The best companies in the world don’t sell. They brand. For example, Apple never tries to “convert” you into buying an iPhone. Instead, they paint a picture of the “iPhone experience.” They focus on branding. Not saying you should never sell. But personal branding is a disproportionately valuable factor that most people just don’t focus on. The same goes for personal branding in China.
Your personal brand is your reputation. And your reputation in perpetuity is the foundation of your career.
Becoming a Brand:
The advent of social media has shifted attention to the online environment; you must standout online and become a Digital Leader. How?
- have a good understanding of the digital world
- use social platforms that are useful for your personal brand
- having a roadmap and a clear brand strategy
- generating content about you and your talent
- adapt your brand strategy as professional and personal changes come up
You can focus on LinkedIn and Facebook and win; for sure you can. I decided for myself to be influential in LinkedIn and Facebook and open the Chinese digital door. Weibo, Wechat, good SEO with Baidu and Zhihu (The Chinese Quora) offer incredible opportunity to build communities and leverage branding. On those platforms, you can, FOR REAL, use Personal Branding Tactics to promote yourself as a foreigner (a good one :) ) in a new world.
I’ve put together a mix of strategies, tips, and advice on building a personal brand I’ve talked about over the years. We focus on China, a powerful country that offers incredible possibilities for foreigners able to adapt to the social media ecosystem. For more insight about Personal Branding and China Social Media go to my blog.
Personal Brand Definition:
Your personal brand is the unique combination of experiences and skills that make you, YOU. The perception that other people have of you and the combination of your skills. It’s your reputation, the most important assets you have in a planet populated by 7.6 billion people.
Effective personal branding will differentiate you from other professionals in your field. Today your brand exists both offline and online.
How much Chinese citizens use social media is remarkable. The number of foreigners with a strong reputation on Chinese social networks is limited and this is a clear opportunity.
If you are a Chinese citizen you have to build your brand in the western social world.
Personal Branding Strategies for China
Step 1: Learn basic Mandarin and study the Chinese social media ecosystem
Step 2: Open a WeChat account and start to make friends. Meanwhile start your presence on Weibo, the Chinese Facebook.
Step 3: Keep reading….
A Brand Can Be a Person
Nowadays, anything can be a brand. Even as an individual, you have a personal brand.
The idea of personal branding makes some people uncomfortable. But, if you don’t take control of your personal brand online, then you are missing out on opportunities and letting others control your narrative.
While the specific circumstances and goals vary by individual, the overall concepts and process are still relevant to everyone.
We live in a transparent world (also in China)
In a world with all these social networks, everything is transparent. Everything you do is captured — with Wechat, Weibo, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.. Anything you do will be known.
You can’t have “multiple personalities” anymore for business, family, and everything else.
In an environment like this, people who have good intentions are going to win. And people who come from a bad place are going to lose.
The internet is going to expose all of us, so think long and hard about what your intentions are.
Reputation lead to Money
We live in a world where everybody wants money for their startup. Why? Because a startup without money is almost always unsuccessful.
Personal branding is a painless step in working towards your goals. Regardless of your industry or professional status, your personal brand has the power to make or break all kinds of opportunities for advancement.
When building your brand starts to feel like a job, remember that it is an essential part of cultivating your career. And keep in mind that the greatest investment of resources, time and effort will likely come up front.
Building and optimizing new profiles, generating content about you and your work, identifying your goals, building a brand strategy – this can feel overwhelming. But once you’ve established a strong foundation, you’ll have a roadmap to follow, which makes the whole process much more manageable.
You are a media company (China Social Media Strategy)
There is no reason to do anything other than act like a media company.
Create content (Creativity process)
In China, you can get amazing resources at a reasonable price (video-photo-editing-offline events).
2. Buy ads to promote them
Use Weibo advertisement to promote your content (Fensetong-Fensetoutiao).
Enter new Wechat groups daily and share your content.
