8 Common Mistakes in Chinese Social Media Marketing

China has become a market that many brands desire to enter. However, its diverse market needs, highly competitive and dynamic environment, and its sophisticated consumers can make it difficult for novices to navigate the market. Social media, known for its networking function and cost effectiveness, has become another strong marketing tool for marketers.

In China, there are over 60 social media platforms, and they all come with different features, advantages, and focuses. This makes it especially difficult to master Chinese social media, and novice users are often prone to making mistakes. Before opening your Chinese social media accounts, you should first take a look at these top 8 mistakes commonly made by brands and learn how to avoid making them yourself.

1. Creating multiple accounts without purpose

In order to expand and raise brand awareness, brands seek as much presence as possible on social media. However, opening many social media accounts simultaneously without any strategy may not be helpful, especially for startups or small brands. On the contrary, it may generate disorganized information and hinder effective communication with audience.

Before engaging on any Chinese social media, you should ask yourself: why should I be on this platform? Who do I want to talk to? For example, If you want to post frequently and deliver your message to a large and broad audience, Weibo is a suitable platform. If you are focused on providing services to target consumers, registering a WeChat service account may be a better choice. If you want to promote video based content, video platforms like Youku and Miaopai should be considered.

2. Destroying users’ habits by random posting frequency

As a brand, you are responsible for catering to your audience’s reading habits on social media. Publishing too much content in a short time may distract your audience from the most valuable information. Even worse, they may feel uncomfortable or irritated and unfollow your page, damaging their perception of your brand.

On the other hand, your brand will be forgotten easily by your audience if you do not uphold a reasonable frequency of posting or interaction on Chinese social media. For general brands, posting 1-5 times per day on Weibo, and 1-5 times per week on WeChat is a reasonable and typical frequency.

3. Ignoring audience’s preferences of content

Simply copying and translating content from western social media to Chinese social media is a common mistake by international brands. China has a very sophisticated consumer group. Knowing their preferences, following their language style, and adapting content according to specific social media platforms is essential.

Only being interested in the messages that your brand wants to deliver, and ignoring what your audience wants to read is not an effective marketing tactic. For example, flooding the page with only promotional content will not bring you real sales. An Italian luxury brand, Zegna, has over 236,000 followers on Weibo, but each of its posts get very few interactions because most of their content is product introduction or sales promotion, without any call-to-interaction incentives.

4. Using unrelated hot topics

“Hot topic marketing” is a unique tactic employed on Chinese social media. When news, holidays, or events happen, brands are trying to catch the audience’s attention immediately by following the topic and creating related content. However, not all hot topics are relevant to your brand identity or target audience. Following the trend when it is not connected or relevant to your brand in any way may damage your brand personality.

Meanwhile, not all hot topics are suitable for social media marketing. Making fun of serious or sensitive topics may create controversy. In 2015, popular Chinese singer Bella Yao passed away due to breast cancer, which shocked the public. On that day, a fresh food ecommerce platform published a Weibo post, saying “Come and buy these Top 9 fruits to prevent breast cancer on our website”, along with the hot tag #Bella Yao died# and their website link. Many followers were angry, criticizing the brand for being disrespectful to the dead. The post was eventually deleted after pressure from the public.

5. Setting high criteria for interaction

As mentioned, audiences in the modern age of technology have short attention spans. If your interactive activities on social media, such as campaigns, are too difficult or complicated to participate in, users will lose interest in them. Always keep interactions fun and easy.

For example, take these two different WeChat campaigns: one is asking followers to share the article with three WeChat friends and send back the screenshots to enter a lucky draw, and the other one is asking followers to comment below the article to enter the lucky draw. If they are offering the same content and campaign prize, which one would attract more participation? Obviously, the latter.

6. Not keeping the promise

Although social media is more casual than other marketing channels, it is still official and highly connected with brand image. Brands should take responsibility for what they post on social media platforms. If you can’t deliver what you promised to the audience, you will lose their trust.

Mengniu Dairy launched a giveaway campaign on Weibo. Winners were picked and informed automatically by the Weibo system, but some of them complained that they did not receive the promised gifts. Mengniu later deleted the campaign post without any explanation. Some angry followers reported it as a “bogus campaign”, which negatively impacted Mengniu’s brand image.

7. Reacting slowly to customer service or crisis management

As contacting a brand via comment or private message on social media is more efficient than more traditional approaches such as phone call or email, audiences often use social media as a primary customer service platform. Subsequently, they expect immediate responses and solutions.

JD, the famous Chinese ecommerce website, has fallen victim to these sort of expectations. In July 2015, one famous writer complained on Weibo that the fruit she bought on JD was rotten. She asked for a refund but was rejected by JD’s customer service team. Although JD negotiated privately with this customer, it did not publish any positive responses or statements on Weibo beforehand. This damaged JD’s brand image in the eyes of some consumers.


8. Purchasing fake followers

Fake follower trading is illegal, yet unfortunately it is still common on Chinese social media. Accounts can not only buy followers but also page views, likes, and comments; creating a false sense of popularity. It is largely a waste of money to buy fake followers as it will never bring you any real customers or interactions. Always keep in mind that the primary goal of social media marketing is mutual communication and a long-term relationship with your target audience.

In summary, Chinese social media is a powerful yet challenging tool for brand marketing. If you don’t want to repeat these same mistakes, ask yourself the following
questions before launching social media in China:

• Why do you need social media in China?

• What is your social media strategy?

• Who do you want to target or reach?

• Is your content on social media valuable for your target audience?

• Are you engaging in effective communication on social media?

About the Author

Born in Jiangsu in mainland China, Mia relocated to Hong Kong in 2010 to pursue her studies in Media and Communication. As the marketing manager at Alarice International (www.alarice.com.hk), for 4 years Mia helped clients succeed in China with social media marketing, creative campaigns and KOL/influencer marketing. She is now excited to be able to help even more clients through ChoZan (www.chozan.co), the most comprehensive guide to Chinese social media for marketing managers.

You can reach Mia at mia@chozan.co