Many publishers have been eyeing the huge and potentially lucrative Chinese market for years now. Yet China is a vast and complex country and its media landscape is unlike any other territory.
Doris Ke, Founder at Business of Women, is an authority on the intricacies of the Chinese media and ecommerce worlds. At DIS 2020 she will be discussing social media growth hacking, and the lessons media companies can learn from China’s Key opinion leaders. Here she talks about her company, Business of Women, and how she engages with Chinese females, as well as giving an insight into the social media world in the country.
***Doris is one of many influential speakers who will be presenting at DIS. Take advantage of our offer for DIS 2020, taking place on 24 to 25 March 2020 in Berlin. By signing up for DIS 2020 by March 2nd you will save €200 on final delegate rates. Sign up here***
Can you tell me about Business of Women? Why did you found the company and what problems does it seek to solve?
Business of Women™ is a thriving professional community and a leading research and advisory institute uniquely positioned to navigate dynamic market trends and explore exciting business opportunities in China’s booming She-Economy.
It has five parts under the business: media, community, conference, lessons and advisory.
Here at Business of Women™ we provide highly-customised and localised business solutions, expert perspectives, collaboration opportunities and networking resources for enterprises, executives, entrepreneurs, influencers, and professionals specialising in fashion, beauty, e-commerce, marketing, social media, entertainment, health & fitness, cosmetic surgery, maternity and baby, and many other industries.
I founded this company as I wanted to solve problems I discovered when I was working in corporate companies in China and the US.
Slightly reverting to my previous experience. I worked for Unilever, Michael Kors and Alibaba in the US, specialising in marketing from US to China and then I returned to China and was CMO of a fashion-rental company, YCloset. During these years I realised a number of things...
First of all, China’s enterprises are actually under digital transformations, especially in the marketing regime, as the digital landscape in China is changing everyday. The marketing strategies we used yesterday could not be applicable again today. So all of the companies who aim to get Chinese consumers’ attention need to be re-educated.
Second of all, among all the Chinese consumers, women need to be the centre, as they are the influencers, decision makers and actual consumers in many ways. However, enterprises have often neglected their needs and their voices. In China, for example, women’s voices are in the path of being freed. So the companies should look deep into their needs when targeting female consumers.
Here at Business of Women, we want to help enterprises transform digitally and meanwhile inspire and engage a growing community of She-Economy enthusiasts in China through quality stories, market insights and growth strategies.
And what does your day to day role look like?
I have a team of 11. They are in charge of a couple things: content/media, conferences, lessons, community and day-to-day collaborations.
We have a self-media, on WeChat official account with over 200K fans. We write content on the latest stories and trends in the industry on a weekly basis. Last week, we just published an article talking about how to adapt your marketing strategies during this coronavirus outbreak in China. This article was actually featured on Forbes.
We organise marketing/DTC theme related conferences on a quarterly basis, bringing top leaders in the industry to the stage and talk about trends.
We have a membership-based community of 5000 people, coming from beauty, consumer goods, ecommerce etc industries. We organise weekly events online for them to participate and discuss. This year we are going to offer a couple of online marketing courses for them to catch up with the latest techniques.
Could you give us a little background on what are the key issues facing online media in China?
First of all, if you ever done paid digital media, you know it’s very hard as the traffic you get could be fake. And often you have no idea how to judge whether you are working with a real influencer or he/she is just making some fake numbers just to look good.
However, those who do know the backdoor to traffic get their way through it and get their growth. But the challenge is the digital landscape in China is changing every day. Even for a local Chinese marketer, it is usually hard to catch up, not to mention for people outside China. And there are tricks you need to be aware of on every platform.
Just to give you an example, China’s TikTok, which is called Douyin, is now having almost 300m DAU everyday. This is crazy. The way to work with Douyin influencers is tricky. You don’t start by working with a top Douyin influencer that costs you like $200K. You can actually work with some long tail influencers by trying out assets to see if they go viral and then max out the effects by using Dou+, which is a tool you can use with TikTok. There are hundreds of tricks like this on each platform. Douyin is just one of them.
In the past China had Weibo and WeChat. Today if you want to nail down China business, you need to be familiar with Weibo, WeChat, Douyin, Kuai, Red, Bilibili, Taobao Livestream and much more. And each platform is evolving.
Your talk at DIS is about social media growth hacking - lessons from China’s Key opinion leaders. Could you tell us more about the KOLs, and what channels they use to extend their reach?
I mentioned them in the previous question. But I can elaborate on them.
There are these channels that you will want to consider: Weibo, WeChat, DouYin, Kuai, Red, Bilibili, Taobao Livestream.
Weibo – think of it as Twitter. But Weibo nowadays is also a platform for long-form videos.
