by Darren Burns
September 26th, 2016

Darren Burns, President, Weber Shandwick China, spoke on a panel at an Amcham conference on ecommerce last week and delivered these five tips for commercial success in China’s unique social system.

You need to create high quality, high value, content
We continue to see the merger of media and marketing and the ever-growing demand for high quality, well produced, content. We also see a continued rise in “native”, in-app social content. This looks more like reporting than a TV spot and we need to reinvest budgets accordingly. In China, we’ve seen some great examples on WeChat for example, where a high quality cooking show prepares a dish and then sells the ingredients.

Storytelling in real real time.
Many brands – both business-to-consumer and business-to-business – struggle to be relevant to their audience in real time despite much industry bravado. Many have not adjusted to the new reality which often means allocating resources, like planners and creative, at peak times e.g. 8-10 pm in the evening.

It also requires independence to act quickly. Brands need to ask themselves: Have we made the structural changes to support this? How do we get our best people to work nights? Those brands that do real, real time increase engagement and love – and commerce. That’s a fact.

Empowering “the fan”
Using social media to broadcast one-way messages is useless. Strong social brands build relationships with fans that enable co-creation. They see the benefit of letting the fans drive their message rather than trying to stringently control it. Resistance is futile so embrace the truth of the fan. In China we see several tech brands doing this effectively.

Influencers/Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)
Some call them a “necessary evil” and there is much debate around the ethics of KOLs, but they are the bedrock of great social commerce – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  And I’m not talking about just asking KOLs to cut and paste your copy. Real engagement on research, testing and co-creation is where the magic happens. People must always be at the center of what we do, augmented by data.

Be experimental
Chinese people love new stuff – be it platforms, tools or content. If you want to be seen as a leader or innovator, then act that way. Always look on the fringes for new ideas as China’s social universe is constantly changing and growing. Have a real test-and-learn approach versus expecting your team or agency to be perfect. We live in a world that is in constant beta. Once again, embrace it.

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