Real-time marketing is growing in popularity in China. See how brands like McDonald's, Durex and Xiaomi are using it on Weibo.

If you are a social network user in China, you would have seen the explosive response recently to Chinese celebrity Fan Bingbing announcing her relationship to fellow actor Li Chen, by posting two simple Chinese characters 我们 (Wo Men, meaning We / Us) to her Weibo account.

As one of China's most famous single ladies, this news was like a bomb on social media. But the ensuing result showed the tremendous transmitting capability of real-time social media communication after generating millions and millions of responses on the Chinese Twitter-like platform, Weibo. 

What makes this social hurricane more interesting is that within minutes, brands representing all facets were rapidly joining a rising tide of 我们 posts, connecting their brands and the theme of We and Together.

Here are some examples from brands using the We theme:

Condom maker Durex 




Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi 

And the Tencent and Alibaba Chinese taxi-hailing apps Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, which have joined forces to take on Uber's growing reach in China. 

This tactic, when done well, has many obvious benefits for brands operating in China. 

1. It is an effective way to attract consumer engagement – by aligning with other social noise because as the user gets absorbed by one piece of content, they can easily be introduced to another.

2. When properly applied, real-time marketing can help connect consumers with products or services they need now. So when promoted in the relevant context, it can trigger an immediate purchase, especially for categories where the decision making process requires a short time period.

3. Real-time marketing can also help build brand affinity over the long-term, since real-time posts (Read more...) consumers feel the brand is alive – and living in the same world as the consumer.

While, real-time marketing is a powerful tool, we sometimes forget how real-time conditions can constrain its successful implementation. Here are my tips for avoiding some of these traps in China.

1. Outstanding Creative Content is Imperative

Weibo’s timeline interface operates like Facebook, which means users may have a chance to see similar real-time posts at the same time. For this reason, Weibo posts have be of outstanding quality when it comes to the creative work.

2. Maintaining Strong Brand Equity

Quite often, content from brands is too focused on the event rather than on creating relevancy between the brand's core equity and the consumer in context.

This example for Merchant Bank Credit Card shows two cards with the We / Us tag. If your content only focuses on the event itself, the consumer will only remember your brand name, but will not take away any important messages about the brand.

While this post could have a one-off impact on brand awareness, it could eventually harm long-term brand equity building. 

3. Delivering Consistent Brand Image 

Every brand owns a certain tone and manner, personality or emotion, and it is important to stick to that even if the real-time social event doesn't match that to help build a consistent brand image. 

The nature of real-time marketing means no brand can control what will happen, in what way it will happen, or what reaction the audience will take away from it. Therefore, it is very important to have a brand-owned emotion in every real-time response.

By keeping an eye on these challenges, real-time marketing can be a really powerful weapon for brand building on Chinese social media sites.

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