Spreading Lunar New Year on the web

Updated: 2014-02-06 12:52

By China Daily (China Daily USA)

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 Spreading Lunar New Year on the web

An Internet user browses a social media website at the New York Public Library. Zhang Yang / For China Daily

Lisa Deng used to relax and celebrate the Chinese New Year with family, but this year she has been spending the holiday with her laptop and smartphone. Running an online campaign with her team, Deng hopes to bring Chinese New Year celebrations to the US audience.

The campaign, which runs from Jan 25 to Feb 15, mainly features posts about Chinese New Year including traditions and events in the US. It also tries to engage the audience by encouraging them to share photos and experiences of how they are involved in the celebrations.

"There are a great number of events to celebrate the Chinese New Year globally, especially in the US. But I felt like my American friends hardly know anything about those events nor the traditions," said Deng, Founder of Great Seed Inc, a start-up that aims to build a global community for cultural preservation, transmission and innovation.

For the Year of Horse New Year celebration, there are 506 events in 103 countries outside of China, according to the Ministry of Culture of China. But most of the event promotions are in Chinese and target overseas Chinese people.

"I want to take this opportunity to bridge that information gap through social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which is easier to reach the American audience," Deng said.

The campaign, entitled "Grab Your Red Envelope", incentivizes potential audiences to follow the campaign posts on different social media platforms by offering a lottery. For example, those who "like" the campaign's official Facebook page and sign up for the lottery are eligible for a variety of Chinese style gifts.

"Chinese people give out red envelopes with money enclosed as a symbol of fortune and best wishes," Deng explained. "We hope that through giving out gifts, which are red envelope equivalents in our case, our audience can experience this tradition."

Running the online campaign for the first time, especially when there are no similar precedents to learn from, Deng said her team ran into several difficulties.

"Although we have been trying to reach our target audience - people interested in Chinese art and culture - we still need to learn more about Western people's preferences and interest towards Chinese culture," Deng said. "So that we can find what might appeal to them in order to better engage them.

"We want to initiate a conversation about Chinese culture rather than just presenting everything we know," Deng added.

But it has not been a smooth ride for the campaign to reach its target audience on Facebook, according to Zhou Linyan, Great Seed's public relations director.

"Facebook changed their algorithm last year, which means our posts are much less likely to be seen by our followers unless we keep paying for the reach," Zhou said. "But as a start-up it is hard for us to put that much in our budget."

For the Chinese New Year campaign, Deng said the team was lucky enough to have connected with the Consulate General of China in New York and collaborate in running the campaign. The consulate offered to sponsor the prizes for the lottery.

"Of course, we can always offset the obstacles by trying harder to produce quality content for organic reach," Zhou said. "But that means more manpower and contributors to our social networks too."

In spite of the little bumps on the road, Deng said the team believes that there are many Americans out there who would appreciate Chinese art and culture so they want to bring these people together.

Zhang Yang contributed to this story and can be reached at yangzhang@chinadailyusa.com.

(China Daily USA 02/06/2014 page2)