This post was originally posted on ConsumerACTIONism.
The popularity of Chinese social media channels is without doubt one of the most profound things to happen to China in the last 6 years – it is truly changing the society. Micro-blogs in particular, are often the first stop for daily news in place of traditional channels. They are where strangers, friends, families and colleagues from all across China connect at breakfast, lunch and dinner to learn, review, gossip, discuss, berate and joke. Some of China’s social networks are literally bubbling with information, the kind of information that would be critical to informing just about any marketing strategy.
To give you a sense to the scale of digital in China, there are possibly more mobile phone subscribers across China than there are copies of Mao’s little Red book. By June 2012, China surpassed 1.05 billion mobile subscribers, over 538 million Internet users and some 300 million people now chat via popular micro-blogging services such as Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo. A social mobile app called WeChat launched in January 2011, today it boasts over 200 million users. Things move fast in China.
Tapping into, blowing away the noise and listening on social channels such as Sina Weibo, a micro-blog with over 300 million users, offers brands a unique opportunity to uncover never before seen consumer insights, trends and perceptions. Any big brand thinking to enter China that does not give a thought to China’s social media platforms is making both a huge mistake and potentially costly error.
I’m a massive pizza fan – GungHo Pizza, my delivery of choice, provides outstanding customer service leveraging Sina Weibo. The last time I criticized the brand for screwing up a delivery, their social listening team was on the case and had already tweeted me back to say they had complimentary vouchers and a refund on their way to my house. But it’s not just local pizza firms making the best of social media in China.
Pharmaceutical companies like J&J leverage social listening to gather valuable patient and disease related insights so that they can better adapt their marketing mix. Automotive brands like Audi look to social media to help them benchmark their competitive position. Energy companies like Shell and Chevron are employing social listening as a means to better understand their stakeholder landscape, uncover key influencers and research opposition groups. As a social media pioneer, Dell was one of the first global brands to establish an in-house social media listening capability, aptly named the “Social Media Listening Command Centre”. More recently, Dell China has also established a sophisticated listening capability.
However, listening is just the beginning. Distilling the voices, understanding the nature of online conversation and turning that into an actionable insight moves you into the world of social intelligence. David Armano, Edelman Digital Chicago Managing Director and general digital genius, wrote a great post around the considerations one should bear in mind when setting up a social media intelligence center and how to go beyond listening.
Disclosure: Audi, Chevron, J&J and Shell are Edelman clients
Image credit: The Tenth Dragon