Digital advertising in China is continuously evolving, with rapid advancements in technology and widespread internet penetration. As of 2023, China has the largest online population globally, with over 900 million internet users. This staggering number presents immense potential for businesses to connect with their customers through digital advertising channels.
The Internet has been changing Chinese people’s way of living as well as doing business dramatically. For businesses who want to increase their visibility in the Chinese market, a well-thought digital marketing strategy can do miracles. In this article, we will introduce top online marketing platforms which may contribute to your success in the Chinese market.
Top Channels of China Digital Advertising
Baidu: Search Engine Advertising in China
Baidu engages in providing internet search and online marketing solutions. As the second largest search engine in the world and the largest search engine in China, in 2020, Baidu held over 80% market share in both China’s PC and mobile search engine markets.
Baidu is the first choice of many enterprises in China for online marketing and the most popular marketing method is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Through SEO, a company’s website can obtain a higher ranking in search results thus gaining more traffic. SEO keyword optimization is a very important strategy in SEO marketing. Keyword optimization refers to optimizing keywords selection and typesetting of the website so as to gain a favorable position in the search engine results of relevant keywords. When a user inputs a keyword and clicks “search” on Baidu, the search results they get usually display 15 items on one page. The Top 5 are paid ads (SEM) managed by Baidu and ranking of the following 10 is based on their SEO keywords. Compared with SEM, SEO has a more long-lasting effect, which is favored by more enterprises in China.
WeChat: All-in-One Social Media and Messaging App
WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app. First released in 2011, it has become the largest social media platform in China with a monthly user base of more than 1 billion people. WeChat offers much more than messaging and it has been described as China’s “app for everything” and a “super app” because of its wide range of functions. Foreign businesses interested in reaching Chinese audiences should take care to familiarize themselves with features that can be used to promote their business.
Moments: It is a WeChat function where you can post messages in text, image or video formats to share with all your WeChat friends. If you have added your clients as your WeChat friends, Moments can be a good place to promote your company or your products.
WeChat Public Account: A WeChat Public Account can be registered as an individual or an enterprise. If registered as an enterprise, the account needs to pass the enterprise verification by WeChat. Through the WeChat Public Account, the operator can post articles which can be forwarded by audience to their personal chats, group chats and Moments. Data released by WeChat shows that articles published on WeChat Official Accounts have over 360 million readers in total every day.
WeChat Mini Programs: WeChat is described as a “super app” because it almost covers every aspect of people’s life. It is a one-stop shop for its users. Many companies choose to launch mini programs within WeChat instead of a standalone app. The mini programs allow businesses to send promotional messages directly to the user via WeChat, and daily active users of WeChat Mini Programs is over 400 million.
Channels: WeChat Channels is a new short video platform within WeChat that lets users create and share short video clips. The WeChat Channel can be linked to an Official Account and it enables a user who discovers your Channel to become a follower of your Official Account. In addition to posting promotional videos, you can also host a live seminar on a WeChat Channel. Live broadcasting is currently one of the most popular ways of promoting online sales in China.
Weibo: Microblogging and Social Media Platform
Weibo, with the literal meaning of “microblog” in Chinese, is one of the largest social media platforms in China. Similar to Twitter, it is an open network where users can see posts from everyone without following them. It is simpler to build visibility and brand awareness in this environment. On Weibo, you can create micro-blogs, send messages, follow KOLs, find the latest trends, and market your brand by integrating with e-commerce through external links.
Weibo provides a platform where you can interact with your audience and your community via many internal functions, like video sharing and live streaming. In fact, live streaming has become one of the most popular ways to attract followers. Many Internet celebrities help Taobao (one of the most-visited shopping platforms in China) suppliers sell goods through Weibo live broadcasts. Viya, one of the most famous ones, achieved annual sales of 31.09 billion yuan.
Weibo also has a program that allows brands to customize marketing strategies for their target market. The program offers advice based on users’ interests and stimulates greater quality interaction between brands and consumers.
Furthermore, you can use Weibo to advertise. Advertisements on Weibo are mainly shown on the homepage along with new posts, and Weibo allows a targeted approach through keywords searched by users. It gives you more chances to interact with potential consumers and get more followers.
Douyin and Kuaishou: Short Video Platforms
Both Douyin and Kuaishou are social media platforms for making and sharing short videos.
Douyin, owned by ByteDance, a Chinese technology company, is the most popular short video app in China, which has over 600 million daily active users. Douyin has an international version called Tik Tok and the two products have a similar interface but have no access to each other’s content.
