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China marketers opting for simpler but less effective social strategies: Forrester report

Which social platforms are you currently using?

Source: Forrester’s Q4 2015 China Social Marketing Online Survey

Marketers in China are struggling to get their social media strategy right, and deploying social tactics that are easiest to roll out but effectively ignoring the ones that work best for them, a study by Forrester has indicated.

Almost three quarters of the 50 marketers in China surveyed said they use social media, and a similar percentage said they plan to increase spend on social in 2016, with most among that group saying their budget is likely to increase by 10-24 per cent.

But when asked to rate how satisfied they are with social media, Chinese marketers gave social a score of 3.28 out of five. For how happy they are with the tactics they use on social, respondents gave it a slightly higher score, of 3.56.

The two preferred social media tactics among China marketers are advertising on public forums and maintaining branded platforms, and although less than half of marketers surveyed have chosen these options, more than three quarters of those who did were very satisfied.

While online communities are expensive and complicated to manage, and require staff and technology resources, Forrester points to Spring Airlines and Xiaomi as examples of brands to have experienced “a very positive return on investment from their online communities.”

Although less than a third of marketers advertise on blogs, two thirds of those who do say they’re either satisfied or very satisfied with the outcome.

More than half of respondents say they advertise on social sites, but only half of that group are content with what they get for their spend.

Three quarters of those surveyed have branded social pages, and just under two-thirds of them say they’re satisfied or very satisfied.

“Setting up and maintaining a branded account on WeChat and Weibo is easy and inexpensive, so the ROI looks good and comes quickly — which is why most marketers adopt the tactic as their first social marketing step and feel good about it,” Forrester’s report reads.

Measurement is seen as the biggest challenge for marketers using social in China, followed by working out the best strategy to use.

Achieving a positive ROI is rated third in a list of the toughest challenges, then reaching the right target audience and integrating social with other channels.

Of the diverse ways marketers use social in China, maintaining a brand profile on social sites such as Weibo and Renren is by far the most popular, with 74 per cent of respondents saying they do this.

Running a blog is the next most popular social tactic (62 per cent), followed by advertising or sponsoring social sites (52 per cent), running a branded discussion forum or community (42 per cent), then using social media monitoring or listening tools (36 per cent).

WeChat is the most popular social media platform among marketers in China, followed by Weibo.

LinkedIn is the only Western platform to feature in the ranking, listing third, just ahead of YouKu, China’s equivalent of YouTube, which unlike LinkedIn is blocked in this market.

Forrester notes that LinkedIn entered China less than two years ago, and it is a “surprise” to see that 60 per cent of respondents use it, although the research firm points out that LinkedIn uses a Chinese name, LingYing, and has been investing in marketing the business social network locally.

WeChat scored highest among the social networks in terms of both adoption by marketers and their satisfaction with using it. The study indicated that WeChat was pushing out Weibo as the preferred social platform.

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