Most digital marketers today are fully aware of the importance of social media in their marketing campaigns. The ability to deliver personalised messages, engage with audiences, track campaign performance and customise customer journeys has convinced them to devote more of their budgets to social media marketing, with digital ad spend finally outpacing TV ad spend in 2017.
When you think about social media, the platforms that usually come to mind include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and possibly even Snapchat. Focusing on these platforms would be great if you’re marketing in the Americas or Europe. However, in Asia, the realm of social media is as vast and fragmented as the continent itself. Home to a plethora of social networks, instant messaging and live streaming applications, the Asian market poses a strong challenge to global marketers. To understand the social media landscape of Asia, we take a look at some of the key players in the market.
The Great Firewall of China
One of the biggest hurdles digital marketers face when tackling Asia is the Great Firewall of China (GFW). The nation has one of the strictest censorship laws in the world and even the vast sea of content we know as the Internet is no exception to the rule. International websites outside of China, like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Google, cannot be accessed within the country. Marketers who rely heavily on these platforms are left confounded as to how to reach one of the biggest markets in the world successfully.
The extensive internet censorship laws do not mean that there is a lack of social media platforms in China. Weibo, WeChat and QQ are a few of the most popular platforms used by Chinese nationals. In fact, many individuals outside of the GFW are also using these platforms – WeChat, achieved more than 100 million active users outside of China in 2013. Here are 2 of the most popular social media platforms in China.
Also known as Weixin in the local market, WeChat is a messenger app that does a whole lot more than just sending and receiving messages. Owned by tech giant Tencent, the platform has been described as an ‘all-in-one’ app which allows users to order food, hail cars, pay utility bills, transfer money, book doctor appointments, apply for visas, read the news and even hold digital IDs.
WeChat is by far, the most popular app in China, and is gaining popularity in other regions as well. Businesses can apply for a range of official accounts best suited to their needs to reach out to customers. Not only can businesses speak directly to WeChat users, they can also send customised content based on the user’s preferences, create unique customer journeys based on the content they consume, and tap onto the platform’s location-based marketing function.
Constantly compared to their US counterpart, Twitter, Weibo is a 140-character microblogging platform that allows the use of rich media like video, audio, images, gifs and emoticons. The platform’s user base, while still behind Facebook, is growing rapidly and is said to have already surpassed the number of Twitter users.
Weibo is a must for any business looking to establish a presence in China. There is an entire range of accounts that you can apply for, but as a business, you will require a paid and verified business account.
Once you’ve established a business account, you will be able to access a full suite of paid services that include data analytics, event promotions, coupons, social listening, private messaging functions and customer support.
Other local platforms include Tencent’s QQ and Qzone, but as a global business that needs to streamline efforts, WeChat and Weibo are 2 essential channels for executing your marketing strategy in China.
If these 2 platforms are part of your strategy to reach Chinese-speaking audiences, you need to understand that they both cater to different needs and predilections. Weibo is generally regarded as a bulletin board that sends out messages on a more public level. On the other hand, WeChat reaches audiences on a more personal level, with messaging taking place through private messages instead. Weibo is useful for brands that are looking to gain brand exposure through large-scale campaigns while WeChat provides a more intimate approach, suitable for customer service, guerilla marketing and sales conversion. Both platforms have different advantages, so it would be best for you to get on both to fully realise the potential of both Weibo and WeChat.
Focusing your efforts on WeChat and Weibo is great if China is your main focus. However, if you’re interested in expanding into Japan, South Korea or the rapidly growing Southeast Asia, there are other social media platforms that deserve your attention as well. Outside of China, the 2 biggest platforms are LINE and KakaoTalk.
Launched by the LINE Corporation, a Japanese subsidiary of South Korean internet search behemoth, Naver, LINE is the most popular messaging application in Japan and Thailand. The platform while similar to WeChat, has slightly less functions than its Chinese counterpart.
In South Korea, KakaoTalk enjoys the top spot when it comes to messaging applications. They recently linked up their online banking and payment services on the platform, adding another layer of data for businesses to tap into when tailoring their messages and target audience.
Don’t Forget Facebook and Google
Before you dedicate your entire marketing budget to the platforms mentioned above, always remember that despite the popularity of local platforms, Facebook and Google are still the most influential platforms in Asia (with the exception of China). This is especially true for emerging markets like Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.
It is crucial to recognise the intricacies of the Asian market – each country has its own set of rules, behaviour patterns and preferences. Choosing the right social media platforms for your marketing and customer outreach really depends on the nature of your product and the countries you plan on expanding into. Know which platforms your target audience is using and focus your efforts there.
For example, market expansion in Thailand would require a marketing push through LINE, Facebook and Google. If you’re a huge international corporation with a presence in China, you may wish to focus efforts on WeChat to create brand advocates and convert audiences who already know about you. For the Burmese (Myanmar) the only form of Internet browsing they experience is through Facebook, while Filipinos are the biggest social media users in the world, and enjoy sharing their purchase experiences. The key takeaway here is the importance of research and knowing your markets.
Our insights platform can provide you with the information you need to better understand your potential customers in Asia.