China Digital is Complex. The Devil is in the Details.

In my recent speaking engagement at the Chat Conference, I use the following as the opening slide in my session “Grass Root Approach – what you can do with limited budget.”

The message is clear. With limited budget, you cannot expect to sit back and relax. Rather, you need to be very on top of what you are doing, adjust the strategy (tactics really) very quickly and fine-tune each single processes in order to move in the right direction.

Nonetheless, China digital is complex. For overseas hotels who may not be able to read the Chinese language and may not understand well how Chinese platforms work, it is easy to be confused. Some “solutions” may look similar from the surface but the devil is in the details.

Let me share with you a few examples.

A.You want a Chinese website so you pay for professional translation (yes, this is needed) and create a Chinese language sub-site under your English official website. It looks good when you access the Chinese language site in your own country. But are you sure you are reaching Chinese by doing this?

I have written an article a year ago on “Why a Chinese translated website is not good enough.” To show you in action, I have recorded a video on how overseas websites are accessed and appeared in China.

Now you can see even the Chinese translated website that looks good from the surface, if it is not locally hosted, with .cn domain extension and with Google plug-ins removed, blocked platforms icons (like Facebook, Instagram, etc.) removed, the loading speed will be so slow that technically you are not China-Visible. This is what a lot of overseas hotels simply do not know. This is the details I am talking about.

B. Now you hear everyone talking about WeChat and someone approached you to say they can give you a “WeChat account”. You got a QR code of your WeChat account and you think you are covered on WeChat and are connected to the billions of Chinese this way. Are you really?

There are many different types of WeChat accounts. From no cost personal accounts (like above) to different types of official accounts. Even for personal accounts, there are overseas accounts versus mainland Chinese accounts. They are hosted on different servers and many features are not available for overseas accounts.

Back to official accounts, only recently WeChat opens up to allow overseas companies to obtain official accounts (service account). For WeChat official accounts, the key benefit is they are searchable whereas the personal accounts do not appear on search.

Bottom line is, WeChat is a closed private platform. Before you jump in to open a WeChat account of any kind, you need to clearly know what you wish to achieve with the WeChat account and how you plan to acquire connections.

WeChat is complex alone. So a WeChat QR code that looks similar in the surface, it can be completely different of what it is actually.

C. Likes and Followers on Chinese social media like Weibo or Little RED Book may be something many overseas hotels will sought after. So if someone comes to you to offer you say 3,000 likes and followers for a hundred dollar, you think okay, I can afford and let’s give it a try. Then you do not see any results and “conclude” Chinese social media platforms do not work. What you do not know is real likes and followers are very hard and expensive to get but fake likes and followers can be easily bought in China. So, in the above example, probably you are buying fake likes and followers from click farms.

I am sure most of you do not appreciate fake likes and followers as you will not be reaching real Chinese this way. Real reach will give you engagements you valued even with lower numbers of followers (as unfortunately it is very hard to get loyal Chinese followers nowadays).

In this case, it may look better from fakes than real on the surface. You need to dig deeper to check on engagements in order to validate if you are reaching real Chinese or not.

And the list continues. From big as above to small as finding the good and trendy hashtags, coming up with the posts schedule to maximise results, it is difficult to compare apples to apples from the surface. China Digital is Complex. The Devil is in the Details.


Tags: China Digital; China Digital Solution; Digital Branding in China; China Online Branding; China Visible Strategy

Compass Edge is a company offering online solutions to independent hotels. It is a niche service provider offering cost-effective branding solutions for overseas hotels to establish an online presence for the booming Chinese FIT market. It can also provide customers with an Internet Booking Engine, meta-search integration, GDS distribution and Channel Manager in its portfolio of solutions.

This article was written by Anita Chan, CEO of Compass Edge. Anita has extensive travel industry experience, and has worked all over the world with leading companies such as Four Seasons Hotels and Delta Hotels, as well as in corporate offices and technology service providers. Before joining Compass Edge, Anita worked as Regional Director for a leading OTA in Asia, as Global VP for a leading digital agency, and as VP Asia Pacific for Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

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