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Social media strategy for foreign brands in China

Social media strategy is something you cannot easily set up alone. In China’s mobile phone dominant social media market, managing Chinese accounts for foreign brands is becoming more and more difficult. Not only do you need to pay attention to trends, content styles, and creative ideas for different types of social media platforms, each one has it’s own analytics and data processing tools. Mastering your Chinese social media skills is therefore crucial for branding and community management in China.

Social media strategy for foreign brands

Before you even start choosing what platform to register your brand with, think about your goals. Let’s say you attracted 100k people with your first post; that’s great, but what’s next? How will you go about acquisition and sales? Will you need to provide a local payment service? Should you localize your website to Chinese, or lead shoppers to a local online retailer? Your Social media strategy starts with answering these important questions.

Ideally, your brand will have all the digital marketing tools ready to reach your target Chinese audience. Localizing your website for the Chinese market will also require Baidu SEO optimization and possibly, some PPC activity (at least for your brand name keywords). Don’t forget about UX – Chinese consumers don’t like to look for ways to buy products – the whole process shall contain 3 clicks or less. And no, Paypal is not popular in China. But these are just some elements of your Social media strategy.

First steps in your Social media strategy implementation

When choosing how to start working on your Social media strategy, always go with the simplest solution. What is available to you today? If all your international content is created with videos, don’t start with WeChat, as Youku (Chinese video platform similar to Youtube) is the main video publisher in China.

Check if your company license is legally valid for opening a Chinese social media account. Unfortunately, if you want to have an official account, you will need to provide official documents, including the ID of your Social media manager, who will be legally responsible for your content.

login WeChat china

Registering Chinese social media account with a foreign business licence

Since 2018, WeChat has provided a way for foreign brands to register an official account by using foreign company licenses and foreign IDs, but this will limit your WeChat payment solution (liquidate it). To enjoy WeChat’s full force, it is recommended to register an account with your supporting Chinese documents, or documents of your partners/agents. To see more details please check WeChat registration page.

Weibo has similar rules, but the foreign company registration fees are as high as 1,000-2,000 USD per account depending on your location, and requires up to 3 weeks of registration time.

Overseas Enterprise Weibo Account Verification list of documents: 

  1. Company Registration Documents with certified Chinese translation copy. The Company’s seal or legal person’s signature should be included.
  2. Application letter and third party authorization letter. The Company’s seal or legal person’s signature should be included.
  3. Operations person/team contact information. Note: There will be a verification service charge which may vary by country or region.

If you wish to proceed with your application and need help, just drop us a line!

Other platforms such as Dazhong Dianping, have different solutions for foreign brands; some have representative offices in foreign locations that handle listings and account management.

Social media strategy, Chinese dianping registration

Choose one platform at a time. It is better to do one well, than do several badly. To achieve this, learn the audience demographic and preferences of each platform. To check the details of each platform please check out this article.

Localizing your content for Chinese social media platforms

The next step in your Chinese social media journey is publishing. Before jumping into translating your western social media posts, do some research on the hot topics and trends in China. Just like in the West, people in China are always chasing new and interesting content.

This is important so you don’t waste time and money on content that will be useless for the local market. Also, think about creating content just for the Chinese audience, even if it’s filming/interviewing your Chinese guests buying your products in European locations.

Localizing your social media campaigns can be extremely useful, but make sure it is handled by a professional, since the Chinese e-world has its own language (internet slang).

Social media strategy, weibo, médias sociaux chinois, réseaux sociaux chinois
weibo, médias sociaux chinois, réseaux sociaux chinois

And finally, you need to consider creating tailor-made content especially for Chinese market – something unique and emotional that will speak to your audience. Taking a local approach, using HTML5 supportive templates, and following the local trends should be seen as priority tasks for a brand’s content production.

Social media planning

Just like your western platforms, Chinese social media should be organized. Creating your social media editorial plan will help you a lot, not only to organize your publications but also to prepare for events in the future. Visualizing your communications this way will help your team to adjust and fix things as you go, since at the very beginning you might miss some big dates in your industry. Since Chinese e-commerce giants are constantly creating new shopping festivals, you need to be prepared for sudden changes in your publishing schedule. There are planning solutions tailored for China market, such as Kawo.

Chinese Social Media Analytics and Targeting

Just like on Facebook and Linkedin, most Chinese Social media platforms try to monetise their business via ad managers. Weibo even goes one step further and sells your data analytics back to you! The free version only covers the data from the last 30 days.

Wechat has quite a strong data processing approach, which will help you to analyse in detail your audience demographics, your posts behaviour, your menu analytics etc.

Social media strategy, réseaux sociaux chinois, wechat targeting1
réseaux sociaux chinois, wechat targeting1
Social media strategy, réseaux sociaux chinois, wechat targeting1
Social media strategy, réseaux sociaux chinois, wechat targeting1
réseaux sociaux chinois, wechat targeting1
Social media strategy, réseaux sociaux chinois, wechat targeting1


WeChat: for more information on how to create target ads please click here.

Dianping: for more information about how to manage your back office in English please click here.

Weibo: for more information about how to use Weibo please click here.

You won’t be able to achieve any ROI if you don’t have a Chinese social media strategy

The most important thing for foreign brands entering China is a clear Social media strategy. If you think posting here and there few times a week will bring you instant fame and millions of sales, then it’s highly unlikely things will work out. If you are a famous brand – your products are already selling in China, whether you know it or not. But if you are a small or unknown brand – there may be no one out there waiting for you in China, and you will have to fight for every like, click and sale just like in other markets.

Decide exactly what you want to achieve, make sure it is realistically achievable, and set up your time frame and budget. Despite the common belief, the Chinese market is not a “magical” place where brands sell out stock in seconds. Yes, it does happen, but not without months of preparation, hundreds of people involved, and huge budgets.

The best way to measure your social media campaign is not by engagement levels, but by conversion. You can buy tons of traffic coming to your platform, but still have zero conversions. Especially, with the fact that more that 30% of all social media traffic is not authentic.

If you don’t know China, the way people live, interact and shop, make sure you look for some professional advice. Your first priority should be focused on setting up a strategy that will work on the Chinese market. It is ok if the logic is not the same as in your other locations; the only thing that matters is that it has to work in China! Brands who are not flexible in China, often end up failing there.

Is your information legal?

Since 2015, Chinese authorities have been getting stricter about what can be published online with the intrusion of advertising or selling. Our Guide to Advertising in China covers the areas you should be paying attention to when working on marketing copy, product descriptions or websites. You can also find information about the penalties issued in the event of an infraction.

brand voice guideline

Kate CHERNAVINASocial media strategy for foreign brands in China

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