19th July 2010
Emergence of an active online sharing culture where 1 in 4 social media users ‘start something’ has significant implications for brands.
SHANGHAI, 15 JULY 2010 – As the social media scene in China continues to attract mindboggling user numbers, ever increasing marketing dollars and new business ventures, an irreversible cultural shift has occurred. Modern Chinese society is now bound by a new sense of connectedness that has been enabled and inspired by the internet. At the same time a profound new spirit of ‘sharing’ has emerged as the essence of netizens’ online lives.
The “OgilvyOne Connected” research in partnership with China Polling set out to unravel and reveal the fundamental changes that social media has had on how Chinese consumers connect with each other, how trust is built and how influence and word of mouth really travels.
SOME NETIZENS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
In the world of traditional offline marketing, a widely accepted practice is to focus on the 1-2% of consumers that are ‘fashion forward trendsetters’ in the anticipation that they will influence more consumers on the brand’s behalf.
But one of the most noteworthy and valuable findings of this research turns this notion on its head by demonstrating that in the ‘flatter’ world of social media, there is still a ‘cool group’ but it is much, much larger – comprising a whopping 26% of all Chinese social media users. These ‘Initiators’ are the bold 1 in 4 social media users that regularly start conversations, create content and publish their views and opinions online. They are also the fertile starting point for new ideas, services and products.
A further 29% of Chinese social media users are ‘Commenters’ – people who may not initiate, but who do react and comment on other people’s views. They are also the ‘accelerators’ of new ideas, giving them momentum and wider acceptance.
The largest group, comprising 45% of social media users, are ‘Gawkers’ who quietly browse, observe and look for entertaining ideas and brands that are already popular.
According to Chris Reitermann, President of OgilvyOne China & Ogilvy & Mather Group Shanghai, “In China, social media users are generally highly engaged with brands. They see brands and the discussion of them as an integral part of their ‘social network’. And with one in every four users ‘creating’ influence and waiting to be inspired, the economics of prioritizing and investing in the Initiators is more attractive than ever.”
… AND THEY SHARE DIFFERENTLY
Just as there are different types of social media users, the study also uncovered the different ways in which users in China connect with one another and pass along information and ideas. These behaviors can be can classified broadly into either ‘spontaneous’ sharing such as chat – which is more popular among Gawkers (89% vs. 75% of Initiators) – or ‘planned’ sharing such as posting product videos or making NEW friends online – which is much more common among Initiators (24% vs. 13% of Gawkers).
The challenge for brands is to effectively inspire and engage all three types of social media user, and to avoid prioritizing one group ahead of another while aiming to inspire both spontaneous and planned sharing.
WANNA BE ‘FRANDS’?
Notably the study also found that the days of clear lines of delineation between one activity and ‘life part’ and another are over. In a social media environment the distinction between brands and friends is blurred. One manifestation of this is that social media users are no longer discriminating between ‘brands’ and ‘friends’. They are simply identifying a third group that they can engage with – ‘frands’ – a new term coined in the report.
And what are netizens doing with their frands online? 71% are watching commercials on video sharing sites such as Youku, 51% are downloading branded applications to their phones, while 43% are ‘friending’ brands. 21% are even making and sharing videos about products or brands. Only a minority of consumers (24%) say they don’t want to interact with their favorite brands online.
Finally, the data also shows that social media users are generally highly desirable ‘alpha’ consumers because 74% prefer to pay more for quality and unique experiences, and 48% say they trust advertising and are very open to being persuaded to make impulse purchases. Clearly, engaging social media users through relevant online methods is high ROI marketing.
Reitermann adds, “Brand exposure and engagement are two different animals. With traditional media, being larger, broader and more salient was always the goal. With social media, what matters is the power with which each engagement draws users in and inspires them to share with others.”
SO HOW DO WE DO THAT?
• Provide consumers with content that stimulates a debate or dialogue and tools that encourage sharing and commenting.
• Have different messaging strategies and more sophisticated content for Initiators and Commenters. Let Gawkers ‘listen in’ on the conversation.
• Invite participation through formal programs and campaigns, and informally through tone and manner. Bigger is not necessarily better.
• Measure brand engagement, not just reach.
• Treat consumers like friends and equals.
About “OgilvyOne Connected”
From February to April 2010, China Polling administered online, self-completed questionnaires to Chinese social media website across 71 sites in different categories. Over 5,000 people completed the survey, of which, 1,519 were qualified samples (anyone who used social media sites the day before and those who completed the questionnaire in its entirety). Panelists were also drawn from random samplings on 12 major social media websites such as Kaixin, RenRen and others via advertising and from China Polling’s national panel of 400,000+ participants.
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