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5 Social Listening Tips for the China Market

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Compare to other markets worldwide, social listening is indeed much more crucial in China because of its unique social and media landscape. Being the largest social media market in the world, the total number of social media users in China is expected to hit 1279.13 million in 2026. With the most governmental censorship worldwide, dominant industry players like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube are all blocked in the country, but only domestically-engineered platforms like , Wechat, Xiaohongshu and Douyin remain the majority.

While international brands put most of their digital marketing efforts on ad shares and promotional content, the key to tapping into the China market is in fact to connect with users on their local platforms. Chinese audience is extremely content-driven and has a growing appetite for “genuine” recommendations, making them one of the most suitable groups of demographics to execute a social listening strategy. To help you get the most out of social listening to your company’s benefit, we have put together 5 must-know tips for you to get ahead of your competitors in the China market.

But to start, you would have to first understand:

What is Social Listening?

In short, social listening is the process of monitoring and analyzing all online conversations and mentions regarding your company, brand, products, services and ambassadors - basically all of your company’s work. This includes how do your customers feel, their needs and even pain points.

In general, this can be broken down into a 2-step process:

  1. Monitor and identify what real people talk about your industry, brand, company, staff, products, services, competitors - anything related to your business, using the correct keywords

  2. Analyze for ways to act and improve. This could be in many different forms like direct replies, launching of new content or products to meet demands or solve existing problems, shifting your brand’s positioning or even preventing crises - you name it.

What is the difference between Social Listening and Social Media Monitoring?

Social media monitoring emphasizes collecting data accordingly to metrics like engagement rates, followers, click-through and conversion rates that reflect your business. Meanwhile, social listening is the strategy to learn about how people actually say about your brands in online discussions, hence finding room for improvement and opportunities.

If we put the two concepts in a medical context, social media monitoring shows numbers and stats as if they are symptoms. Your body hints you with them and ask you to go visit a doctor. Social listening is the action of the doctor asking deeper questions about your symptoms and acting on it by looking for cures or prescribing proper medicines.

5 Tips for doing Social Listening in China

Always keep your goal in mind - know what to do with your social listening data

The utmost important part to take care of in a social listening strategy is the same as every other digital marketing strategy: what is your goal, and what metrics are essential?

To increase leads and sales, you would need to dig through competitors and industry trends for breakthrough points and identify new customers segments. To ease existing customers’ sentiment and improve, pay more attention to brand tags and users’ engagement. To build a brand-new brand positioning, industry data and general online brand mentions would be the essence of the game plan. Be clear about what you prioritize to achieve, instead of wasting all efforts in thin air.

Identify your keywords

Of course, you could monitor absolutely anything once you get the tools on hand., from “china athletes” to even “Hello world!” But for marketing purposes, there are 5 types of keywords that you would want to keep track of:

  • Brand/company name or slogans

  • Campaigns/Product Names

  • Industry buzzwords

  • People - that can include:

    • your company’s “faces” like C-level staff or public relations representatives

    • Influencers or industry leaders that could drive trends and opinions

  • Competitors

Make sure you also monitor common misspellings, nicknames and abbreviations for all of your keywords.

Let’s say you are a marketer of Apple, base on the above categories you could already come up with keywords like “Apple”, “iPhone”, “Technology”, “Android”, “Tim Cook” ...etc.

Another critical point that is worth your attention is to exclude irrelevant keywords that you absolutely do not wish to have anything to do with. Circling back to Apple’s example, work with your social listening team or vendor to filter out fruit-related results and cut through the noises.

Expand your social channels

China is in love with recommendations - reviews and influencer endorsements hugely influence purchase decisions. In China, 38% of consumers rely on recommendations they read on social platforms when it comes to making purchase decisions. Apart from focusing on monitoring branded content, make sure you also identify significant influencers’ profiles and platforms other than social media channels with your brand’s presence.

If you are selling a B2C product, you may consider adding video or live-streaming platforms like Bilibili and Douyin to your monitoring kit, where KOL/KOC might have a real-time review of your product, even if you have no official presence there.

Be proactive and respond directly to your potential customers

Another great point of leveraging a social listening strategy is the ease to connect with your customers by joining online conversations that you have been tracking. You can jumpstart by replying to tagged posts, users feedbacks and comments under your official social channels.

Once you get familiar with the above, try to up your engagement by:

  • Respond to unsatisfied competitor’s customers - an incredible chance for lead generation and turn them into customers

  • Engage with content that has not tagged you but only mentioned - show that you truly care

  • Join conversations of emerging trends and hot topics using your brand accounts - consolidate the image of being an industry expert that is up-to-trend

Do your best to get personal and real when you communicate with your audience. It means to respond as soon as possible, with true, humane interaction like addressing them with their names and altering your message with genuineness, instead of an automated, simple “Thank you for your opinion.” Chinese out of all customers in the world, value relatability and trustworthiness. This phenomenon is especially obvious when it comes to Gen-Z, a generation that has been overwhelmed with information that is overly accessible. A personable, friendly approach works magic with them, proved by the rise of KOCs in the country.

Stay alert for emerging social media trends and patterns

China is one of the most ever-changing markets globally, with its constantly-updating regulations and new platforms arising. Stay relevant by taking notes of industry trends and news to fill in the gaps in the industries. Harness the power of multiple social platforms’ “Hot Topics” (热话)pages and get inspired:

One hack to note in this aspect is to take advantage of your competitors. Identify inspirations underneath their recent projects and discussion so that you could counter-utilize their resources at no cost. Tracking your competition not only gives you a sense of what they have succeeded in, but most importantly what they did wrong - while your brand could be the one to provide the solution to the problem. An all-around competitor analysis will always be the groundwork required for every business hoping to stand out.


All in all, always bear in mind that social marketing is about the people, not the metrics. Learn from and act on insights you draw from numbers to truly connect with your clients.

For more information to tap into China social marketing, contact us at:


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