• What US Digital Marketers Need to Know About Social Media in China


    Despite banning social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, China has one of the most unique and influential social media landscapes with some 400 million monthly active users. And while both China and the United States use social media for marketing purposes, there are distinct differences between the applications the two countries use and how they use them. Not only do they use separate media platforms, but their cultures are drawn predictably to different things. To succeed in China, digital marketers in the U.S. must understand the different platforms, attitudes and culture that prevail in the People’s Republic.

    No Facebook or Twitter? No Problem

    WeChat is China’s largest social media platform. It is truly all-purpose, offering chat, social media, Alibaba payments, news, hotel bookings and dating services. It has 963 million monthly active users and plans to grow its audience by opening itself to U.S. advertisers.

    QQ is an instant messaging app that’s a bit like WeChat. Features accessible to 850 million monthly active users include integrated emails, games, music streaming, dating services, as well as integration with its social media outlet Qzone. If you have a younger target audience, this is the channel you need to use.

    Qzone is connected to QQ messenger. Its 606 million monthly active users can create status updates, author blogs, add background music and play games. Profiles can also be customized like Myspace allowed users back in the early social media era.

    Weibo offers microblogging services equivalent to a Twitter/Facebook combination. The platform Sina founded in 2009 boasts 361 million active users who are mostly between 18 to 30 years old.

    Notably, Internet juggernaut Tencent owns WeChat, QQ and Qzone.

    China’s user base more active, more influenced by social circle

    The Chinese love networking, and it’s not uncommon for the average Chinese user to subscribe to multiple different networks and use each one actively. The Chinese spend on average 40 percent of their weekly online time using social media sites.

    At the same time, the Chinese mistrust deeply traditional media and rely on social networks for accurate, meaningful news and information. Any shared content in a Chinese user’s network holds a strong sense of legitimacy. China users are especially influenced by the thoughts, views and opinions of their closest friends and family members. A popular marketing approach in China is offering promotional discounts that include the entire family.

    Key Opinion Leaders

    A Key Opinion Leader (KOL) is a Chinese figure who holds a large following, ranging from the thousands to millions. These influential figures can be used to promote effectively a brand or message. Here are some of China’s most influential KOLs:

    • Papi Jiang – Papi Jiang is an active internet celebrity who uses social media sites like Weibo and Youku. She is famous for her video podcasts, which make fun of the daily news. She has over 8 million Weibo followers.
    • Ma Jianguo – This is the second-highest ranked Weibo account, which is followed by more than 24 million fans. Jianguo’s popularity can be largely attributed to her dog (NiuNiu) and cat (DuanWu). Fans love following the daily lives of these two animals.
    • Aikeli Li – Aikeli is one of China’s most famous bloggers and photographers. He has more than 9 million Weibo followers.Tips for approaching social media in China

    In China, content is king – By creating interesting shareable content in Mandarin, you will have greater appeal to Chinese consumers. Popular content is often created in cartoon style due to the popularity of cartoon characters.

    Always be active – You must truly engage with Chinese consumers to attract their interest and attention. They are more likely to share your brand within their close network if you use a more direct communication approach and remain consistently active.

    Seek out a KOL – A KOL can be your brand’s greatest asset. Finding and recruiting one or more of these prominent figures can be extremely beneficial for your brand, instantly increasing your credibility.

    Paid Social – Similar, to the U.S. paid social is vital to successful results. You’ll need to take time to understand what type of advertising is included on each channel. WeChat is the most expensive among the platforms. You can run banner ads and moment posts (think Facebook status update). QQ and Qzone offers Tencent ads. Weibo is the best option of the group because of the amount of targeting options. The most effective choices include display advertisements, search engine promotion, fan headline and fan tunnel.

    While having a great social media presence in China seems like a tall task, it’s achievable and requires a new way of thinking. Understanding the pros and cons of WeChat, QQ, Qzone and Weibo is a first step. Partnering with the right KOLs is a bigger step. Are you ready to try social media in China? Your commitment level will definitely be challenged.

  • Web Design and Your Business: The Benefits of ADA Compliance


    Boot up, launch your browser and pull up your favorite website. Now, close your eyes and have someone cover your ears. Try to navigate and go to your favorite hot spots on that website. This is the obstacle millions of Americans with disabilities face every day.

    A good corporate website isn't all about appearance and content. Ensuring accessibility is as important as providing visitors with solid information. According to the United States Census Bureau, 56.7 million Americans have a disability. That figure makes up nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population. Now think about if one in every five customers can’t use your website. How much revenue might you lose? That’s why it’s critical to understand how beneficial ADA compliance can be to help these Americans and for the future of any company.

