Twitter Branding Summit debut in Beijing tries to balance politics and business

On May 17, Twitter held the Twitter Brand Summit in Sanlitun Soho, Beijing, Twitter branding’s official debut in China. The event was aimed at Chinese businesses seeking increased global exposure and digital marketing.

While Twitter may be blocked in the country, they still recognize the opportunities to capitalize on China’s desire to increase its global presence. However, this leaves them in a gray area unaddressed at the event.

“Strictly speaking, it’s hard to judge whether what Twitter’s promoting here can always be legal. You know, Twitter’s banned by Beijing. Media business in China sometimes gives their lives to Chinese government,” Su Yeshi, a former social media specialist at a Chinese edtech platform told TechNode.

Su’s words may help explain why the Twitter team chose their words when addressing national topics.

Alan Lan, Twitter’s Head of Greater China, gave the opening keynote speech. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Lan highlighted “Belt and Road” (in Chinese: 一带一路) when referring to travel and commerce’s marketing needs abroad. He used “leader” (in Chinese: 领导), the word meaning person-in-charge in state-backed institutions when referring to China’s going-out opportunities and saying “this is what I would like to discuss with ‘leaders’ who are here with us today.”

Local Chinese companies who shared successful marketing stories also added weight to Twitter’s willing gesture in China’s sensitive political environment.

China Sports Media and Alibaba’s AliExpress’ officers explained their cooperation with Twitter. With stress on global exposure, market response, KPI, and business growth, the Summit tried its best to make it as commercial as possible.

However, Twitter is still cautious. The Summit introduced Twitter’s leading position in world digital marketing competition, but Twitter said little on how exactly the cooperation will work. With many marketing agencies in attendance, Twitter didn’t explicitly explain why working with the official Twitter team will be better than working with agencies or operation experts who also do Twitter business.

“There’s no significant difference between working with the official Twitter team and collaborating with agencies or hiring individual experts. It’s all about your content, circulation strategies, engagement management, channels, and many other social media things,” Puen Pramudwinai, a Senior Consultant specializing in global business development, told us.

Global exposure may mean strong market attention, it will also mean a completely visible corporate social media image in front of massive individual users. Billion-level views can lead to either positive or negative responses, and Chinese Twitter-account owners may not be ready to face all negative situations directly.