Due to the Great Firewall, Chinese people have limited access to learn about companies operating outside of China. For this reason, having a social media presence is essential for building brand awareness and letting people find you.
Furthermore, the pandemic accelerated a shift toward digital interaction between business and people, there are more business deals started with social media, with WeChat as a predominant channel.
According to Accenture, around 88% of B2B deals start online, and 75% of B2B brands use social media as their main promotional channel.
B2B businesses are different from consumer businesses in nature, and so are their social media strategy and platform choice. Choosing the right social media platform is especially important for B2B brands, which have a narrower target market. Fortunately, there is a select number of social media platforms that are suitable for B2B brands to choose from.
Without further ado, these are the top four social media platforms we recommend for B2B businesses to start their social media efforts in China.
4 social media platforms for B2B brands
WeChat – The “must-have”
No Chinese social media list would be complete without WeChat. With 1.2+ billion daily active users, this giant is a must-have in nearly any marketing strategy in China. There are many functions within WeChat that you can leverage as a business.
A WeChat Official Account, or OA, as it’s often abbreviated, is a company’s official profile within the app. In it, you can grow a follower base, share content updates, send notifications, or provide customer service depending on the type of account you have (Subscription, Service, or Enterprise).
A strong WeChat B2B marketing strategy will be essential in your China expansion as your WeChat OA will largely replace a website, serving as a one-stop platform to inform followers and a hub to manage existing or potential clients and generate or identify leads.
Use WeChat to:
Set up WeChat Official Accounts (subscription or service account).
Leverage other marketing channels (events, websites, blogs, KOLs) to direct traffic and grow followers.
Encourage your sales rep to share content in their network.
Post valuable content (and videos) that’s relevant to your audience.
Support sales & provide customer service with WeCom (WeChat for business).
Zhihu – Quora of China
Zhihu is a forum-style social media platform where users post questions and get replies from other users, similar to Quora or Reddit.
You can use Zhihu to respond to industry-related questions and provide real value to users looking for solutions. The key here is to educate and inform — not sell. The demographic of Zhihu skews towards educated and middle-class white-collar users who want authentic and detailed responses to the questions they pose. Crafting such responses can allow brands and KOLs to build high levels of trust with users on Zhihu. People who follow the question (like those who replied before you) will get notified of your answer. Plus, anyone who searches for the question will continue to see your answers in the future. You can also add external links to your answer with an additional paid function known as Zhi Plus.
Another benefit of Zhihu is that questions (and therefore, answers) posted on the platform often have high rankings on the Baidu search engine once your replies are regarded as high quality. So, make sure you carefully craft your responses or invite other KOLs to provide high-quality answers for the extra SEO benefit.
In addition, Zhihu is a great campaign amplification platform for product launch and brand events with a handful of KOLs (influencers) to choose from to generate buzz for your campaigns.
Use Zhihu to:
Post educational content as an additional content distribution channel.
Frequently answer questions under relevant topics and link to your company website.
Amplify your communications campaigns by creating topics and partnering with KOLs.
Sina Weibo – Complement to WeChat
Sina Weibo is a microblogging platform, similar to Twitter. On Sina Weibo, you can share updates with up to nine images, react to others’ posts with different emojis, do live streams, and follow/be followed by other users. There’s also a story feature that’s similar to IG stories and a messaging feature for private chats.
Sina Weibo is all about user-generated content and has the potential for virality, so KOLs use this platform a lot to build their personal brand. As a B2B company, you can use the platform to reach new people who are not yet familiar with your company And you can use it as a means to connect with other companies and KOLs as well.
Today, more people agree that Sina Weibo is all but a good complement to WeChat because it is built on an open ecosystem (as opposed to the closed ecosystem of WeChat).
Use Sina Weibo to:
Send short company updates and increase brand exposure.
Interact with followers and other relevant accounts.
Post articles and use your Sina Weibo account as an additional content distribution channel.
Bilibili – Youtube of China
Bilibili is a rising video-sharing platform based on user-generated content, similar to Youtube. Usually stylized as bilibili, this is one of the most engaged social media platforms in China.
For Chinese users, Bilibili is not only a video platform but also a community that gives you the opportunity to socialize with other viewers and creators. More importantly, over 60% of users are Gen Z, so Bilibili is an ideal social media channel for any brand that wants to reach a younger audience.
Similar to Zhihu, the content on Bilibili is also SEO-friendly. So your video content can provide double value for your exposure — within Bilibili and in search engines.
