As a former boss enthusiastically pointed out to me over a drink, "You don't need to sell people on China". However, most businesses are still finding the Chinese market difficult to understand and manage. Market research and strategy are still relying on the conventional methods of traditional media analysis, interviews, and surveys. While they have important places in research, social media monitoring and analysis are fast becoming more critical for a market like China.

Size and Location

Despite having smaller land mass than Europe, the total internet use in China is greater that of all European population at nearly 500 million users, according to We Are Social at December 2011. Furthermore, China is a country with enough diversity to rival Europe, varying between local dialects and cultures. While surveys can provide great insights into the researched population, their coverage are still small in comparison to the total and diverse population of the Chinese market.

As pointed out by Forbes Insights report in April 2011, the next biggest opportunity for the Chinese market is the second-tier cities. These cities tend to have much less media and research coverage than the popular Beijing and Shanghai. Furthermore, there are 130 million rural internet users in China, who are especially unlikely to get good representation from traditional research methods.

As reported by We Are Social, China has 40% social network penetration, translating to roughly 536 million users. Fortunately, the social media exposure in China is not limited to first-tier cities. The Chinese social platforms are the first to offer insights into these new local markets.

Lack of Transparency and Reliable Metrics

Given the dramatic difference in language and culture, most businesses tend to source their business campaigns to the local Chinese agencies. However, as reported by Forbes Insights, 38% of marketers find the lack of transparency challenging. Because these local agencies are Western brand's only insight into the market, the quality of their assessment for tasks such as media research, planning, and buying are hard to verify. Furthermore, 24% of marketers could not obtain a reliable metrics for gauging ROI.

By tracking brand exposures and sentiments on the social platforms, businesses can have their own insights into the effects of their marketing campaign. These metrics can be used as reliable bases for selecting agencies and measuring their ROI.

 

Cloud

 

Jack Morton Worldwide performed a survey in October 2011 on consumer confidence in the social networks. China ranked second with 23% of the population comfortable utilizing social media to seek word-of-mouth information on brand experiences, while the U.S. contains 18%. With such huge impact on consumer behavior, social media monitoring tool is no longer a nice-to-have: It is crucial for success in the Chinese market.