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You have an excellent product/service that you want to introduce to China and you have no idea about the marketing channels available for the country. Now, what do you do about it?

A common reaction would be to go to China — to be there physically, rent an office and recruit some local staff (which is no longer cheap).

This could definitely work — only if you have millions of euros ready to be spent. To help you deal with the new market realms of China, we have prepared a list of online marketing channels to help you get started immediately.

How to tap into Chinese market: the complete list of online marketing channels in China

But before you book your flight to China, it won’t hurt to know the following facts about the second largest economy in the world:

  1. There are 650 million of internet users in China, among which 86% use the internet on their mobile devices (2014);
  2. China is the largest e-commerce market in the world, with an e-tailing volume of over 500 billion USD in 2015 alone;
  3. Chinese online consumers find their way to foreign products through either C2C channels or B2C platforms. In 2013, 18 million Chinese consumers bought products online from overseas, with a total value of approximately USD 35 billion.

Impressed? Well, if you want to reach this massive number of Chinese consumers and become part of these fancy figures, you have to establish a strong online presence for yourself in China.

First things first: localize your website

To exploit market opportunities in China, you have to get local. Here are a few things you need to pay attention to when localizing your fancy website:

  • Language

It is a universally-acknowledged fact that people in China speak Chinese. But not everybody is heeding this simple fact. If you want to sell your products or services in China, get your company a website with content written by native Chinese speakers, preferably those who are born and raised in the country.

  • Domain 

Don’t expect the average Chinese to remember your lengthy English, Dutch, German or French domains such as jassenvannederland.com . The combination of those Latin letters doesn’t really mean anything to us. So if you are serious about developing your business in China, it’s highly recommended to get a domain that is short and sweet or even a Sinified one.

  • Hosting

Thanks to the Chinese government’s “Great Firewall” initiative, which screens all the websites hosted overseas, loading foreign websites from China can be tremendously slow or simply impossible. As a result, the local search engines are often unable to obtain the contents from your websites properly. The solution is simple: find a local host for your Chinese website.

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SEO: Go learn everything about Baidu

Search engines are always one of your largest sources of traffic. SEO in China works in similar ways to SEO in Europe. The only difference lies in the language and the specific sites involved.

You will have to familiar yourself with the kind of keywords that Chinese customers tend to put in the search boxes, as well as the algorithm that Baidu, the largest search engine in China, uses, which might be different from what you have learned about Google.

Another helpful fact is that, within Baidu, there are quite a few different sections, i.e. Tieba ( the Chinese equivalent of Reddit), Zhidao (of yahoo answers), Jingyan (of wiki how), Wenku (of SlideShare), Baike (of Wikipedia); the list goes on and on. Posting on these platforms can greatly increase your publicity, and in some cases, credibility.

The Chinese online marketing channels you can use

Facebook, Twitter, Google+ are not available in China, but we have our local social media:

  • WeChat

WeChat has half a billion users, which makes it the 2nd largest traffic source after search engines. Unlike Whatsapp, which only serves as an instant messaging app, WeChat has a variety of features similar to that of Facebook, Paypal, Uber, etc. Please check out my article here about how to navigate WeChat to promote your business in China.

  • Weibo

Chinese equivalent of Twitter

  • Blogging

Sina blog being the most popular one

  • Online forums (webinars)

Companies could always consider setting up an online forum of their own. The cost could be high, but so could the reward be.

  • Video media

Video marketing is expected to have another boom in 2016. Youtube is banned in China as well, in its place are Youku, Tudou, Iqiyi, Sohu, Letv, etc.

  • Additional channels

There is 36kr.com, a news forum targeting internet entrepreneurs and investors; toutiao.com, a news outlet occupying high market shares in the mobile news; and there are another large news platform like sohu.com, tencent.com, sina.com, which have a wide network all over China but outshine other news outlets due to their regional news sections. It can be helpful to work with them when you have a region-specific marketing strategy.

Where to create buzz for your brand

Apple and Samsung routinely pay people to create online discussions around products they are about to launch. Uber has very few advertisements in airports or on TV programs, but you’d be surprised how many people in China talk about it.

These companies are successful in part due to their strong presence in online communities in China. And here is a list of the major ones you must be aware of.

First off, the general ones: tianya.cn, mop.com, douban.com and zhihu.com.

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And then there are the industry specific ones:

If you would like to have an exhaustive list of sites related to industry and make smart plans accordingly, feel free contact Goglo, one of the marketing channels specializing in the Chinese local market.

Last but not least, groups on social networking sites/services such as WeChat, Douban and Kaixin.

Once you have identified the target customers, go and find these groups, where you can post your content. The key here is to maintain good relations the group admin. Try to avoid any hard advertisements, since they are generally a turn-off and can even get your blacklisted.

Content is key, and so is networking

Quality content interests and engages the audience, while networks can help you connect with an otherwise exclusive target group easily. But keep in mind that maintaining a network requires financial investments as well as a solid knowledge base of how to socialize and publicize in a way that resonates with the locals. 

Are you considering going into the Chinese market? What tips have you already considered? Did you find these marketing channels useful? Let us know in the comment sections below.

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