Especially in recent years, Bilibili has been increasingly compared with Youtube because of its growing popularity. The content on Bilibili also tends to be more educational and practical, similar to Youtube.
Use Bilibili to:
Post long-form videos like product demos and webinars.
Promote your employer branding among college graduates.
Post educational articles under its content column.
Partner with KOLs to co-create promotional videos.
Douyin — the Chinese Tiktok
Douyin is a growing platform with the potential to reach a broad audience and give you extra exposure in a relatively short period of time. However, most users come to the platform for entertainment and it may not be the most suitable network for B2B brands.
The short clips (usually 10-30 seconds long), trendy music, and popular topics don’t lend themselves well for business development in many cases. Some of the users that have successfully adopted Douyin are consumer brands (including luxury products like Gucci) and influencers or content creators.
As a B2B brand, you have to truly consider whether your target audience will spend time on Douyin for the purpose of doing business. In most cases, the other networks mentioned above will likely yield better results.
To summarize, your choice of social media platforms for a B2B marketing strategy in China will largely depend on your objectives and where your potential audience already spends time. While many brands feel tempted to use every available platform, you must remember that achieving healthy organic growth and nurturing a qualified audience on each platform will require a dedicated strategy for the best possible results. So it pays to consider early on whether you have the resources for a long-term strategy on each platform — and whether that’s the best use of your resources, to begin with. Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be better equipped to decide if you should target one or two platforms or strive to have a presence in all of them.
Tips for growing your social media in China
1. Set up dedicated resources to support social media growth
A common challenge we see companies face is that they launch a channel before they have a well though-out plan for each platform. This could be due to the lack of a dedicated content team or simply underestimating the resources needed to support the growth of each social media platform.
Whatever the case might be, you will need to think about the resources you need to support the social media activities for each platform to fully capitalize on its power, whether it's setting up a dedicated team to create content tailor-made for your Chinese audience, or hiring a social media agency to manage these channels.
In addition, video channels like Bilibili and WeChat videos (or Douyin for some B2B companies) typically require more resources as the process involves video editing, story scriptwriting, and video production. So make sure you have planned for these resources before openning an account.
After all, you don’t want to set up an account and just leave it there, which may easily lead to your audience questioning if your business is still operating.
2. Content is the sharpest weapon for B2B social media
In this overly-communicated market, content is the sharpest weapon that can earn you a share of your prospect’s mind. Once you start a social media channel, you want to post consistently and provide value to your followers so they’ll be interested and stay around.
To figure out what to post, think about what's valuable for your followers or potential followers instead of focusing on self-promotion. Now more than ever, B2B decision-makers are educated and conduct research before reaching a decision, so simply selling them your solution isn’t enough.
Instead, share relevant tips, industry insights, and other high-value content that’s relevant to your audience’s needs and can genuinely solve a customer pain point, instead of just focusing on self-promotion. That way, you’ll build trust and establish yourself as a resource — one they will come to when it’s time to buy.
3. Let real people speak for your B2B brand on social media
People buy from people. And most importantly, they buy from people they trust. So whenever possible, give your business a face.
How do you do this? By leveraging your employees as subject matter experts (SMEs) to share their insights and industry knowledge. We’ve constantly seen companies encourage their staff to develop their personal brand, especially on platforms like LinkedIn. This creates win-win situations where employees feel heard and establish authority on their own at the same time as brands earn advocates and are better able to demonstrate their capabilities.
Another route many companies, especially B2B, take is having the CEO establish a personal social media presence and position the CEO as a thought leader in the industry. B2B CEOs can use social media to give their company a human, more approachable face. However, this is often recommended based on a thorough evaluation of the CEO’s personal/professional background and dedicated resources will be needed to support the social profiling endeavor.
B2B social media is essential for establishing brand presence in China, but you don’t have to be on all of them
Unlike B2C brands, the social media platforms for B2B companies are limited. Although brands can choose to build a presence on all of these platforms, understanding that it costs dedicated time and resources to support the content for each platform will help you make a wiser decision. For some brands, a better strategy is just to promote their business through KOLs and partner accounts.
B2B brands should evaluate which platforms are more suitable to them based on the available resources and prioritize one over another. At the bare minimum, WeChat is a platform that every B2B company should focus on.
Tribe China develops integrated, high-impact PR programs and social media strategies that communicate your business values to your customers in China. Book a consultation now to learn about how we can partner with you.