Whether or not you have any of the emerging markets in your business growth plan right now, we can assume that, as you grow, they will appear on your horizon at some point.
For most brands, when that day arrives, it comes with a shock, and one that will feel familiar to any business more than about 10 years old.
All of us in the UK have grasped the importance of monitoring social media for mentions of our brand, our competitors brands and news from our wider marketplaces such as fashion, jewellery, food & drink or wherever we operate.
At the start we were probably a little disappointed at the number of mentions each of us got. Then we grew wise to the conversations our customers were having about us and, like nervous arrivals at a cocktail party, we learnt to move ourselves into these conversations in a way that didn’t upset the very people who started them.
As social media grew we also spotted the emergence of social media channels as a port of call for disgruntled customers. The modern day consumer is highly marketing savvy and understands the power of complaining in public (in a way most of them would never do face to face!).
We adapted our customer service channels, adopted a more transparent approach to customer service and learnt the nuances of each new platform to arrive.
From LinkedIn to Facebook, from Twitter to Pinterest and from Instagram to Snapchat we discovered the nuances of each platform, but also how similar the conversations about a given brand were on each.
But there are a few platforms we bet you have little contact with, even though your brand is being discussed on them.
You may have heard of Qzone, the different flavours of Weibo, and WeChat, but how much of what goes on on them are you aware of in the UK?
The numbers in involved on each of these platforms are immense.
To put that in perspective, the number of combined users across these three platforms is nearly equivalent to Facebook’s entire global user base.
In one language.
In one country.
A country that is the fastest growing producer of tourists on the world. Who come to the UK, and talk about their experience of your brand.
What to do about it
Fortunately the strategies are largely similar to those you’re familiar with on Twitter, Facebook and other Western Platforms.
– Set up monitoring processes: If you’re mostly exporting form the UK, dealing via distributors or are at any stage prior to having local marketing resource, you may be setting this up from scratch.
If not and you’re an international or multinational business with local resource, be sure that your UK business is able to access the monitoring of brand mentions, and try to identify mentions which relate to UK-based consumers.
Chinese students, expats and tourists will continue to use the same platforms whilst away from home in the same way as westerners do as they travel.
– Protect your IP: Make sure that you have trademarks, verified social media accounts and domain names in place. As social mentions increase, “entrepreneurs” will attempt to secure and subvert them ahead of you. 18 months is not an uncommon time-frame to secure and clean up counterfeit accounts, so a little time spent now will make huge savings later on.
– Create an online point of focus for your brand: If you don’t yet have a Chinese Website in place, it’s worth getting something very basic in place that your social accounts can direct back to, promote your official social media accounts, and direct customer service questions to the correct channel.
– Check brands for cultural fit, and secure domain names: This needs a closer look at your Chinese domain name and a sense check from a Mandarin and Cantonese speaker as to whether your name makes sense or has negative connotations in Chinese.
Don’t get caught out like Coca Cola. Phonetically, this sounds like “bite the wax tadpole”, so they made efforts to change the pronunciation to “kekou kele” which means “let your mouth rejoice”.
Pepsi Cola’s slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” was famously translated locally as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”.
We’ll leave you to read Wikipedia on how IKEA slipped up!
Where to start
The steps above are no more difficult than they are in the UK, although the speed of paperwork for trademarks and domain names is about on a par with what you’d expect for a centrally planned economy.
They do need some local representation and certainly some language skills though so if these don’t exist in your company, then certainly talk to us about getting started putting these essential brand safeguards in place.