If you thought brands in China were in any way behind their western counterparts when it comes to starting and influencing conversations on social media, think again.
Although without Twitter and Facebook, brands in China are reacting quickly, insightfully and creatively with the 140 characters permitted on China’s main platform, Sina Weibo.
Shared by thousands and in some cases tens of thousands, the posts below have reach similar to that of a small ad campaign. Their impact is arguably greater though, since the message is passed on by friends of the audience and carries with it the implicit brand endorsement that makes good social media marketing so powerful.
Top 10 Weibo Posts – Plus one bonus!
1. Although barred by Olympic regulators from creating overtly “Olympic” content, Nike still managed to create huge buzz on Weibo this summer with real-time “guerrila” commentary of Chinese athletes and their performances in London. Nike never directly mentioned the athletes or events, but with their mix of beautiful graphics and inspiring copy, everybody got the hint.
Minutes after gymnast Chen Yibing was denied a gold by what was regarded in China as an anti-China judge panel, Nike posted the below graphic. The copy could be translated as: “There’s no such thing as absolute fairness, only absolute greatness.”
This post, like many other perfectly-timed and insightful examples throughout the sporting event, was shared more than sixty thousand times.
2. A hot topic this year in China was “Single’s Day”– an occasion where online retailers slash their prices in a similar way to Black Friday in the US. As people discussed feverishly available deals and the $3 billion sold within one day on Taobao/Tmall, BMW got people talking with this mock ad for a “Single’s Edition” BMW 5 Series:
3. Brands in China fear few things more than the March 15th Consumer Day show on CCTV, China’s national broadcaster, which airs brand misdemeonours in front of audiences of hundred of millions.
And so when McDonald’s responded within just minutes of being accused of poor hygeine with a straightforward, no-bullshit Weibo statement, more than eighteen thousand shared, many in support. This support can be attributed to two things: a speedy response and pre-issue weibo brand-building so successful it led people to take the side of McDonald’s against CCTV.
4. Four minutes after Robin van Persie scored for Manchester United against his old club Arsenal, the people behind the club’s Weibo reacted with a great post: They wrote nothing, simply tagging a well-known account, @我的前任是极品, which could be translated as “My Ex is a Jerk.” Tapping in perfectly to anger over this alleged treachery, more than thirty thousand reposted in support.
5. When Weibo’s comment function was mysteriously blocked from March 31 to April 3–many believe due to political controversy at the time, Mini responded with this playful bit of subversion:
6. As winter came to an end in China, one of the country’s best-known writers, Han Han, was getting over an online spat with pop-science writer Fang Zhouzi. He’d been accused by Fang of employing a ghost writer. Unlike other controversies in China, there was no clear right or wrong–families, friends and offices were divided, with people identifying themselves as either 挺方 (with Fang) or 挺韩 (with Han).
Chinese online clothing store Vancl, which had been facing challenges of its own with top management departing and many doubting the company’s future, responded with the following post. They were standing behind Han Han, their controversial brand ambassador, and everybody knew that the copy –“Spring is here… we have nothing to fear” (trans.)–was a clever reference to the challenges facing both the brand and its spokesperson.
7. When a piece of copy or advertising visual is popular enough in China, a meme is created as brands and ordinary users create and share their own versions of the original. Disinfectant Bestguard was among the many brands that did their own take on the below ad, posting the following graphic and copy, which can be translated as: “Bacteria are here… we have nothing to fear.”
8. Burberry is as popular on Weibo as it is on Twitter and Facebook, and posting daily London weather reports gets people talking as much in China as it does in other parts of the world:
9. Less than half an hour after Obama beat Romney in the US Election, Durex came up with the below post. The copy, in case you’re wondering, reads: “The difference between Obama and Romney…”
10. Small companies are succeeding on weibo too. A memorable case this year was curiously-named florist “The Beast,” an independent store that tailors its bouquets based on details of the receiver collected from customers via its weibo. The Beast keeps its 100,000 fans engaged and drives sales with snippets as below, a story about an arrangement and its links with TV drama, Downton Abbey:
11. BONUS! It’s not just businesses getting creative on Weibo; China’s police built its brand after this post from Cuiyuan police station was shared by more than thirty thousand, who were touched and taken aback by this uncharacteristic display of humor:
Translation: A girl came in crying to report that she’d lost her purse. There wasn’t much cash in there, she said; it was that her boyfriend had just bought it for her last week… I asked her: Is it that you’re worried about what your boyfriend will say? This cute, confused girl nodded. At that point I decided… if her boyfriend leaves her over this I will ask her out.