One of the toughest problems any company will face when going social is to decide between running social media geared toward China in-house or through an agency. There are both benefits and drawbacks from both strategies. Here are the pros and cons of running your Chinese social media in-house.
The first problem and greatest drawback for running your Chinese social media in-house will be the language barrier. Unless you have Mandarin speaking staff on-hand, you will needed to hire additional employees. It is almost impossible to run your Chinese social media in-house without first being able to speak the language.
2. Social Influencers
Social influencers are essential for quick growth and brand awareness. Most social media strategies use social influencers to some extent and Chinese social media relies heavily on social influencers. Due to the nature of Chinese social media and government censorship, many social media users do not create original content. They are often more willing to share or re-post social influencers articles. The drawback comes when trying to establish relationships and connect with these influencers in China. Most agencies have spent months and years creating strong relationships that allow the agency to quickly and effectively run new marketing campaigns. Running your Chinese social media in-house requires you to start from scratch, which takes time and money.
3. Time Zone
Another major drawback is time zones. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to be a major issue until you give it some thought. The US is 8-12 hours behind China in most areas. This means you or your in-house Mandarin speaking social media manager will have to be awake in the middle of the night posting on WeChat, Weibo, etc. There are some automation programs, but if you automate the entire process than your brand is only present and not engaging with potential customers in real-time.
Finally, employees can be difficult to find in your local market. If you choose to run your Chinese social media in-house, you will be faced with the difficult task of finding a Mandarin speaking social media manager that is willing to stay up all night and that is willing to move to your headquarters or is currently in your local market.
1. Control & Speed
A large part of social media marketing in China is joining relevant conversations when they are happening. By choosing to run your Chinese social media in-house, you are taking full control of your operation, which allows you to act with greater control and speed. Agencies will often create content plans that span 3-6 months into the future. These plans are often paid for in advance and offer little flexibility to capitalize on developing trends or conversations. The agencies will create a plan that starts conversations but often times it is better for brands to join conversations. By running your Chinese social media in-house you will have greater control when it comes to starting or joining relevant conversations and you will have the speed and flexibility to change strategies as you learn more about your consumers.
One of the biggest benefits of running your Chinese social media in-house is savings. Agencies have large overhead costs that they must cover before they even began to make a profit, so they must bill clients at enormous rates per campaign just to break-even or make a profit. Some agencies will charge upwards of $30,000 for a six month campaign. These campaigns will be simple Weibo management, Chinese language blogging and BBS posting.
Companies that wish to enter the Chinese market and actively use Chinese social media could hire a Mandarin speaking social media manager for $40,000 – $60,000 per year. By hiring a new employee, the company will have a Mandarin speaking employee on-hand at all times to handle costumer service, media buying, social media marketing, and a verity of other tasks. An agency will only complete work they have been contracted and paid for; an employee can complete a verity of tasks related to your overseas operations.
3. Fans and Followers
If you choose to run your Chinese social media in-house, you create a stronger and more passionate fan base. Some agencies are willing to buy fake followers in order to reach KPIs or deliver agreed upon goals. This behavior can be eliminated by running your social media in-house. Being able to monitor, track, control, and engage with your followers directly will also allow you to gain greater insights into your costumer base.
Agencies are hired to complete goals and objectives. They are already knowledgeable and often time focused on completing the goals and objectives, which leads to a lost of insights gained or transferred to the company that hired the agency. Agencies are often times only focused on the tasks they were paid to complete and often times overlook valuable insights or they are unwilling to transfer the knowledge gained because they are not being paid for the collection and analysis of those insights.
One of the most important reasons to consider running your Chinese social media in-house is the knowledge you can gain by interacting everyday with your target audience. The Chinese markets are different than any other markets in the world and they are developing at astonishing speeds. Two years ago marketers would have said Weibo is the best social media platform for marketing in China, but today many would say WeChat. This demonstrates how quickly the social media landscape can change in China and by interacting everyday with your followers, you can capitalize on changing trends and behaviors. Being ahead of the competition is always important in any market and one of the best ways to stay ahead is by truly understanding your target market and learning about new trends and opportunities.
There are many reasons to run your social media in-house or through an agency and the above pros and cons were written to encourage readers to think about their current and future social media strategy. What is your social media strategy and why did you choose to run your social media in-house or through an agency? Comment below and give us some of your pros and cons.