As the largest internet population in the world, boasting 550 million and given almost all have some social media usage, there’s much wineries can gain from being actively involved in China’s social media landscape – from building brand loyalty, providing a general education on wine, to acquiring new wine consumers and even showing your wine distributors you are supporting them in the Chinese market.
It is however is not as simple as kicking off a Facebook page as many wine labels have done in the West. China is a diverse, fragmented and in many respects a sophisticated social media landscape. What is the same however, is that using social media effectively takes time, dedicated resource, and long-term commitment and investment.
Before leaping in - Consider, what do you want social media to accomplish for your business?
Like any company entering a new market, knowing where to start is probably one of the biggest challenges. The same can be said for delving into China’s social media space. Implementing a social media campaign should be treated the same as if you were implementing any other digital marketing effort - the first step: answering some important internal strategy questions.
What is the key objectives you want to achieve with social media? Is it to broaden your brand’s awareness? Is it for PR purposes? Is it for consumer insights purposes, or for product development purposes?
Companies need to have clear reasons or strategies around why they want to engage in social media. Without knowing specifically what you want to accomplish, you’re not going to be able to pick the right platform, develop the right content and obtain the right outcomes.
Once you have a clear strategy and know what you want to accomplish, the next step is getting to know the main social media platforms in China.
The Social Media Platforms
This social media platform (like twitter in West) that is open to all users from Governmental bodies, business entities and individuals to make their voices public.
The dominant Microblog platform (again similar to Twitter) in China with over 500 million registered users.
Wechat is a mobile-based text and voice messaging service with over 400 million registered users (70 million outside China). Now seen as the up and coming platform in China taking the shine away from Sina Weibo.
These are both online video portals similar to Youtube.
A platform similar to Facebook, Renren’s popularity has diminished somewhat because of competition from Weibo. Kaixin001 was once a popular choice in this category but is now off the radar of many social media campaigns given its decline.
A group discussion platform with 45 million users. Main topics are literature, arts and music. This is used for social media programs looking for informal engagement
There are large numbers of social media sites in China and you need to undertake a review to ensure the platform(s) you include in your programs map to your target audience. Remember many Chinese social media users are highly transient and just because they used one platform a year ago does not mean that they are still frequenting that same platform today.
Social Media Monitoring
A critical part of any social strategy is undertaking a broad scan across the different social media platforms and understanding how these platforms are used in China, remembering that many of the platforms are not simply replacements of Western equivalents like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter (of which are blocked in China).
Leveraging, tools such as Buzz Equity or engaging with an Agency to do this on your behalf is the right first step to get a solid understanding of the social environment.
From the wine industry’s perspective, this involves identifying who the main players are, how people are talking about wine related topics on various social networking sites, what kind of content is being shared, what the current knowledge level toward a particular wine is and what are some positive and negative perceptions towards that.
Critically important is listening to understand what your competitors are doing in the social media space.
When Digital Jungle undertook a social listening project for New Zealand Wine Growers, we were able gain insights about what Chinese thought about New Zealand wine (compared to Australian and French wine), the main wine labels being most 'talked' about and even the geographical mapping between the location of online conversations and a particular type of wines. All very interesting data points for a wine business looking at engaging more with Chinese consumers.
Social Media Marketing
So as with all social media marketing plans, the key to success comes back to your content and finding a hook to get people motivated to engage with the brand (could be cash reward, ego, or even self learning). However, without a sound content strategy and value system that aligns to your goals you will end up spending a lot of time putting out information to a site or platforms that does not resonate and therefore has little value to that given community. The result - failed, ineffective and at worst a blight on your wine brand.
Some of our wine clients have been able to tap into the needs of their target audience through understanding the need to educate and provide more factual content and this has resulted in some great engagement over the longer term. Another of our winery clients ran a competition to solicit ideas about a new label being designed for the Chinese market. Of course, the prize allowed for a trip to the winery and this proved highly motivating for our given audience.
There are a lot of ideas being used in China with wine companies; blogger outreach, trips to foreign wineries, dinners and education sessions. These are now being used so frequently that it is getting difficult to remember which wine label or wine region actually undertook the campaign. For new wine entrants, look to leveraging mobile campaigns and take an innovative approach to content. Good luck or should we say 'cheers'