SEO is King in the West, Chinese Social media is King in China

Sarah Yam (任熙雯) of

As one of the biggest luxury markets in the world, China has immense potential purchasing power in the luxury industry. The position has still not changed despite many rumours and news on Chinese economy and luxury industry slowdown reported this year. According to Dean of Fortune Character Institute’s “2015 China Luxury Report”, the gross consumption of luxury adds up to 1168 hundred million dollars by Chinese consumers, accounting for 46% of total luxury industry in the whole world.

Due to the cultural difference between East and West, the frequency and volume of social media usage and purchase in China suppress the West. In the West, it is SEO, SEO, and SEO. In China, it is social media, social media and social media – the main impetus in promoting the brands, and thus enhancing consumer awareness.        

Identifying segments for Chinese luxury market

Another reason that luxury brands should use social media to promote themselves is determined by the peculiarity of luxuries. In Chinese society, which values collectivism, status and power, luxury is the symbol of one’s fortune and social status.

One of the typical segments is Chinese “Dama” (大妈), the middle-aged women who has a good wealth and assets, they are very good at business, they gain their wealth by capturing from the property, internet, consumer industries, etc., however their English might not be good, and might not have advanced knowledge in Western culture, arts, history, philosophy, etc.

These middle-aged women have plenty of time to spend on social media such as WeChat as not only they can talk to their children, but also read articles and media, and use WeChat for payment and e-commerce.

Major reason for these wealthy middle-aged women to buy luxury is to show their social status, not to show their taste in Western arts, culture, history. When communicating with these potential customers, it is good to appeal to their social status, because it is all about the consumers and what they really care.

Creating a social media campaign to connect with Chinese consumers emotionally

Luxury brand Burberry is one of the examples. On their WeChat web, it uses HTML5 website game to provide interactive experience for its followers. By shaking your phone, it will lead you to picturesque misty morning of London.  And when you swipe your screen, the picture becomes clear and the lake ripples gently. Finally, when you click on the white spot that shows up in the middle, you will be ultimately led to the destination: Shanghai. By luring users to click or swipe on their mobile phones, Burberry successfully provided consumers with an enjoyable experience and embeds their brand culture into the potential buyers. As a scheme for this strategy, a luxury brand could use interactive mode on the basis of social media to grip customers’ taste.

Durex, the global sexual health brand, used wechat to interact with consumers by using User generated model. It encourages its WeChat followers to record different version of greetings such as “good morning” in their dialect, and when a user input name of their location, the corresponding greeting in that dialect will be played. This idea aims to use emotion to resonate with consumers and hence bring consumers closer.

Riding on existing online incidents to connect with Chinese consumers

Not long ago, there was an online buzz that provoked a heated debate over a dress, the colour of which varies person to person from blue and black to white and golden. The debate on the colour of this magical dress has been pushed to the hot topics on various social media including BuzzFeed and Facebook. Amid the intensive argument, however, the producer of this dress, Roman, has made a great amount of unexpected fortune out of this coincidently unprecedented promotion on the Internet. This social media story has spread to China and lots of Chinese people are discussing and debating it too.

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Cultural factor – Resonate with the Chinese culture and context

WeChat makes good use of this psychology when the red envelope fever has swept the country, which is referred to as “red envelope-snatching thought”. By distributing red envelopes with some pocket money or database traffic fees inside, WeChat has spurred on a large online business flow. This idea could apply for the luxury industry. In practice, a luxury brand can adopt a rewarding mechanism for customers for a certain purchase amount or friends’ referral – not only this can reward existing clients, but also gain new clients.

Chinese companies have been maximizing the value of social media to capture consumers and marketing opportunities. Not only Chinese social media app has built-in e-commerce function (typical example is wechat e-commerce), online finance application such as Alipay, China’s largest online and mobile payment application, is also stepping into social media, e.g. its online chat function that allows people to connect each other, chat and pay each other. Although SEO is important in the West, Western brands and companies should understand that social media is the king in China.

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