    What's ADA compliance and why is It so important?

    The Americans with Disabilities Act of 2010 sets the standards for accessible design. Implemented by the Department of Justice, it states how all commercial and public websites should be built to remain easy to use for everyone.

    While there are a lot of guidelines governing ADA websites, you should be aware of Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C). Both documents carry much of the same rules, however WCAG is more extensive.

    A few best practices you can easily use to combat common ADA violations:

    • Add text to images and videos. Many sites are guilty of not using text to identify pictures. Not only is it harmful for search engine optimization (SEO), but it also creates a challenge for blind customers. For example, a sports apparel website may have a picture of LeBron James. The blind person should be able to use a screen reader on the image and hear “photo of LeBron James.” If your customer is deaf, text captions and descriptions on your videos are effective tactics.
    • Avoid PDF files. PDF and other similar files are problematic for the visually impaired too. Unlike images, these types of formats usually can’t be read by screen readers.
    • Adjust colors and font sizes. When designers and developers build websites, high contrast colors are often an afterthought because of brand guidelines or overzealous creativeness. This is one of the great missteps by web teams because most people with vision issues rely heavily on high contrast settings.

    While listing all the guidelines is beyond the scope of this article, here's why building an ADA-compliant website should be a top priority.

    • You'll increase your organic reach, drawing more people to your pages: For the disabled, choosing which sites to visit often isn't a choice at all. Achieving total ADA compliance means everyone will feel comfortable browsing your pages. In turn, that leads to more engagement from a broader range of people, resulting in more social media shares, mentions and an overall increase in brand awareness. 
    • You'll rank better in searches, beating out competitors: While search engines won't check whether a website respects ADA, Google and its peers do care about the number of hits each URL receives. Since building an ADA-compliant website attracts more visitors, it in turn increases your ranking. More pageviews and longer sessions show how relevant your space is, taking it straight to the top of Google search results.
    • You'll bolster your reputation as a socially responsible organization: Today, disabilities and their effects are no longer just medical issues. Throughout the world, hundreds of organizations fight to defend the rights of those suffering from disabilities. When you dedicate time and effort to create an ADA-compliant website, you make a statement about your company’s social engagement depth, which can drive real business results.

    Even though a significant number of Americans have trouble accessing the web, most websites fail at ADA compliance. This is risky for businesses, since the Department of Justice is planning on enforcing these rules on websites in 2020. The time to become ADA compliant is now.

  • 3 Key Things Marketers Should Know About Bing and Google


    Search engine optimization can be a complicated matter for marketers who are in charge of content for their teams. One of the biggest challenges faced includes the planning and development of SEO strategy. Should the creation of content only focus on Google? Or should Bing play a role as well? For marketers that choose the path of the later, there are five areas of SEO that work differently with Bing and Google.


    1.    Keywords
    At its basic level most, marketers categorize keywords into research-intent and buying-intent categories before composing written content. When outlining your article, it's essential to know how Google and Bing treat keywords.

    The primary goal for Google is to deliver pages that match the intent of the searcher. For instance, Google heavily relies on machine learning and artificial intelligence to determine which pages they will return for a given search query. Thus, Google weighs content that is topical relevant much more than exact match keywords. Bing takes a different approach where they return pages with the exact keywords included in them.
    One other significant keyword difference between Bing and Google is the importance of your keyword in the meta descriptions. Google will not factor in keywords in their ranking system, whereas Bing places considerable emphasis on the inclusion. 


    2.    Backlinks 
    Backlinks from credible pages are crucial for Bing and Google, but the philosophy is slightly different. Bing tends to favor the volume of links and domain age a lot more than Google. Bing also sees .gov, .edu, and .org domains as the best-trusted signals.

    When looking at Google, the search engine tends to favor high authority pages rather than domains. Similarly, to Google’s philosophy with keywords, they want high valued content coming to searchers.


    3.    Social Media Signals
    Lastly, the importance of social media channels to SEO is different from both search engines. Google examines Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitch the same way as they do with any pages from a website indexed. Contrary to what Google says most marketing leaders believe social media plays a small role in Google’s algorithm. 

    Bing is very transparent about including social media into SEO and have acknowledged its inclusion in their rankings formula. Bing even shows Facebook friends and Twitter follower ratings for certain types of businesses.


    Closing Thoughts
    Since most marketing teams have started or are on the cusp of 2019 planning initiatives I advise you to consider these three critical differences between Bing and Google. It will help you better define if you want to tackle Google exclusively or go all in went Bing as well.