Using Zhihu For Market Research in China
Let’s talk about market research in China. A critical part of it is social listening. It gives you not only insights into the trends and the discussions that are happening around your brand, but it also helps you understand your vertical as a whole. But, how do you do it in China? Answer: Our favourite platform of late—Zhihu.
Zhihu is a great tool for anyone who is working in the industry already or is looking to break into the Chinese market. At NMG, we use Zhihu to improve our understanding of our new projects. Zhihu allows us to learn the language consumers use to talk about products and the industry: what questions they ask, and what are their concerns.
There are cases where search engines do not give us enough answers. When we search for the same keywords on Zhihu, the search normally yields a lot more in terms of results and information, which goes to show that users are actively discussing these topics. Searches on Baidu led us to believe otherwise. This information is useful especially for brands whose target customer base consists of a few hundred people and not a couple of million.
Let’s look at an example. If you search for “kanban” on Baidu, you can see some websites, Baidu Baike (wiki) pages and an ad from a company that offers the actual signboard management system. It’s pretty quiet in terms of online discussions, and nothing very relevant if you’re a kanban-style project management platform that wants to advertise in China. However, on Zhihu, the same keyword shows a completely different situation. There are many posts discussing kanban-style tools and platforms; including recommendations and reviews from the users.
Another example is searching for English brand names. So, Baidu classifies them as any other English keyword. Therefore, it only shows English sites on the SERP. Zhihu, on the other hand, not only shows posts and articles related to the brand name we search for, but you may also get a report that includes the brand, and (what’s more important) a list of competitors. That gives some valuable insights and lets us go deeper with the research, which means we can find out more about the industry and competitors’ marketing strategy in China. This way, we also learn if any of your competitors are on the platform.
So, there you have it. An arena for professional topics and discussion is a much-needed break from mainstream social media, which is often light-hearted but advertisement heavy. Zhihu feels more down-to-earth and offers more valuable insights. If you’re not comfortable reading Chinese but want to have a glance at what’s going on, here’s an interesting project that just popped online: Zhihu Digest, the most popular daily topic on Zhihu translated to English (along with the comments).