How can social media help with Chinese e-commerce?

Social media and Chinese e-commerceIn the last couple of weeks, I’ve spoken to a number of businesses that are either currently selling, or looking to sell directly to China online. The opportunities of successfully selling on Chinese e-commerce platforms through social media come up quite often. The common question is: How do we use social media to get the word out on our business and products?

In a nutshell, this is the simplified version of the process I follow to work out the social media plan for a business. You are welcomed to use this, or a modified version of this, to work out your own social media strategy!

First and foremost, assuming that all logistics, legal, and shipping is taken care of offline, and the online platform is set up in Chinese, user friendly and passes muster, this is how I would go about working out the social media plan.

1. First, figure out exactly what your goals are on social media channels:

For example, the two most obvious goals are, to use it to promote your products (i.e. driving traffic to your web store either on your own site or a 3rd party platform), and to leverage social as a customer service and feedback tool.
Once that’s clear, it’s good to have a concrete idea of who your customers are – are they young or old, single or married, men or women, where they typically hang out online, and how they give or receive information. If your products are, for example, high-end furniture, then your customers are most likely very different themselves, and frequent vastly different online forums and BBS than if you are selling nutritional supplements.

At this point, it’s also good to take an inventory of the type of content your team is currently producing in your local language. Unless your only goals of getting on social media platforms is to offer customer service and hardcore sell (which is NOT recommended), then there needs to be some thoughts given to the kind of information you want to share with your audience, and how you, or someone in your business can come up with the right quantity and quality of information that’s needed to keep an audience engaged.

2. While working through the above, you can do some quick research:

See where your business or products are currently talked about online in China, and the kind of questions and concerns raised by those either current using your products, or considering it.

At this point, I would suggest that you identify a handful of platforms and BBS boards where these discussions around your products or services are taking place, and work out how your can, in the most graceful way possible, add to the conversations. And since hardly any content marketing is free in China nowadays, this might also be the time to find out the cost attached to posting on those platforms, if you ever decide to market openly.

While researching on platforms like Weibo, this would also be a good time to start identifying the top influencers in the market most important to your business – they can be individuals, but also possibly organizations that can give endorsements. Again, since nothing is free, this is also a good time to note down the cost of possibly engaging with these online influencers to promote your business going forward.

3. With all the information from steps one and two gathered, this is the time to reflect on what you know, and set some goals for the coming period.

You might want to narrow down a list of BBS boards, forums, and influencers that you want to engage with, whether paid or for free.

You might also want to assess whether you have someone in your business that is capable of creating Chinese-language content for your audience. If so, how often and how much time should they spend doing it. And if not, will you find someone from the outside to help you with the task?

Once that is established, it’s time to map out the kind of information you want to create that is relevant to your audience, how it will be created, and the frequency posted.

At this point, you should have a good understanding of what you want to get out of the social platforms, and whether your business has the time and resources to devote to long-term marketing through these channels. You should also have a good feel for the type of conversation your potential clients are having, and a few ways of reaching them.

I hope this roadmap is helpful to you. Let me know what you think!

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photo credit: Daria Riabchenko via photopin cc

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