social media listening in China

What is Social Media Listening in China and How Daxue Consulting Performs it

What is Social Media Listening in China and what is its purpose?

Social Media Listening (SML) is the process of identifying and investigating about what is being said online about your brand or your market category. Daxue Consulting provides social media listening in China extracting verbatims and data related to platforms such as Weibo, WeChat as well as a various category of platforms such as video (Youkou), online marketplace (Taobao) or consumer review (Douban). It is a qualitative research method aiming at getting first-hand insights from consumers. SML slightly differs from Social Media Monitoring (SMM) that consists, for a brand or a company, in being notified when it is mentioned online in China.

The process of social listening in China can be retroactive (social media activities of a past period are analyzed) or ongoing, which means it is realized systematically as a market trend audit or a brand image monitoring. SML can be performed manually or can be automated thanks to software and platforms. However, the automated work of SML platforms should always be complemented by human review. Moreover, some platforms such as WeChat will not enable any automatization of the data-collection because of open-data restrictions.

In China, regarding the massive usage and commitment of Chinese users toward online platforms, social media produces massive amounts of unstructured data. It is fundamental to define the goals of a social media listening according to the needs of your brand or company and depending on these objectives, choosing the relevant metrics to observe. Here are some commonly used social listening metrics:

  • Conversation volume: the number of social media interactions discussing a topic
  • Conversation value: the revenue contribution correlated to a conversation about a product or brand
  • Demographic metrics: the collection of the background details of online consumers (location, gender, and age) to determine whether marketing campaigns reach targeted consumers
  • Level of influence: the authority of an online consumer measured by his or her overall reach online
  • Sentiment type: the consumers’ average sentiment levels towards your brand or company
  • Share of voice: the ratio of discussion volume among multiple brands, to compare with your competitors 

In China, where the data-reliability and transparency is a major issue for market researchers, gaining first-hand insights directly from consumers’ is key to understanding better how they perceive brands, products, and services. Social media listening on the Chinese market is a valuable customer intelligence tool, especially since the Chinese social media landscape is unique, fragmented, and fast-evolving and that in 2012, two-thirds of Chinese netizens were following brands on social media according to InSites Consulting’s survey.

How Daxue Consulting realizes Social Media Listening in China for its clients

Where to ‘listen’?

Daxue’s team performs manual SML as part of its projects. According to Evelyn Chen (5), project manager at Daxue Consulting, the team observes social activities on various websites such as Weibo, WeChat, Baidu Zhidao (百度知道), Zhihu (知乎), Douban (豆瓣), and Dazhong Dianping (大众点评) for Mainland China, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for Greater China. Depending on the industry and the targeted consumers’ of each project, Daxue’s team will choose the relevant websites and social media networks to ‘listen.’ For example, for the F&B industry and restaurants, Dazhong Dianping (大众点评) will be carefully observed while Weibo will provide interesting insights to clients in the fashion industry. For a project on imported products in Macau, Chen explains that “SML was performed on forums such as留学网and 海归网 (forums dedicated to expats and students abroad).”

How does Daxue’s team collect social listening data for its clients?

Daxue’s team analyzes the publications of the brand or company and the comments of the Chinese consumers, using the sentiment type metric. The first step is to define the most popular keywords by analyzing search volume in social media. Once primary keywords are defined, project assistants look at the netizens’ comments and collect data such as whether comments are positive or negative, if consumers post pictures with the keywords or add location tags for example. “Relevant comments reveal consumers’ logical thinking. It brings you an insight if it’s criticism, a compliment, feedback, or a comparison with competitors’ products or services,” explains Yuwan Hu, project manager at Daxue Consulting. About Social listening in China, she adds that “if the brand we work on is popular in China, we will have access to much relevant information in social media. But if it’s not, comments will be difficult to find. However, we will conduct relevant actions to dig into the related-discussions and, if needed, will create these discussions to gather the users’ feedback.”

Key findings are then discussed with the project team. “Staying neutral about consumers’ positive and negative comments is critical to provide the client with specific actionable recommendations,” says Yuwan Hu. The most striking and relevant comments are directly quoted in the final presentation delivered to our client.

Combine Social Media Listening with other quantitative and qualitative methods in China

SML offers a direct approach to the consumers but is not be sufficient to get a full understanding of their perceptions of your company or brand. It is advisable to combine SML with other qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Our qualitative projects can also include methodologies such as consumer and market insider focus groups, market watch, ethnographic research, in-depth interviews, competitors’ benchmark, mystery calls and visits, APP-testing, eye-tracking, sensory testing and so on. Some quantitative methods such as online or offline survey  can naturally be added into any research as well.

Social Media Intelligence China

Social media intelligence is the analysis of data we collect from our social listening method in China integrated into a long-term market monitoring plan. It implies to audit your market and your consumer trends in a regular basis to stay ahead of the market evolution and competitors’ actions. Our social media intelligence solution is fully integrated into our comprehensive market intelligence range of services.

This analysis can be either qualitative or quantitative, depending on clients’ requirement. As such, it is a fantastic medium through which businesses can engage with consumers and leverage a range of data to make important strategic decisions on a regular basis.

Social media in China, however, poses unique challenges to foreign businesses. Due to government regulations, many international social media websites are blocked. Consequently, Chinese citizens use social media websites that are unique to China. Whereas Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon are dominant in western countries, local equivalents are far more dominant in China. Furthermore, they have their own distinct analytic software. They can, therefore, be troublesome to analyze when employed by untrained users. Daxue Consulting realizes that foreign businesses require expert assistance to access these networks effectively. Accordingly, we practice social media intelligence in China to provide clients with comprehensive market research and informed strategic consulting.

Daxue Consulting uses social media intelligence as an integral part of all desk research. The range of data we provide means it is a suitable solution for many of our clients’ requests. Below is a list of areas whereDaxue Consulting usessocial media intelligence.Additionally, there is a case study to exemplify exactly how and when it is used.

Areas Social Media Intelligence in China Provides solutions:

Case Study: Customer in the Wine Industry

Our client produced prestigious sparkling wine worldwide. Due to an increase in Chinese wine consumption, they sought to develop their international strategy by constructing their first vineyard in China. A lack of consumer knowledge regarding the quality of their merchandise, however, initially limited their sales. They required Daxue Consulting to locate opportunities within the Chinese wine market and subsequently assemble a go-to-market plan.

Use of the social listening Methodology

To assist our clients, Daxue Consulting conducted extensive social listening. We extracted, collected and analysed data from WeChat and Weibo’s users. It enabled us to identify the brand reputation of our client and gaps in the Chinese wine market. Additionally, we obtained data from the biggest search engine in China, Baidu, through their analytics software called BaiduTongji. It helped monitor the keyword searches of our clients’ customers and provide a lexical analysis of research related to sparkling wine in China. This is integral to understand consumer demand. Moreover, it was used to profile the clients and categorise them into specific demographics. By gathering data from various Chinese social media platforms and search engines, Daxue Consulting was able to profile potential consumers, understand the consumer segmentation of the market and our client’s brand visibility. These were important processes in eventually fulfilling our client’s original demands.