China, with the world's largest internet user-base, almost double than the USA, is currently the market to be at. Very often than not, we speak of its local social media, with the users accounting for roughly the sum of all those in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, altogether.
In this piece, we are going to look at not only China but also the situation in the equally fashion-active regions surrounding it, i.e. Taiwan and Hong Kong, the regions which are, perhaps, less restrictive of the foreign influence.
Here's our China team's take, on the booming local social media market, according to their importance in the fashion world and their power in influencing the purchasing decisions of the people.
It's no news that when it comes to networking, the country does pose certain limitations. Perhaps, paving a way for the local alternatives to barge in. It's no surprise that the restrictive channels are still accessed via some proxy connections, but speaking of the local market, the list remains as follows:
The first name that comes to the mind when speaking of Chinese social media. This micro-blog (also known as the hybrid between Facebook and Twitter) is reported to have more than 500 million registered users off late, and this number seems to be only growing. The website is more appealing to the people residing in 1° Tier cities of China (as can also be recorded from the Fashionbi Weibo analytics), interface is fully Chinese, allows the members to post images and videos and the best part about this channel is the celebrity influence on it. It's a great way to communicate with the celebs not only local but very much also the international ones, and the brands, knowing that their profiles and pages have been 'authenticated' by Sina Weibo itself. Besides that, Fashion brands are now using this channel very actively, luring the followers with attractive promotions (example: first 1000 people to like a post get free keyring or some discount of products of a brand), plus brands are now using big attractive images, directing the audience straight to their e-commerce website through a link posted next to these images. Not to forget that the communication done in the Chinese language with the hashtags in Chinese can promise a super engagement; it is rather proven that the opinions expressed on this network influence heavily the purchasing decisions of the viewers.
Perhaps, this name doesnt ring a bell amongst the foreign audience, does it? Qzone is the country's biggest and the oldest social sharing website. Reported to have surpassed around 600 million registered users recently, Qzone gives a whole 360 degree coverage, going beyond the boundaries of big cities and reaching out to more remote users. The platform is still a virgin to the Fashion brand influences but can be a big opportunity as the brands can develop and innovate profiles and pages on this network, even create their own 'microsites'. To create a profile is free, however, to create an authenticated brand page might come with a fee and some paperwork.
A microblogging service simlar to Sina Weibo, Tencent records for around 540 million registed users, today, but the appeal is more in the 2° and 3° tier cities, rather than the big ones. Also an opportunity for the brands, as many of them are looking at these secondary adn tertiary regions to exapnd.
Other than the ones already mentioned, there is Renren, which is more popular amongst the university crowd, but expanding to a more adult audience. This platform can be a good play for the brand targetting a young audience but so far, it hasn't been an influencer in terms of branding and promotions to appeal the crowd. Then, the very used one today, is Wechat, where can also be found some brand's or celebrity 'pages', authenticated but the limit of it being only usable on a smartphone or i-pad makes it less appealing or influecing at all. There is also a log-in from computer but with very limited features. However, with Wechat brininging Lionel Messi as one of the 'testimonials', seems that Wechat rather has a nig strategy in mind. Youku, the local alternative of the international Youtube, can also be counted in this list, only that it is more sort of a channel to watch movies and also due to the 'piracy' issue, it's been kept a watch at and still has to grow better in terms of Fashion brands posting back stage videos and such.
Taiwan operates in a slightly different way. The social circles are more extended, foreign networks are used quiet often and the communication in English is very welcomed. Hence, the list goes like this:
Undoubtedly, a hit. Facebook is a widely used channel in Taiwan and the brand updates are closely followed, exactly like in the rest of the world. However, it has more of a Taiwan student-base, rather than a wider age-range.
To remain somewhat true to also their local roots, Taiwanese came up with this social media network, operating in three languages - Chinese, English and Indonesian. The platform is nothing but an additional but local alternative of Facebook with the features almost the same, photo-sharing and such but hasn't been conquered by the Fashion brands yet. Very surprisingly (or not), this network is forbidden to be used in China, hence, the coverage or the importance remains very limited.
Not as widely used in Taiwan as one would think, but Sina Weibo is a great way for the Taiwanese local celebrities to gain a much higher popularity also in China, hence, can be found many important Taiwanese personalities, having their own authentic pages/profiles on this channel. But other than that, the potential of the usage of this network remains low with the local Taiwanese people, in general.
An additional and very interesting point raised here by our analysts is that to do a big promotion in Taiwan, and to come in the notice of a large audience, the best way is to collaborate with a TV program. With the programs like "Nu Ren Wo Zui Da", the brands and celebs are making a round, where a lot of celebs are invited and the brands they wear are demonstrated at the end of the show.
Much like Taiwan, Facebook is a hugely and very widely used network in Hong Kong, more than any home-grown ones. The culture in this country is very 'Westernized' and it is rather very common to find English as the language on the street, people adoring and wearing very peculiar Western labels, and browsing this social media network to keep an eye on the new updates by the brands. The popularity of this channel is only growing, hence, the brand's really need to keep the communication localized and on-going, time-to-time.
The same trick as Taiwan. Sina Weibo invites a lot of local celebrities to have a page on it. A very win-win strategy for both sides. Due to such a situation, the traffic coming from Hong Kong, on Sina Weibo is increasing each day and, yet again, it can be a very interesting strategy to involve the key celebs and influencers promote a brand's products on their pages.
Besides these, Youtube and Twitter are also hugely used, however, due to a fragmented social media audience, that often gets divided up between the American channels and the mainland replicas, these social networks experience a rather slow growth in traffic than the others. Instagram is also starting to get popular, however, it is supposed to take its time before it completely revolutionizes the photo-sharing activities of the Cantonese audience.
The market is vast, the opportunities are huge. The only way to be successful is to break-through the local audience, make the right communication and reach a wider audience, rather than just a few niche ones!