Juncheng Zhang

@junchengzhang

Why Chinese Companies Suck at User Engagement

December 24th 2018

Tech Opinions

I think I’ve just figured out why Chinese companies suck at user engagement (& community/brand building).

Here’s my story: I entered the blockchain space in China about a year ago with a specialty in social media marketing. I’ve advised multiple Chinese blockchain companies and hands-on grown one of them into an international community through content creatives and audience targeting. This job has made me understand exactly why some of the top blockchain companies coming out of China have miserably failed at building a truly engaging global community and an international brand.

But this job is not naturally suited to the Chinese market. While social media marketing has become more and more so popular and even necessary for business growth in the West, China’s social media marketing industry has barely taken off. The western social media marketing space has been growing along with the giant social media platforms the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, while its Chinese counterpart has only had some daring non-popular brands trying it out. In China, you have the form of “Weishang”, which is the use of Moments on WeChat, similar to Facebook’s timeline, to advertise goods only to your Friends. The use of WeChat Ads is very undervalued. It almost seems like the Chinese Internet users have a natural disposition to mock at those businesses using social media ads to invade their private Friend space. Only a handful of China’s recently emerging Internet popular communities are beginning their experiment, with unproven results.

This is in stark contrast to what’s already happening in the West. From Gary Vaynerchuck to Tai Lopez, the western social media marketing storm has swept through all of the big social media platforms, jump-starting a swarm of social media marketers in the not-so-fledgling western digital marketing industry. And these social media marketers are expert in their jobs. They know how to create funnels, how to design content creatives, and how to target the right audiences with ads. This has been the case for a couple of years and the industry is still on the climb. The rise has also fostered a culture of deep understanding of the market audiences and engaging the communities in right and meaningful ways with valuable content.

Content and value. That’s two words in social media marketing that Chinese businesses are still not familiar with. Especially in the blockchain industry where decentralized communities are of utmost importance to a blockchain business, the two components that make up the backbone of creating an influential community and a brand are only coming into the awareness of top blockchain businesses. The existing blockchain businesses still mostly produce content that only shows their product, which is essentially product sales content. In the age of user attention being the key to unlock potential sales, this kind of negative value offering to the users has to stop.

Remember that Casey Neistat’s Nike motivational commercial video? That just started everything. That semi-advertisement semi-motivational video opened up this new world of positive value offering to the users and positive value adding to the brand. The age-old taking value from the user and giving it to the product has become obsolete. It’s way too obvious for today’s audience. Nobody wants to watch an already over-advertised brand talking about how good their product is and trying hard to sell it to the customer. Create valuable, interesting, and educational content around your brand and people will come. Offer value and stop asking for value.

Even though this has been gradually made common knowledge in the social media marketing space by gurus like Gary Vaynerchuck, most Chinese businesses have remained unaware of such trends. This has made them cumbersome and unengaging when building an international user base. While the international audience has got used to the social-media-marketing type user engagement and content, the Chinese businesses are still using the “hey this is what product progress has been this past week” summary to introduce themselves. Duh…

Time to grow up.

I don’t want to talk about the language barrier aspect or the technicals of using a different social media platform. That could be an issue, but that’d be the superficial issue of what we are talking about today. The truth is: a whole school of young, aspiring Chinese Internet/blockchain businesses is failing to adapt to the fast-evolving marketing style in the global social media space. And they will soon lose their competitive edge if they do not master the game of social media marketing. While they’re still wondering how to grow an international community, they’ve already been outgrown by their American/European peers.

Connect with me on Twitter: @jc_zhang_
Email: daniel.jcheng.zhang@gmail.com

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More on my Chinese blockchain experience:
What I learned from having worked for 3 Chinese Blockchain Startups

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