Explore the new social commerce platform Little Red Book.
Also, explore the power of Chinese SEO on Baidu.
3. Share your content on all kind of platforms
- Douban for attracting a young community.
- Weibo for the same reason if your content is strongly visual.
- Zhihu to educate (The Chinese Quora).
- Tieba to guarantee a good SEO.
- Wechat moment and Wechat groups to be present in your city; build a reputation around you and then expand.
Put yourself and your message in the center and reiterate. Products are boring, but you are not.
That’s the reason social media influencers and good storytelling exsist.
4. Message anyone who’s got 5000-10000+ followers (Chinese influencer).
See how you can add value. Hit them up on Weibo. Message them, connect, add value, and in return, they might give some awareness to your brand. Be a smart foreigner in China.
Mistakes to avoid
Be sure that you know what you are talking about. Don’t sell yourself. Work hard and describe the journey.
Document. Don’t create.
Time is limited; create natural content. Because you might not have time and resources to create a movie. Use Yizhibo for good live streaming and share it on Weibo.
Find freelancers to work on your photo editing. If you have a business or a project that will allow this, use UGC (user-generated content) to share on your platforms. If you have money (and you don’t have time) work with a fast and smart agency that can take daily care of your online reputation.
STUDY THE PLATFORMS AND DO A/B TESTING
The main platforms
Sina Weibo often referred to as ‘Weibo’, is one of the biggest social media platforms of China. Weibo literally means ‘micro-blog’ and it is often explained as the Chinese equivalent of Twitter or Facebook, two services that are blocked in mainland China.
SINA Corporation developed this microblogging platform in 2009 and launched it in 2010. Alibaba acquired an 18% stake in Sina Weibo in 2013 with a $586 million investment. Despite the strict censorship of media in China, Weibo quickly emerged as an obvious favorite among a wide range of the Chinese people living in the higher tier cities.
There are two types of accounts which users can create on Weibo social media:
- Personal account
- Company account (for Sina Weibo marketing)
A personal account is only for individuals. Both Chinese people and foreigners can register on Weibo and use it.
To grasp WeChat as a marketing platform, it’s important to first understand how the app works and why people use it.
In the U.S., the average smartphone user opens a handful of apps every day to text friends, check email, use social media and take pictures.
In China, WeChat is all of those apps rolled into one and is sometimes the only app consumers use.
Here is a short list of things the app lets folks do:
- Pay bills and manage their bank accounts
- Order food
- Buy clothes and movie tickets
- Book cabs
- Make doctor’s appointments
- Post to social media
- Send money to friends
- Check-in for flights
- Read news
Moments (朋友圈) is a fundamental feature for WeChat for Personal Branding. There, you can post text-based updates, upload up to nine images as well as share videos and articles, just like your Facebook Timeline or Twitter News Feed.
But it differs from those social networks in that Moments offers a higher level of intimacy and privacy: Your contact list is not visible to others. Your updates can only be seen by friends who are verified by you, and you can only see the interactions of people on your contact list. You can use Moments (朋友圈) to brand yourself into your community. A powerful tool that works for your weekly marketing activity.
Subscriptions (订阅号) – From an advertising standpoint, Subscriptions (订阅号) is a powerful content marketing platform for publishers and brands. The user can consume content from different companies and download branded apps. Your subscriptions account is your WeChat Blog for Inbound Marketing.
Takeaways: Benefits of having a good Personal Brand in China:
A way to stand out from the crowd
A way to attract a new crowd
Opportunity to define and show your skills and values in the Asian Market
Capture the Attention of Your Chinese Audience
Greater credibility in the western world
Recognition and prestige
Leadership opportunities in Asia
Opportunity to create a contagious community around your cause
Elevate Your Platform of Exposure worldwide
Don’t Panic. Personal branding in China is going to be hard and you might think to give up. BUT, results are going to come and the process is more interesting than what you think.