Social media in China has boomed since 2009. There are an estimated 485 million Internet users in China and around 93 percent of them engage in some sort of social media, according to the latest statistics from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) and Netpop Research. On average, one user has three social media identities, and users are becoming increasingly active and finding a voice in social media to express appreciation or dissatisfaction with brands.
As Chinese brands begin to use social media in more and more sophisticated ways, social media strategic planning should be based on long-term brand objectives rather than thought of as a short-term promotional activity. To better equip brands to embrace the social media revolution, the business model of every enterprise and organization in China will eventually evolve to meet the “Age of Social Business.”
The “Age of Social Business”
In the “Age of Social Business,” organizations will be purposefully designed around social tools, social media and social networks, as a response to web 2.0’s revamped technological space and its reshaped brand-consumer communication and business disciplines. Social media should no longer belong to a sole individual or a lone department. Rather it should be an important strategic element in the planning of a company’s overall operation and management. Just as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems enable more effective management across the organization and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems enable more effective consumer relationships, a Social Business Support System enables more effective use of social intelligence across the organization.
A complex media landscape
Integrating social media into the organization is imperative but it can be difficult, particularly in China, which has the world’s most fragmented and multi-faceted social media landscape (Please see diagram). Taking social networking sites as an example, Facebook is a clear leader overseas. However, in China, sites such as Renren, Kaixin, Qzone, and many more compete for social netizens’ attention.
In addition to the growing popularity of social networking sites, the number of microblog users increased by more than 200 percent over the past year, with the leading microblog provider, Sina Weibo, reaching over 250 million registered users and 90 million daily posts by October 2011. Alongside this, viral videos have spread from video sites to other social media platforms, group purchase has been blossoming and location based service (LBS) sites have also increased in popularity.
Best practices emerge
This unique net culture and language present an ever-increasing challenge to business communication strategy. However, there are a number of pioneering brands, organizations and media corporations that have faced the challenge and found innovative and different ways to use social media platforms to engage with consumers. We analyzed the social media engagement of China’s Top 50 most valuable brands to determine what brands enjoyed the greatest online presence. (Please see chart below). We also identified several social media best practices that can support brand building.