The Chinese take on Pinterest

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New Chinese social media sites have long been inspired by popular sites and trends from the West, such as Facebook’s distant cousin Renren and Twitter’s brother Sina Weibo.  It is no surprise then that they have embraced Pinterest with both arms.

Rather than just creating direct clones of the site, they have been inspired by the image-heavy, ‘waterfall-like’ layout (the Chinese describe the dynamic grid as ‘Pubuliu’, meaning ‘waterfall stream’), creating new sites that use this layout but add different features or use it in different ways to Pinterest. We’ve found over 30 Chinese Pinterest variants (and we reckon the number is growing); here are a selection of the most interesting ones.

Chinese pinterest sites
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General interest sites

Huaban (meaning ‘Petal’) and Pinfun (no translation needed; even the logo looks familiar)

These sites closely emulate Pinterest , with users collecting, pinning and sharing images, video clips (Huaban) and gif files (Pinfun) of interest.  However, the content is mainly related to Chinese culture, such as upcoming Chinese festivity, popular Chinese stars, food and scenery in China.  Pinfun also has a link called ‘Pandora’, linking merchandise images to the online shopping website Taobao.

Food-specific sites

Meishixing (meaning ‘Gourmet Journey’) and LSKong (‘Lingshi’ means ‘Snacks’; ‘Kong’ means ‘Control’)

Meishixing allows users to share pictures of restaurant dishes they’ve eaten and liked, and ones that make them drool.  Click on the images and the restaurant name and its Google Map location are displayed.  Foodies can browse images according to cities in China; so far there are 38, and likely to increase.  LSKong focuses on snacks, finger food, tea, wine and Chinese medicinal drinks.  What makes LSKong different is its focus on each user’s profile page.  Like Facebook’s profile timeline feature, user’s ID page displays pictures and comments on their snacks; this invites other nibblers to comment on your discoveries too.

Fashion-based sites

Faxian

Early in March 2012 Alibaba Group launched their social shopping website Faxian (meaning ‘Discovery’) beta version.  Specifically targeted at female users, the site allows fashionistas to share and comment on items on virtual pin boards.  By clicking on images it also allows users to purchase items on Taobao.

Mogujie (meaning ‘Mushroom Street’)

Finally, we should look at the growing success of Mogujie (meaning ‘Mushroom Street’), launched in 2010.  The founder Chen Qi developed the concept of combining online shopping and web forums in 2008 by first experimenting with a cosmetics community website his wife was using.  He discovered that users are often unsure of what to buy and which products are stylish, or suitable to them.   Mogujie was already popular amongst females aged 18 to 25 (hence the site’s cutesy mushroom mascot), but when the site incorporated Pinterest’s visually attractive, image-heavy ‘waterfall’ layout, its number of daily visitors soared.  Since last December there were 400,000 registered fashionistas, and 120,000 daily visitors.

Mogujie has a rigorous user registration process; not only do you have to register your name and date of birth, you can add details of your height, weight, skin condition, shoe size and vital statistics. Like LSKong’s focus on profile pages, popular users become models showing everyone what and how they dress (like the UK site What I Wore Today), and provide fashion guidance to her followers.  There are pages dedicated to fashion brands, such as Topshop, Zara and H&M, and the items all link to the relevant pages on Taobao.

Mogujie is also not only about materialism.  During the Chinese Valentine’s Day (the 7th day in July according to the lunar calendar), the site set up a forum for single ladies spilling out their singleton woes, which became hugely popular and only adds to the site’s financial success.

Chen Qi is quick to point out that apart from the ‘waterfall’ layout, Mogujie is different from Pinterest in content and community management style. It is still early stages to decide which of the few Chinese Pinterest variants are here to stay, but we know that to copy like for like will not be sustainable.

Social media case study: Dettol in China

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Brands and businesses are trying, more and more, to engage Chinese audiences online, particularly consumer and FMCG brands.

Recently, Reckitt Benckiser cleaning and disinfectant brand Dettol carried out a social media campaign in China to demonstrate that influencer marketing and word-of-mouth can be successful not just for the likes of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, but also for more mundane, household brands that appear in weekly shopping baskets.

The campaign helped to increase sales of Dettol products in Nanjing by 86% in comparison to the pre-campaign average.

Here’s a quick case study overview of Dettol’s social media/word of mouth campaign in China:

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China: the most valuable social commerce market in the world?

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A new report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) claims that China could become the world’s most valuable e-commerce market within four years.

BCG claim that for the foreseeable future another 30 million Chinese people will go online to shop for the first time and by 2015 they will each be spending $1,000 a year—about what Americans spend online now.

BCG has also calculated that e-commerce could rise from 3.3% of China’s retail sales today to 7.4% by 2015. This is not just because the government subsidised high speed internet aids online shopping, but also because China’s has an expensive, inefficient ‘bricks-and-mortar‘ retail ecosystem and so a quarter of Chinese shoppers seek products online because they are not physically available in-store.

