing the new culture by focusing on innovative content, creating an appropriate social identity for your brand, and inspire your fans with openness and compassion as the first steps.
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Louise is the Founder and Managing Director of Mercury Digital Marketing Communications – a consultancy that specializes in strategic planning for brands that are entering the mainland China market. Mercury's client portfolio includes Harbour City HK, Hang Seng Bank, ANTEPRIMA, GATSBY, ARTE Madrid, etc. Apart from digital planning & consultancy, Louise is also active in delivering training on digital marketing planning to corporations including Baidu, Lenzing Textile Fibres, Triumph, Avery Dennison. She is an affiliate trainer with ClickZ Academy and EConsultancy, and is a frequent speaker at industry events. Louise is also Co-Founder and Partner of Axis Business Consulting – the company works with both global communications networks and local independent agencies in Asia, in developing their M&A and expansion strategies in the region. Originally from Hong Kong, Louise is currently based in Shanghai, and has solid management experiences in the Greater China and North Asia regions. Prior to starting her own businesses in 2010, Louise held the position of President at DIGITAS Greater China since 2006, and was a member of the Publicis Groupe China Board. During her tenure at DIGITAS, Louise supervised the operations Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo offices; in charge of all key client relationships and new business initiatives. Her key clients include: Ford, General Mills, L'Oreal Group China & Japan, Unilever China, etc. And prior to working in Digitas, Louise has held key positions in Grey Interactive, Bates Advertising, Junior Achievement Hong Kong and Universal Music. She graduated from the Hong Kong Baptist University with Bachelor Degree of Social Science, Major in Communications (Public Relations & Advertising).
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