China is the largest e-commerce market in the world, and it has been a challenge for many Western brands to enter this market. Creating an E-Commerce presence in China is close to impossible without using their national server infrastructure (or completely migrating to T-Mall or one of the other major marketplaces in the country), and traditional Western marketing channels (e.g., Facebook, Google, etc.) are likewise blocked by the Chinese government, meaning that there are mainly national marketing channels available for western brands to use in order to advertise their products and/or services. However, when it comes to reach in search engines and social media, China’s search engines and social networks are among the largest in the world. In this article I’ll go over six of these channels which include Weibo, Baidu, WeChat (which also serves as an e-commerce platform), Little Red Book and other social media sites like Tudou.
Weibo is the most popular microblogging site in China with over 500 million monthly active users! Brands can create accounts on Weibo where they share information about themselves through posting articles or videos from time to time. These posts usually contain links back to the brand’s official website. It also got a live video streaming feature, as well as its own version of the wildly popular Instagram Stories function.
Weibo, like its Western counterpart, originally restricted postings to 140 characters, but this restriction has since been lifted. (Except for reposts and remarks.)
Sina Weibo was founded in 2009 as “Sina Weibo,” before being rebranded as simply “Weibo” in 2014. The website has grown to be one of China’s most popular social media sites since its inception with more than half a billion users.
With such a huge audience on the platform, it should be clear why Weibo is so desirable for marketers, especially those outside of China seeking to break into the market.
Brands can similarly to Western social media platforms both grow organically and through paid activities – and as always, the paid activities will allow you to accelerate your brand growth. Here’s three reasons why Weibo’s advertising platform is good to use:
1.1 Extensive audience targeting
Weibo allows you to target your campaign to a variety of different demographic groups in order to fine-tune and direct your marketing. Brands can currently target Weibo users through the following characteristics:
- Age, gender, and location
- Interest areas
- Competitor brands
- Specific followers
1.2. Ideal entry point to promote in the Chinese market
Weibo is a tremendous platform from which to begin marketing in China. With so many users, Weibo provides a wonderful entry point for any business interested in breaking into the Chinese market. Because advertising on Weibo is relatively inexpensive, businesses may test the water before committing to larger efforts.
1.3. Can help brands grow organic as well as paid
As mentioned before, Weibo is similar to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram in that it isn’t only used for sponsored marketing. In reality, much of the brand’s growth may be organic. Paid advertising might lead to a larger Weibo following, which can help reduce the need for paid channels on the long term when there’s a stronger pull for your product and/or service.
In China, Google has a relatively minor market share of less than 3%. The search engine environment in this country differs significantly from that in most Western countries, with several key players such as Baidu, Sogou, Haosou, and Shenma. Baidu is without a doubt the first stop for most businesses looking to conduct search marketing campaigns in China, as it is by far the largest search engine in the country with more than 500 million active monthly users. So it makes sense that most companies would want to make sure they have their ads running on this platform.
When looking for a brand on Baidu, the content which appears is similar to that on Google, meaning it includes websites, news articles, blogs about the company with links back to the brand’s homepage where visitors can purchase goods or services offered, and the like. Baidu is therefore a channels which – just like Google and Yahoo – should be used to optimise a brands SEO presence, as well as advertising through paid search, display and shopping strategies.
However, one thing which is fundamentally different to how things are in the Western world from a search behaviour point of view is that consumers in China usually don’t use search engines when they have an actual purchase intent – at this stage, they search directly in one of the country’s large marketplaces (T-Mall, Taobao or JD.com). The same is quite similar in the United States, where close to 70% of consumers now start their shopping journey on Amazon as opposed to Google.
WeChat is one of China’s most popular messaging apps with over 900 million monthly active users. The app can be used for many things including sending pictures or videos from device to device; it also has a feature where retailers can create mini stores on the app so customers can browse through items before they purchase anything.
The WeChat advertising platform, which is operated by Tencent, enables businesses to promote ads on consumers’ timelines or at the bottom of WeChat Official Account stories. Companies which advertise through WeChat can use the ads to grow their WeChat Official Account followers, increase their brand awareness, drive traffic to their websites, increase conversions, and generate app downloads.
There are three main WeChat ad types:
- WeChat Moments Advertising
- WeChat banner ads
- WeChat Key Opinion Leader ads
4. Little Red Book
Little Red Book is China’s most popular lifestyle website where users can buy clothing or find beauty tips, but it was originally created exclusively for female consumers so gender equality issues have been discussed on LRB’s platforms from time to time.
Tudou is China’s largest video site where users can upload videos on topics from cooking recipes to DIY tutorials or even music performances. Brands can pay a fee to have ads placed within the videos that are uploaded by other users or they may be able to sponsor content created by celebrities on the app too! Videos uploaded by other users are available for brands to sponsor, but companies must have an expensive advertising budget in order for this tactic will be worth it. Tencent Video is also one of China’s most popular video sites, but Youku would be better suited as its target demographic skews towards older audiences than Tudou
The only two national advertising options left would be Youku and Tencent Video where companies could hope to advertise their content if they had a large budget or wanted to reach out to a younger audience.