Ultimate guide to China social media marketing

Due to Chinese internet regulations, social media channels in China are completely different to the rest of the world. Platforms we use daily, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are almost non-existent, simply because they can’t be accessed by Chinese internet users, making China social media marketing unique from the West.

But for every platform we have in the western society, there is likely an equivalent platform that is at least as well-developed (and in some cases even more powerful) in China. While many successful Chinese social media platforms started out by copying their western counterpart, they have long surpassed this phase and are now at the forefront of digital innovation. Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, and Xiaohongshu, which can best be described as a combination of Instagram, Pinterest and Amazon, are examples Chinese technological ingenuity at work. 

These Chinese social media platforms only launched in the last few years, but their popularity with Chinese netizens has almost surpassed usage rates of their western counterpart in just one country alone. These emerging applications are redefining the way in which Chinese people navigate their daily lives.

For international brands and businesses who are looking to reach, engage with and sell to audiences via social media marketing in China, leveraging the right Chinese social media channels must therefore be part of their digital marketing strategy.

In this article, we will be touching on the different platforms that can be used to communicate with your targeted audience in China.

WeChat was first launched in China as a simple messaging app with functions comparable to WhatsApp. Arguably, WeChat today is one of the most innovative and intelligent Chinese social media network available. Due to the complexity of the application, companies using WeChat for social media advertising in China will need a deep understanding of the functions of this application for effective marketing purposes.

Along with messaging, WeChat marketing is a powerful tool to promote your company’s brand. The first step to WeChat marketing is deciding which account is best suited for your business. WeChat enables companies to create “WeChat Official Accounts. WeChat users can access and follow these accounts, similar to a Facebook page. Through active engagement with your branded WeChat content, you can generate awareness for your brand in China and eventually convert your followers into loyal customers. 

Deciding on which type of account your business needs can be complex. For more information on choosing the right account for your business, please visit our blog post on WeChat Official Account creation.

There are various ways a business can be successful in using WeChat as their main marketing tool to attract Chinese consumers. One of the most popular features with brands are WeChat posts which can be compared to blog post articles. Companies use them to talk about topics related to their products or services, launch new offers and engage with their target audience. But even simple techniques like integrating your WeChat account with your mobile-responsive Chinese website can make a huge difference for the user experience. 

WeChat advertising is a great option to reach your target audience faster and build an engaged following on the platform. We don’t usually recommend launching ads until you have produced at least a few months of content. Otherwise, you might be wasting your budget as WeChat users are unlikely to follow your account unless there’s information on there that they find interesting. 

We don’t have enough time here to go into detail for all the features that WeChat has to offer. If you want to learn more about this subject, you might find our WeChat 101 guide useful.

A great example of a highly successful campaign run on WeChat would be Oreo. A few years ago, Oreo created a highly interactive Chinese marketing campaign targeting parents wanting to feel closer to their children. After creating their WeChat Official Account, Oreo built their own WeChat mini program (these mini programs are essentially apps running with the WeChat environment) that allowed users to take pictures of themselves and their children and turn them into sticker. Stickers are animated emojis that can be shared with friends and family on WeChat. 

When purchasing packets of Oreos during the campaign, buyers received a code that allowed them to unlock new personalised stickers in the app. And the results of the campaign were impressive! Sales went up by 50% in the first five weeks after launch and over 75 million stickers were generated within 2 months. 


Tencent QQ

Tencent QQ, commonly known as QQ, is an instant messaging software service developed by Chinese tech giant Tencent (the same company that also owns WeChat). Functions include messaging, sending photos and playing online games. First released in 1999, QQ is regarded as the founding father of instant messaging in China. The app stood the test of time and its success was only surpassed by more powerful emerging applications such as WeChat. 

Although popularity in usage is slowly decreasing, QQ still reaches about 558 million monthly users and can be a powerful digital marketing tool. The platform remains popular with younger demographics, with 66% of QQ users being under 35 years old. If used in the right way, QQ can be a great platform for reaching audience groups with a shared interest.  

One common use case for QQ would be for universities who are looking to engage with potential Chinese students. As a university, you can set up a QQ group and invite potential students to join the group to learn more about studying at your institution. You can also invite current students to the conversation, giving prospective students a unique opportunity to ask direct questions to their peers. This personal level of engagement is much more powerful than any glossy brochure could ever be. What’s more, you can invite up to 200 people to a QQ group, making it much more efficient than answering questions in a one-on-one environment.