Uncorking the full potential

Updated: 2013-04-05 08:20

By Sophie Li (China Daily)

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Strategic use of micro blogs can help companies achieve success

It comes as no surprise that Sina Weibo is one of the most popular and the fastest growing micro-blogging platforms in China, considering that it had nearly 500 million users by the end of February.

Along with its popularity the platform has also become an integral marketing tool for companies across various industries in China. According to the 2012 Corporate Weibo White Paper, there were 130,565 companies that had certified enterprise micro blog accounts by the end of February. Prominent among them are restaurants (50,000), automotive (7,546) and business services (7,212).

In the Fortune Global 500 list, there were 243 enterprises that have opened micro blog accounts, while 207 enterprises in the Fortune China 500 list also have micro blog accounts. All of this clearly underscores the point that a micro-blog presence is essential for a company that is planning to operate in China.

That also raises the question on the need for a micro-blog presence. The obvious answer is not just to tap the huge market with immense potential, but also to realize some benefits that only a micro blog can bring to a business. Micro blog is known as the Chinese Twitter, but in my opinion it is Chinese Twitter plus Facebook.

First, micro-blogging is the way for businesses to personally interact with potential customers to build brand image and customer loyalty. Micro-blogging can also create a positive association and friendly attitude toward the brand.

Secondly, a micro blog can be used as a market research tool since the company can learn current trends, and interests as well as what people are saying about its products and services. By getting feedback on their micro blog, companies can come up with new ideas to approach customer needs and expectations.

Finally, it is free to open an account or to publish anything on a micro blog, and hence an option for companies to reduce marketing costs. If a company has a relatively huge number of fans, any posting on its micro blog automatically acts as a free press release.

Though these advantages are enticing enough, it is important for companies to have enterprise micro blog accounts if they are to realize the full potential. This is especially so as there are several challenges that companies face while using social media, or more specifically a micro blog in China.

Companies should look at how to draw people's attention but still focus on promoting the brands' image. This is mainly to reach the goal of getting more micro blog users to become potential customers.

Much also depends on the business segmentation, and companies should consider using different media channels to reach target audiences. Companies also need to work on how to create integrated marketing and how to generate micro blog numbers in particular.

Micro-blogging and its strong influence on the public is definitely a great tool for many companies. However, it is a double-edged sword that can only benefit the business if the company knows how to use it strategically. Therefore, enterprise micro blog users should be aware of certain challenges and get cracking on a detailed marketing plan to uncork the full potential of micro-blogging.

The author is marketing director of RMG Selection, an Asia-focused specialist recruitment and executive headhunting firm. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

(China Daily 04/05/2013 page7)