The rise in value of  e-commerce in China could also impact the social commerce market as Chinese e-shoppers are big users of social media.

As Chinese shoppers are somewhat reticent to trust sellers or advertising messages they turn to online customer reviews to form their opinions and according to BCG, over 40% of Chinese online shoppers read and post product reviews online. This is twice as likely as American online shoppers and four times as likely as Indians.

So what should retailers do to take advantage of the growing social and e-commerce market space in China?

Aside from considering the value of an e-commerce presence in Chinese, brands would do well to secure their presence on sites like Sina Weibo - a Chinese social networking site with over 200 million registered users - or other Chinese social networking sites like Tencent WeiBo or Ren Ren.

Retailers may also want to think about how to start engaging Chinese audiences online, not just in terms of where to engage them, but how to engage them in the context of a wider brand and social media strategy.

And as China is accountable for a large share of  share of mobile social media revenue at the moment, it seems that China could lead to some interesting new online revenue streams in terms of both e-commere and social commerce, as well as mobile shopping.

You can read the full BCG report here.

Why you should secure your brand name on China’s Twitter, Sina Weibo

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China has the biggest market for social networks in the world. Restrictions by the Chinese government has caused several western social networks (e.g. Facebook) difficulty from entering the market, while naitve platforms have thrived. One of these is Sina Weibo, a microblogging service or, as many call it, ‘China’s Twitter’.

Why register an account on Sina Weibo?

Businesses who have brands operating in China, or who are planning to enter the Chinese market(s), should capitalise on the opportunity to protect their brand by ensuring they are properly registered before someone snaps up their name. Sina Weibo is growing quickly and the microblogging platform has recently surpassed 200 million users.

How to secure your brand name

Sadly, Sina Weibo can be a little impenetrable for western eyes. The language barrier has rendered the sign-up process less than UK user-friendly. We thought it would be helpful to take you through the registration process, step-by-step so you can make sure your brand is protected, even if you have no plans to invest in the market quite yet.

Creating an account on Sina Weibo
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‘Geilivable’ brands: engaging Chinese audiences online

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Image courtesy of wangruwei

Social media competition in China is beginning to heat up. Facebook and Groupon are looking at engaging the Chinese market as soon as possible and it looks like 2011 will be the pivotal year for Chinese social media.

As Chinese networks emerge and develop, it’s crucial to protect your brand and develop your presence among Chinese ‘netizens’*:

1. Develop your brand strategy

Think about how you want your brand to be perceived online in China. It’s possible that when you take your brand to China, or develop an extant brand image in that market space, you’ll want to be perceived somewhat differently than in European or American markets.

Capitalise on your similarities, differences and novelties. Look at what other brands have been doing and are currently doing and see what lessons can be learned from successes and mistakes.

2. Start monitoring Chinese Internet trends

  • Baidu, which holds about 76% of the Chinese search market, looks set to aggressively expand its social services profile  (and has made a start with its Baidu Beat English service).
  • ChinaSmack is  great for monitoring Chinese Internet vocabulary, Internet memes and viral videos – one recent meme involves punning on the word ‘GeiLi’ (‘Gives power’). Something that is ‘Geilivable’ is cool or great.

3. Protect your brand’s trademarks

If somebody is posting as your brand on social networking sites, you want it to be you. Protect your trademarks by registering now on the most popular networks:

  • Tencent WeiBo - China’s leading microblogging service with over 100 million registered members.
  • Sina WeiBo - China’s second microblogging service with an official reach of over  50 million members.
  • Ren Ren - Positioning itself as China’s answer to Facebook with over 22 million active users.
  • TuDou - China’s leading video service ranked 11th in China’s traffic rankings according to Alexa.

4. Create a brand persona to engage on Chinese forums and blogs

Like online communities in Europe and the US, Chinese ‘netizens’ love to engage. Find ways to make your brand fun and interesting. Create interesting pictures, videos and interactive content and present it to Chinese communities.

5. Assess the content you use to engage

Don’t be afraid to engage. At the same time, be wary of the risks of some forms of content. Avoid politics, overt sexuality and extreme violence. These are themes that can put you on a wrong footing with the Chinese authorities and Chinese ‘netizens’. Instead, look for ways to associate your brand with fun, happiness, good-living and either China or the West depending on the brand image you’re aiming for.

6. Use the offline world to help engage online

Thousands of Internet-savvy Chinese students flock to the UK, the rest of Europe and the US each year. Find ways to engage with them offline and you’ll reap the benefits online as they engage with online Chinese communities.

*A ‘netizen’ is a commonly used translation of ‘网民’ (lit. ‘Net People’)