As its slogan states, Douyin is focusing on “recording a delicate life” and its main users are in first-tier cities in China. Kuaishou, on the other hand, strives to build a platform for everyone to express themselves. Its users are more from three or four-tier cities.
In the first half of 2021, short videos acted as a major contributor to the usage time and traffic growth of mobile Internet. Data released in March 2021 showed that the average time users spent on short video apps was 125 minutes per day and 53.5% of short video app users watched short videos every day. Short videos and e-commerce are mutually reinforcing, and platforms such as Kuaishou and Douyin have become important battlefields of e-commerce.
Short Videos E-commerce: You can post a video to introduce your product and every video can add a purchase link. It is crucial that you make the video creative, interesting as well as instructional. Be sure to avoid starting to sell the product right at the beginning of the video, which may make the audience feel annoyed and leave.
Live Streaming E-commerce: You can choose to host a live-streaming session on your own or cooperate with KOLs (influencers). It is important to partner with the right person who will do a difference to your brand. For example, Austin Li, “the king of lipsticks” followed by more than 40 million people on Douyin, sold 15 thousand lipsticks in just 5 minutes.
As an additional marketing approach, you can also make use of paid ads on Douyin. Douyin can advertise to target users based on their gender, age, interests, location, occupation, phone operating system, and a lot more information, which is able to boost the effectiveness of advertisements.
Toutiao: AI-driven News and Content Platform
Toutiao (literally “Today’s Headlines”), is a Chinese news and information content platform owned by ByteDance. Toutiao is the core business platform of ByteDance and it uses artificial intelligence to create, aggregate, and distribute content according to the preferences, needs, and behavior of users. In 2020, users on Toutiao posted 650 million works and 3,081.2 billion minutes of videos, equivalent to 586,000 years. 43 billion likes in total were given to those published works. Toutiao is a great channel for content marketing and the common methods are as below:
First, you need to analyze the target group to find out what they are interested in and how to relate that to your products or services. Then you can create your content based on your target audience’s needs and package it in a smart way by integrating instructional information with advertisements. A high-quality advertorial sometimes can do miracles in bringing traffic.
Toutiao is one of the best Chinese apps for paid advertisements and is great for B2B companies as the audience is mostly working adults with university degrees. Based on its algorithm model, Toutiao places advertisements according to locations, time periods, users’ interests, etc. achieving a perfect integration of customized service with data analysis. Also, it keeps optimizing the effect of advertisements by analyzing the audience’s reaction.
Zhihu: Question-and-Answer Platform
Similar to Quora, Zhihu is a Chinese question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by the community of its users. As of Q2 2021, Zhihu’s monthly active users reached 94.3 million. Most of Zhihu’s users are young people aged 20-35, which is the golden age for knowledge acquisition and career development. Zhihu is a platform more suitable for niche industries.
To be successful on Zhihu, a contributor needs to be professional in one field. By answering specific questions related to your industry, you can raise your profile. Zhihu often appears in Baidu’s search results alongside the official website of a company. It helps to increase your e-reputation and to give authority to your brand.
Marketing tactics on Zhihu include creating hot topics to attract users to reply and share; inviting KOLs (influencers) to join your discussion to increase your brand awareness; giving high-quality answers to draw users’ attention and build their trust in your product or service etc.
Common FAQs regarding digital advertising in China?
Are there any regulatory challenges for digital advertising in China?
Yes, China has specific regulations for digital advertising, including data privacy and content restrictions. It’s important to ensure compliance with these regulations to avoid penalties or issues with your advertising campaigns.
Can I target specific audiences with digital advertising in China?
Yes, most digital advertising platforms in China offer targeting options based on demographics, interests, location, and more. This allows you to reach your desired audience effectively.
What are the key considerations for successful digital advertising campaigns in China?
Understanding your target audience, leveraging social commerce, utilizing video marketing and influencer collaborations, and staying up to date with emerging trends and technologies are crucial for successful digital advertising in China. Additionally, navigating regulatory challenges and adapting to the evolving digital landscape is essential for long-term success.
As digital advertising continues to evolve in China, staying ahead of the curve is vital for businesses aiming to thrive in this dynamic market. Embracing mobile advertising, harnessing the power of social commerce, leveraging programmatic advertising and AI, tapping into video marketing and influencer collaborations, understanding the target audience, and navigating regulatory challenges will be crucial elements for successful digital advertising campaigns in China in 2023 and beyond. By following this definitive guide, advertisers can unlock the immense potential and opportunities offered by China’s digital advertising landscape.
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