Forums and bulletin boards are the most popular form of social media in China, with over 60% of web users visiting this type of website every day, according to a March TNS study (pdf).
More importantly for brands looking to move into the Chinese market, forums and bulletin board systems (BBS) play a big role in brand awareness, sharing of product information, promotions and product availability.
Chinese consumers use this channel as a way to evaluate if a brand is a good fit for their needs and to find out if the company is a market leader or has expertise in certain topics. Forums and BBS can also nudge new customers to try their offering, TNS found.
But there’s also a flip side. Though both positive and negative comments are “flying around” all types of social media platforms, the most common location for negative comments about a company, brand, or product is on forums and BBS. Opinion and review sites and social networking sites followed. For positive sentiment, video sharing sites and brand websites were found to be the most common.
The real opportunity for social media, versus other channels such as conventional online advertising and television, lies in the following:
- Building brand loyalty
- Developing an emotional bond with consumers
- Increase word of mouth (WOM)
- Risk management and brand control
- Driving consumer-generated content
- Gauging brand perception and sentiment
But why is social media in China important? For consumers, social media allows for a certain kind of freedom of expression that consumers in other markets might take for granted.
Further, it provides a “personal space” for consumers in which they can have more privacy and make self-driven decisions — both relative novelties in Chinese culture.
But how can you know what your new or potential customers in China are saying about you, if it’s all in Chinese? Good question. Consider partnering with a translation vendor that knows how to work with social media monitoring and engagement tools, to ensure a seamless connection between your marketing efforts and international expansion.