Pole Vaulting over the Great Firewall to Directly Reach Users in China
Digital marketing in China can be frustrating and confusing for international companies and institutions. Foreign websites can take a long time to load (or be blocked completely), and the deep followings and rich content that you’ve built on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are invisible to Chinese users. While it’s a complex environment, China is a remarkably deep, dynamic, and promising market. Even compared to a few years ago, China is remarkably wired society, with nearly 60 percent of its population online and 40 percent of its population on local social media. In China, localization matters. It’s important to localize your content to reflect a different language and culture. Equally important, you must localize by using local platforms: Baidu and Shenma for search, Toutiao for news and discovery, Weibo for Twitter-like broadcasting, Youku for video, local VR platforms for 360 media, and, of course, Wechat for Facebook-like networking and messaging.
If you already know the basics of digital marketing in China, here’s a pop quiz on some of the latest developments from the last year:
Does your website work in China? What are your average load times for mobile users?
Do you need an ICP license to host a site locally in China?
What’s the most popular search engine in China, and how do you do SEO and SEM on the platform?
What are the new functions (Time Capsule and Wow) on WeChat?
How are WeChat and Weibo different?
What on Earth is Douyin?
What’s Toutiao and why does it matter?
If you don’t know the answers to all the questions above, fear not! We recently published a new white paper with the answers and more: Trends in China’s Digital Landscape 2019. This white paper thoroughly examines the current status of China’s digital space, offering insights and data for different search engines and web trends, as well as major social media platforms like WeChat, Weibo, Toutiao, and Douyin/Tiktok.
China’s internet is more restricted than ever. The surest way to make your marketing material accessible to Chinese users is to create a local Chinese version of your website and host it in China.
Search engines matter in China, and you should aim to have your website appear on the first page or two of results for relevant keywords. To win at search engine optimization in China, you’ll need lots of Chinese language content and to stimulate discussion about your institution on popular Chinese websites.
Marketing directly on Chinese search engines through pay per click campaigns can be helpful, but Baidu is expensive and restrictive, whereas smaller search engines like Shenma, Haoso/360 Search, and Sogou are more flexible.
WeChat remains China’s dominant social media platform and one of a few “superapps” in the country. Wechat’s updates last year are worth following, particularly the changes to the way “likes” work. It remains a mostly closed platform, which makes Wechat a better tool for leveraging your existing network rather than generating new inquiries and contacts.
Weibo is back from a slump several years ago and is now the most dynamic space for netizens to consume bitesize feeds and follow the latest hashtag trends.
Toutiao is at the intersection of news and social media. Users are highly educated and tend to read serious, longer-form pieces on Toutiao. International higher ed would be wise to take note of this audience.
If you’re keen on staying on the cutting edge, keep an eye out for how Douyin’s relationship with advertising evolves, and try playing around with Wechat Time Capsules.
If your company is interested in China digital space and would like to know more, feel free to download the whole white paper or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.