WeChat – think of it as Facebook + Whatsapp/messenger. WeChat has official accounts (where people create articles, like Medium), mini-programs (mini-webs, or .com 2.0 as they call it officially), moments (like Facebook feeds) and WeChat groups (where you can engage your fan community). WeChat is the top p2p messenger in China and it is a platform you don’t want to miss.
Then comes the Red, which is like Instagram but with all the ecommerce sites built into it. You can find many micro-influencers here with high ROIs.
Douyin, or TikTok, is a short-form video platform. Actually the idea originated from Musically but was adapted from mostly music videos to all types of videos. The algorithm behind Douyin is different from Weibo or WeChat. Douyin has a spiral algorithm , meaning, once you post something, Douyin will push it to a small group, say 1K people. If most of these 1000 people engage with the video by liking it, sharing it or repeating playing it, then Douyin will push this content to the next bigger group of crowd, say 10K people. So on so forth. So you don’t have to have many followers to go viral. It is really the single post that decides how many impressions you get.
Kuai, very similar to Douyin, is also a platform for short-form videos. It originally was actually a tool people use to create Gifs. Think of Giphy.com. But it later evolved to a short form video platform with two columns of videos on the app. It is commonly used by 4th and even 5th tier cities in China.
And then you have also got the Chinese version of YouTube, Bilibili. It is the most popular platform among Gen Z. It’s originally got all the comics and such going on. The interesting feature of Bilibili is that you can send out bullet-comments while watching, aka a technique that enables the website users to send real-time comment ‘bullet’ cross the screen. You can generally find vloggers posting on Bilibili.
Your Twitter bio talks about bridging China and the US, and you have worked in both countries. Is it in terms of ecommerce, the media? How do you predict that media and brands in the two countries can work together?
I imagine it both ways. When I was working in the US, my job was to bring the brands from the western world to China, for example, Michael Kors, Rebecca Minkoff etc. China is becoming the world's largest consumer market. I believe there are many brands that will have a market in China, skincare, mom/baby products etc. You just need to know the consumers and the techniques needed to reach them.
Second of all, the Chinese brands are also trying to get abroad. There are great supply chains in China and many DTC brands have emerged in China these years. It is such a shame that they are not acknowledged yet in the global market. I believe there are many opportunities here as well.
E-Commerce-wise,a lot of opportunities exist – for example, Tmall global from Alibaba Group is working very hard to create a platform for brands abroad to advertise and be able to be sold directly to Chinese consumers. They created a series of projects aiming to bridge the US and China.
What are the key lessons that western media companies can learn from Chinese giants like Alibaba
So many. I cannot list them all. So I will just give some examples.
I think Chinese companies have never stopped innovating. To give you an idea, even Taobao, the largest ecommerce platform in China, under Alibaba group has changed a couple times. Not just some mini functions, but whole new features on it to compete. It has added short-form videos feature into a Taobao feed. The front page becomes personalised based on different users’ behaviour etc.
And today Taobao’s even got a livestream function on it, which becomes a must-do for every brand. It is more like television-shopping, but directly on Taobao. Imagine Amazon with a livestream section where you can shop while making a purchase.
I think China is growing at an incredible speed, discovering how to use videos to everyday life, from e-commerce to the media, knowing that 5G will be coming soon.
And the entire media landscape in China today, is disrupted by social media made by the Chinese giants, Tencent, ByteDance and others. In China today, everyone can be a KOL, a voice or a content provider given the algorithm provided by WeChat and TikTok. The media authority is no longer as centralised as before. Everyone can speak up and tell their own stories, which is interesting. Under this environment, many people are incentivised to share their knowledge and also generate revenues by creating content.
This is another great thing about China’s companies. They have many ways to help content providers generate revenue – users can sell products, books, or online classes easily on every platform. Or you can also become an influencer to get paid by promoting brands. The entry barrier is low. Everyone can do it.
You have a very big social media following in China. Did it grow and develop in the same way that social media accounts do in the west?
Yes and no. For the growth part, it is quite similar. You find a good angle that no one has touched before and that is your niche. I choose to write about the trends in marketing and growth in China. So the Chinese companies love to keep up reading my articles, or share it out to their friends. So that quickly led up to 200K followers, most of them are CEOs or marketing/growth executives.
However, what I do with the followers I built is quite unique. I developed a paid community group in WeChat, with a cover of $120 as annual fee. If you want to stay in my group and hear about what is latest in my mind or in the industry, you will have to pay the cover. And within a year, I developed 5000 members of the club, that I named “She-Economy Research Group”. I would throw in my thoughts and be discussed in the group. And so these thoughts would be further flushed out and developed into a well-thought article. I would also bring in CEOs and Influencers from many industries to do sharing. It is becoming bigger and bigger.