Localization marketing is a defining factor of success for US firms expanding overseas, and social media is an important tool to accomplish such localization strategies. This fact has not been lost on US apparel firm Nike, which has effectively utilized Sina Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, to increase brand awareness and product sales in the Chinese market.
Sina Weibo (also known simply as Weibo) is the fifth largest social media site in the world, used by 21% of all active internet users. Weibo reported an average monthly active user rate of 143.8 million and a daily active user rate of 66.6 million in March 2014. The platform remains the largest social media site available to internet users in China and is therefore a crucial tool for US firms that wish to leverage social media in their marketing strategies.
Nike has nine accounts on Weibo, each generating around 300,000 to 400,000 followers. In the first half of 2013, Nike’s rate of engagement with followers on the network was significantly higher than its direct competitor, German apparel manufacturer Adidas. Nike’s strategy uses “associate account interactive marketing” to promote its brand on a massive scale, and it is clearly working. A hashtag campaign the company started resulted in over 900 million related discussions. Nike’s success on Weibo can be correlated with its increased profit in the Chinese market.
China is not the only Asian country with unique, local social networks. Koreans frequent Kakao Talk, Tistory and Me2Day, while their Japanese counterparts use Mixi and Gree. Having a presence on these networks is more effective in tapping into the local market than simply relying on American social media exports like Facebook and Twitter. As American brands further expand into the highly web-savvy world of Asian consumers, pursuing localized social media strategies can clearly be a tremendous asset.
Doris Xu is a Research Intern at the East-West Centre in Washington and an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney.