What so-called experts tell you about Chinese social media and why they are wrong


what experts are wrong when it comes to chinese social media

Flickr Creative Common: Peter Prodoehl

Earlier this week, I tuned into a webinar that teaches how a business can engage Chinese travellers through social media (if you are interested in the actual webinar recording, hit the contact tab on top or on the side or put in a comment at the end of the article,  and I’ll forward you the link).

This was run by a well-known social media agency, featuring a number of Chinese “social experts”, including those in agency, and a couple from big-name hospitality brands. 

There were some really useful information, mostly on the growth of social media use in China and the ever-changing landscape. 

But boy, were there some silly things that were said too.

1. One of the presenters started boasting their success by citing how many fans they have, as though reaching a certain fan count is the end game. It’s not. Hopefully, if you are on social media, whether western or Chinese, your goals are to get results. By results, I do mean some kind of impact on your bottom line that is measurable in the medium to long run.

Chinese netizens in particular are very savvy when it comes to assessing your business and the number of posts/fans count. If you’ve only been online for a short while but have tens of thousands of fans, then something’s off – they’ll make the immediate link that you’ve made a deal with the devil and bought your fans. Once that link is made, your credibility is shot for good. 

As an aside, if you are a B2B or small business, it’s really the quality of fans that matter, much more so than the numbers. You know your activities on Chinese social media is paying off when you start getting calls from customers that you didn’t actively solicit through other channels, because they had been following you for months on Weibo or WeChat and decided that they like you and trust you enough to make contact (trust me, this happens, and I will show you next week). 

2. I ran in the other direction when they started talking about “putting up nice background image” as one of the most important things that you need to do when you first get on Weibo. 


The first thing before you even start thinking about social media, is to get inside your potential clients’ heads: who are they? what do they want? what are they looking for? are they looking for information, or entertainment, an immersive experience? what am I in the best position to provide? 

At the same time, think about your own goals: are you there to find sales leads? are you looking to educate your customers about a product they might not know about? do you have an experience or sales funnel in mind that justifies all the time you are spending creating content for those customers?

After that, you find the best channel to reach them successfully. 

Only then do you jump in the game of getting on a channel. 

3. I’m also totally turned off when these experts start to talk about things like how emoticons get more engagement and giving away iPhones and iPads (seriously? this is 2014!) as a surefire way to get more fans.

And what’s up with generic advice like this?

This is like saying good food should be fresh, healthy, and preferably delicious.

It’s utterly useless.

Most businesses don’t have an issue with the idea of generating quality content. But it’s finding the sweet spot of “what quality content means” for each business that’s tripping people up.

Bonus laugh: While talking about cultural differences, one presenter claimed that “Chinese don’t get sarcasm, so humour is not the best wayto engage with your fans.” 

I almost spat out my tea. 

Just because you don’t understand Chinese humour…

I can say with 120% certainty that Chinese (especially Chinese netizens) have a very evolved sense of humour (there are a handful of areas where the Chinese humour doesn’t tread well online though). But in general, the Chinese love humour, it’s not the same slapstick stuff that this gentleman was familiar with. 

What is true is that you should definitely have a Chinese-speaking friend or colleague at hand should you want to attempt humour. The bar is not all that different than in the west: goofy is ok, douchey is not.

Next week, I will share with you what happens when you do Chinese social media the right way from someone that I (coincidentally) also spoke with this week. In stark contrast to the “experts” that spout out all kinds of big words and tactics, this successful small business owner grew her fan base organically and patiently, and is now seeing significant results from her efforts. She is the perfect example of how authenticity and genuineness is the way to win clients over through Chinese social media.

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