Chinese brands are investing in social networking sites to help them target their customers. Local platforms are, unsurprisingly, having more success than the international ones. The others aren't always accessible.

“Social marketing” is now finding its feet in China. Last month Adsit Media launched Weibo Manager, a tool designed to improve the tracking of promotional campaigns and optimise contacts with potential customers on Weibo, a Chinese micro-blogging site which is similar to Twitter. The software tool is intended help identify multiple or phantom accounts, and obtain better feedback on brand actions on social networking sites. This tool could prove crucial for a rapidly expanding market, given that Sina, Wiebo’s owner, has announced that the site passed the milestone of 200 million users in August. Companies will no doubt intensify their use of micro-blogging sites in the coming years, especially for the purpose of communicating with the consumer.

Social networks – a growing platform for communications

"Use of these platforms has spread very fast, encouraged by China’s major Internet portals such as Sina and Tencent", explains Benjamin Joffe, founder of +8* (Plus Eight Star) and an expert in the Asian digital market. "By contrast", he adds, "up to now companies have found it difficult to generate substantial advertising revenue on the other social networks such as Qzone, Pengyou and RenRen, which operate almost exclusively on the basis of online games and paid-for customised options". Chinese companies are focusing essentially on a booming local market, and show a lot less interest in trying to woo foreign customers.

Zero focus on foreign customers

This attitude is quite easy to explain, according to Dominique Jolly, Professor at the SKEMA Business School in France, and author of the book Ces entreprises qui font la Chine* (The companies that are building China). "International social networks such as Facebook, Wordpress and Twitter aren’t accessible here, except by using roundabout means which call for advanced IT skills", he explained to L'Atelier, concluding: "It’s therefore very difficult to reach non-Chinese audiences, and at the moment it’s just not worth the effort." Of course the situation isn’t static, and things could change, depending on the interests of investors and Chinese government policy.

*Published by Eyrolles