Let’s face it – social networking in our generation and future ones will only get bigger.  The dominant world social network – Facebook boasts the largest active user base of more than 500 million users and has often been said, if it was a country it would have the 3rd largest population in the world after China and India. With the average user having 130 friends, people are becoming more connected and engaged with each other’s lives.  In fact Facebook in August 2010 for the first time had surpassed Google in terms of time spent online.  All this time and engagement has begun to make marketers salivate with the prospect of winning customers. Since the social networking marketing channel is still in its infancy, especially in Asia, I was keen to learn more about how a marketer uses it creatively and effectively.

This week, I interviewed Weiting Liu of Mr.6 based in Taiwan to talk about their Facebook social media marketing service.

The Facebook wave has swept across most of the world and Asia is no exception. In Taiwan Facebook has exploded since around mid-2009. It has something like 8m active users now, representing about half of all internet users and 50% of users come back every day, making it the second largest website behind Yahoo!  So with clear potential I asked Weiting how he got started in social media marketing,

“Mr.6 has been a prominent tech blogger (“Techcrunch of Taiwan”) since 2006. Due to the growth of social networking in Taiwan, many companies have approached us since 2006 for advice on how to take advantage of it to build brand awareness. So basically we decided to enter this space based on the demand from the market around us.”

Especially with increased pressure on marketing budgets due to the global financial crisis, marketers have been forced to prove their efforts are worth the cost. Since social is a very new marketing channel I asked Weiting why it has a high ROI compared to more traditional channels, Traditionally companies would buy media space, pay for content and try to attract hits on things like web-banners etc.  After the visitors visit the campaign page, the campaign dies and the brands would be left with only a small % of collected email addresses.  Social media marketing differs because it has continuity.  With Facebook fan pages, you’d be able to keep a large % of visitors as your fans, and you’d be able to communicate with your fans freely from now on.” So unlike other forms of marketing channels such as TV or radio that can only really control who they target based on time and location, social media can really connect with a very specific group of people who self opt-in to a campaign at a fraction of the cost.

So for companies looking to venture into social media marketing, they are probably questioning themselves if they are the right kind of company to use it.Traditionally it was thought that social media marketing is only really effective for B2C companies but as companies, societies and groups become more integrated online, the opportunity for B2B social media marketing is coming up. Mr6 is experimenting with this and we find it very interesting.” Says Weiting. It seems social media is only limited by a company’s imagination. What about target audience? Does it only work for a certain type or anyone? “I think social media marketing works for all types of target audiences. It’s not only the young netizens that are engaged with Facebook but mums and dads too. But like any marketing campaign, it is still important to accurately define who your target is.”

Now that we know any type of company or brand can use social media marketing to target any type of audience, given a bit of creativity, what makes a campaign successful? Weiting shares “I believe a company should firstly really understand how people use and interact with Facebook. What are they doing, what are they looking at? Secondly they have to be creative to attract attention and engagement with users. Thirdly, they have to have a clear and defined target or KPI, this could be number of “Likes” or number of “Fans.”

Okay so let’s now look at how Mr. 6 achieved a successful social media campaign for Quaker Oats in Taiwan. I asked him to tell me a bit about their latest Quaker “Fat Face” Campaign – what is it about? How does it work? What were the results for Quaker? Quaker Oats is a very well-known brand of oatmeal. Not like traditional Chinese porridge it is thicker and comes in different flavours. It’s also a healthy breakfast that helps people lose weight but not in the same way a diet does. When we brainstormed creative ideas we thought about what would be fun for our target audience of young office worker women. At the time, there was a popular iPhone app called Fat Booth which allowed you to take a picture of someone then make their face look naturally fat in a funny way. So we came up with the idea for people to upload a picture of their friends and make them fat then get their friends to feed them virtual Quaker Oats to make them lose weight and become normal again. The campaign was very successful! Before the campaign there were 30,000 fans and after it, there were 116,000 fans; so a lot more awareness was generated from our creative social media campaign.”

With all this buzz around social media, how quickly are companies reacting to this opportunity? I asked Weiting if companies have in-house marketing capabilities to do this or are they shifting resources and money into this type of marketing? “I know companies are allocating more internal resources to social media marketing because they are becoming more aware of its importance. But the challenge for companies is to really stay on top of how Facebook is evolving and how people use it. Older companies don’t yet get that. Also, our advantage at Mr.6 is that we can develop social media applications that get user engagement. Many companies don’t have this capability.”

Now re-focusing on China, I asked how Weiting views the challenges and opportunities to leverage social media marketing in China, “China is a very interesting but complicated market. The challenging part is that it is so big and so fiercely competitive. Things change so quickly so you have to stay on top of it all. For us, I see opportunities to leverage open platforms such as Sina Weibo and the mobile smart-phone wave. I want to explore the China market more this year.”

Obviously China cannot leverage Facebook but its equivalent, RenRen.  This is still a new frontier for marketers especially in Asia, so for those who can grasp the concept and techniques to creating great campaigns that deliver high ROI, there is big opportunity in China. Can Chinese advertising agencies and marketers move quickly to understand social media users and think creatively? I think so. Like everything else, it just had to be done with Chinese flair.

Jason Lim

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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