The social media landscape in China is fragmented, fast-changing, and completely different from the West. Social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo are dominating this scene. There are more than 1.3 billion people in China, which is roughly the total population of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom combined, use social media in China.
Marketing your business in a country with more than twice the population of the US can be daunting work. So, to hire or not to hire a social media agency for your brand, is a key question. Some businesses opt for hiring a social media agency while some prefer to do everything by themselves.
You might be struggling with the decision of hiring a social media marketing agency or taking on marketing yourself. In this article, I’m going to outline the pros and cons of hiring a social media agency in China, followed by some tips for choosing the right agency for you.
Advantages of hiring a Chinese social media agency
1. Extensive knowledge in China marketing
Rich expertise and experience that social media agencies bring to the table are undoubtedly the biggest advantages. In China, good guanxi (relationships) and authenticity are crucial to businesses. Social media agencies always keep up with the latest social media trends without a learning curve. They can also determine which social media platform best suits your company and the ideal ways to execute your campaigns. With extensive knowledge and the right inputs, your business can get a quicker return on investment.
Also, by partnering with Chinese social media agencies, your business can gain access to the latest software and tools available in the Chinese tech market. Social media agencies are proficient in using analytics tools and software, to monitor social media channels. These marketing tools can boost the efficiency, productivity and performance. With the right analytics technology and agency partners in place, you can move your business beyond the now to the bigger picture, the Chinese market.
2. Excellent content
China has a growing appetite for social media marketing and it’s not a surprise. Content marketing is essential in China as Chinese consumers are open to the information online and would keep up with the new trends on the Internet. It is vital to create interesting, emotionally appealing and relevant contents to connect with these half a billion social media users in China.
It is said that “Content is King”. Content is the heart of today’s social media marketing strategies in China. Great content marketing requires a lot of energy and effort to drive an increase in traffic to your social media sites, especially when you are new to the Chinese market. A survey shows that 45% of the businesses spend 1-3 hours to create a blog post. With the aid of social media agencies, they can create contents for your business in an effective and efficient way.
One important thing to note is content creators are not traditional hacks anymore. They are writers, photographers and graphic designers－all-in-one marketers. These social media-savvy agencies will take care of your social media management, from finding and posting content to responding to questions. They can always create right content in front of the right people at right time.
3. Saves time
When you are new to marketing in China, it takes a long time to understand and master. In a social media survey, 43% of the small businesses spend about 6 hours per week on social media. One-third of business owners want to spend less time on social media.
Hiring a Chinese social media agency for your business can allow you to free up more free to focus on some critical business functions. So, it’s a matter of spending hours slaving away to make half-decent content or outsourcing the task to an agency that will post great content in a timely and affordable manner.
4. Full understanding of the laws and regulations in China
The laws and regulations regarding social media in China are very complex and may vary from city to city. Besides, the Chinese government has a long list of sensitive topics that are not to be touched upon. Not complying with the Chinese laws can lead to a disastrous loss.
The Chinese government applies censorship to certain keywords and posts. For instance, the “pigs floating in the river in Shanghai” issue was curtailed by censors. It had two million search results before disappearing entirely.
Partnering with Chinese social media agencies enables your business to stay on top of the constantly changing laws and regulations in China. Most importantly, the agencies will provide social media monitoring for you monitoring sentiment. They will always ensure your projects work well within the law.
5. Objective strategies for China marketing
Entering a new market requires a significant amount of time and money. Social media agencies can make objective assessments of the business and strategies based on their experience. They can always ensure the quickest results by using the most effective strategies in the right place and at the right time. In house, employees may make the same mistakes over and over again when they do not realize that. They may also be using the same approach that is ineffective.
Hiring a Chinese marketing agency can avoid common novice mistakes. Rather than walking the wrong path and wasting time experimenting with different approaches, partnering with social media agencies can put your business into action right away and lead you to success.
Disadvantages of hiring a Chinese social media agency
One of the most obvious drawbacks of hiring a social media agency is the significant cost. Initial costs, such as start-up fees, may be high. Besides, the agency fees range greatly, from $1,000 USD to $20,000 per month. The pricing packages, especially marketing campaigns, are usually marked up. Meanwhile, most of the social media agencies require you to sign a fixed contract which is inflexible. You may easily rack up a bill. This huge investment may be especially hard for small companies or startups that have a limited budget.
But in fact, some Chinese social media agencies have standardised packages now. You just need to consider the range of services, number of channels and the effectiveness of the packages. In the long run, the initial cost will seem like nothing compared to revenues. Choose the pricing package that best suits your brand.
2. Understanding your company
No one knows your business better than you do. Therefore, the agencies may not have a full understanding of your brands. As the content created for a campaign is usually based on niche-specific information, it may take some time to build trust between the agencies and your company.
Nevertheless, this will no longer be a drawback when you do it right. The key is to make sure that the social media agency has a good team composition with international team members to break the language barriers and have a good understanding of the markets.
3. Limited transparency
If you take social media marketing yourself, you can have complete control over all aspects, such as the tone and visual look of the post and the small details of a campaign. You can also monitor every step in the process, not only when the whole campaign is completed or the post is published.
However, some social media agencies usually track and analyze your results and provide a monthly or even weekly reports to your business.
I believe you already know how to make the decision. Here are some of our tips of hiring the right social media agency in China.
Tips for hiring a social media agency in China
Tip 1: Research and get references
Take a moment to think about the needs and goals of your business. Then, check out the profiles of different agencies, such as the services and testimonials. There are countless agencies out there, you would want to partner with the one that is the best of the best.
Tip 2: Choose a social media agency that you trust
Social media agencies will be creating messages on behalf of your brand. In other words, they are portraying your brand image. With these things in mind, I’m sure you would want to hire someone you can trust and rely on.
Tip 3: Content should be everywhere
The rule of thumb proves that content is the heart of the social media marketing. The content of the social media agency should be diverse and be shown in different channels, such as blog posts and whitepapers. If they are good at writing, it will be certain that they can also create good content for your brand and hit the bull’s eyes in the Chinese market.
Tip 4: A word about the budget
Cost is usually the main concern of a business when choosing a social media agency. Even if you are so sure to hire an agency, you still need to shop around and compare different packages. Research and choose the most worthy one. Keep everything within your budget and saving the budget means you can spend it on elsewhere and keep expanding your business!
Tip 5: China-based office
Hiring a social media agency that has a China-based office will give you a holistic understanding of the Chinese market. An international team of both English and Mandarin speakers can also break the language barrier.
There are a number of obstacles involved in entering the Chinese market. The challenges of entering the digital market in China are just as real. When considering what approach to take with social media marketing, there are many factors to take into account. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. However, social media agencies can bring your business to the next level.