More on China:
Internet users make up 42.3 percent of China’s population, compared with 81 percent in the United States. It doesn’t seem like much until you realize that 42.3 percent is 538 million people. This is easily 210 million more people than the entire population in the United States.
China banned Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in 2008 and 2009. But this doesn’t mean that China is without social media. China has multiple Facebook and twitter clones as well as YouTube clones.
For Chinese, Renren and Qzone operate like Facebook, with the former being more formal and restrictive and the latter being more laid back. Sina Corp and Tencent Holdings each operate a weibo, or micro-blogs similar to Twitter. Youku Inc. is China’s YouTube and the second largest video hosting site in the world.
The main reason China closed off Facebook, Twitter and YouTube was the Western style open approach to media. These platforms make it easy to spread dissent and ideas around the globe. The Party has opened up the economy but maintains a tight control on communication and interactions.
In September 2013, it was said that with the creation of a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in Shanghai’s Pudong district that Facebook and Twitter would be unblocked in this zone. If the FTZ deal goes through, it opens up possibilities for Chinese who haven’t already hopped the Great Firewall to the Internet. If the Party likes the trial run of a free internet zone, they could decide to open up more cities or districts to the Internet. Millions of Chinese users joining the rest of the world in social media present wonderful opportunities for Glocalization. However, as of October 18 there has been no confirmation on the reality of this speculation. Assuming this will happen, let’s continue with some issues that could be presented.
While the FTZ is primarily for foreign companies looking to get their feet in the door, Chinese companies looking to go international will also take advantages of it. Soon enough, inexperienced Chinese social media teams will blunder interacting with fans from cultures they have been closed off to. Westerners have acted with consumerist attitudes for much longer than the Chines with consumerism in infancy. This might present job opportunities for social media specialists looking to work in the FTZ. Likewise, Chinese specialists will be needed for international companies diving into China.
It’s important for Western companies to research successful cases and failed cases when penetrating a foreign culture. McKinsey & Company lists some great information on the social media situation in China. Cindy Chiu, Chris Ip and Ari Silverman detail explanations on China’s internet consumers, content and platforms and case studies on winning strategy.
- · Make content authentic and user oriented details a brief case study of Clinique creating an online drama series.
- · Adopt a test-and-learn approach details how Dove adapted it’s tactics after consumer reaction
- · Support overarching brand goals with sustained social-media efforts notes how Starbucks promotes the same message of community building online and in stores.
These case studies present some interesting information for those looking to expand into any country. Again, I feel it’s very important for international companies and those seeking to expand to research successful cases. Naturally, avoiding PR nightmares altogether is preferable to recovering from a crisis. Knowing how to engage an audience and adjust makes all the difference.