Six Tricks to Help You Quickly Assess Your Competitors on Chinese Social Media

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 11:35

This week we have a guest post from former Nanjing Marketing Group intern Guy Wing.  Guy is an operations officer at Yellow Moon Tours, where he helps connect travellers from around the world, particularly China, with professional tour guides in the US and Europe. 



With home markets, assessing the strength of a competitors’ social media presence is fairly straightforward: Facebook likes and Twitter and Instagram followers are very good indicators of their popularity. However, on Chinese platforms (notably WeChat) these numbers aren’t available and oftentimes don’t tell half the story.

In this post I'll show you step by step how to quickly gauge a company’s social media presence without any prior knowledge of Chinese language. Also, we will assume you do not have access to the back-end analytics for their Weibo and WeChat accounts. If your brand’s China social media marketing is not done in house, these steps can be used to monitor your agency’s performance.


Weibo is the best place to start for this analysis as the indicators are easily visible and all companies with a China social media presence will have at least one Weibo page.

1. Determine the Weibo Account type:

Whether their page is verified or not (look for a small ‘V’ logo by the name of the page) is evidence that the page is the official account of a registered company.

If a company chooses a corporate account (as most do) they can customise the look of their Weibo page with some of the features demonstrated below. The importance of this is hard to exaggerate as what a Weibo user sees in the first moments on this page are vital. 

2. Measuring and evaluating Audience Size

All of this leads to the fact that audience size is important. That is the number next to 粉丝.

The next step is to seek out the validity of the followers. Are they simply robot accounts that are the result of a pay-for-followers service that some Chinese marketing agencies offer?

For this step we will use a free online tool that is fairly simple to use.

It ranks an individual Weibo account against all other large verified accounts in terms of what proportion of followers are real accounts. Below is an example:



The important metric here is the orange number which displays the rank of the Weibo page as a ranked percentile. For this example of TheMBATour, we know that its proportion of true followers is higher than 87.33% of large verified pages. Large verified pages are used as a broad, yet constant benchmark for comparison.

When analyzing a competitor’s page, we see their proportion of true followers is higher than 80.03% of large verified pages. Therefore they have a lower rank than that of the page in the first screenshot. 

3. Other Weibo metrics in context

The function of Weibo for many users is as a news feed and source of information. This reduces the importance of visible interaction levels: a page with very few comments and likes on its posts is not necessarily an unpopular or useless page.

A high number of page shares, on the other hand, are a positive indicator as they increase the potential audience of a brand’s content.

The level of a page is directly correlated to the length of time (including a measure consecutive days) the account has been logged on. It broadly represents the age and intensity at which an account has been used.

Private messages are a much used and an important feature of Weibo as a marketing tool. However, the data for these is obviously not publicly available.


For an introduction to what WeChat is, and why your business might need it, we suggest starting with our most popular post, ‘Everything You Need to Know About WeChat’.  WeChat has less publicly visible metrics than Weibo so we will show you some more resourceful techniques for measuring the strength of a brand’s strategy.

1. Functionality comes First

Assessing a brand’s WeChat presence is best done on a mobile phone as you can see how functional a WeChat account is for the end user (WeChat is a mobile- only platform). Also, different strategies best suit different company’s needs: a brand looking to raise brand awareness might favour a subscription account as they can post daily whereas a well-known brand wanting to offer a range of customer services would opt for a service account. For more information on the differences between account types, check out this post.  

The above screenshot shows what can be done with a WeChat service account. Amazon has basically created an app within the WeChat app with the 3 customizable tabs offering ‘favourite categories’, ‘My Amazon’ and ‘Services’. On top of this they have their weekly bulletin dedicated to promoting items with informational, review style articles which all contain links to buy directly.

2. Page Views

The number of page views is not visible on a PC. This is a very useful metric (and in fact the only metric publicly visible on WeChat), provided it is placed within context. A high number of views does not mean your competitor has a captivated target audience of potential customers: the key question is not “how many people are viewing a page’s content?” but “who is viewing this content?”

Continuing with the example of Amazon, let’s look at the article introducing the new GoPro product and scroll down to the bottom to see the number of page views. Here we can assume the page views are very relevant as the title is not deceptive and to the true content of the article.

How relevant the audience is to the brand is of utmost importance, so how can we get an idea of who an account is broadcasting to? The simple answer is by looking into their KOLs.  

3. Who are their KOLs?

The best way to get this insight on your competitors is to find out what Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) they are using to increase the circulation of their content to their chosen audience. Sogou's WeChat search function is highly useful for this. It is a WeChat search engine which can be used to search either account names or within content which has been posted on the WeChat mobile platform. One of the simplest checks for your competitors’ WeChat KOL strategy, something useful to try is entering their website URL into this search engine.  Below is an example.  See the publishers of the articles in the search results in the red boxes.

When we see articles published by accounts excluding the company’s own, this is an indicator that KOL has been used as part of their strategy. If you want to find out more about that given article and the KOL, take out your phone and look it up. You may need the help of a friend who can read Chinese to judge whether the audience of the KOL are likely to be potential customers.   

If you do this for the above example you will find an article circulated by a KOL to increase the readership to a much wider audience for Consumer Lab.   

Wrapping Up

The above steps will allow most anyone to quickly figure out what the social media landscape of their competitors is like.  With a clear picture about where your competitors stand and what they're doing, you can create a better social media strategy for your business.  

Are your brand’s Weibo and WeChat accounts lagging behind?  Did you find out anything interesting about your competitors using these tips?  Let us know in the comments below!




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