People in China are particularly active social media users – 91% of internet users in China have a social media account in comparison to just 67% in the United States. Chinese citizens are also more than twice as likely to interact with brands on social media platforms as US social media users. But what does a successful marketing campaign on Chinese social media platforms look like? This case study of Starbuck’s social media campaign in China provides an example of marketing on two major platforms; WeChat (Weixin) and Sina Weibo. WeChat: WeChat is China’s answer to WhatsApp, and is a leading messaging app with features like shopping and gaming. With 438 million monthly active users, WeChat has grown impressively since its start in 2011. Because WeChat is a messaging app, brands can target consumers more accurately and use location features. Once consumers scan the QR code to access the company’s WeChat page, they can begin messaging with the brand. The QR code for Starbucks is on their Chinese website and on their products and advertisements. Starbucks created a WeChat campaign that asked fans about their mood. Customers could respond with any of WeChat’s 26 emoticons, and then Starbucks would reply with a song that corresponded to that mood. 130,000 users joined in the months after the campaign, and shared 238,000 emotion messages. Starbucks also saw a 9% increase in fans on its Sina Weibo page, demonstrating the interconnected nature of social media platforms in China. Starbucks also has individual conversations with consumers through WeChat. When users begin following Starbucks’ WeChat page, they are asked how they can be helped. Customers respond with an emoticon or specific questions to receive further messages. WeChat functions as a direct messaging channel for questions regarding products, promotions and store locations. If a user agrees to receive future messages, Starbucks’ WeChat account will update them when new products are released and provide seasonal coupons throughout the year.
WeChat 2
Starbucks ad for mood-music WeChat campaign
Sina Weibo: Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging platform similar to Twitter, has 130 million users that brands can reach by developing a company page. Posting about promotions, new products, and fun activities are ways to engage fans of your brand. Unlike WeChat, companies are not limited in terms of the amount of content they can share with users daily. Starbucks posts questions and product information to reach out to its 1.1 million fans on its Sina Weibo page. They post once a day and engage followers by asking questions. In the below post, they asked “This holiday, what will you harvest?”  They received 263 comments, 337 shares, and 134 likes.
Starbucks Sina Weibo page posts, “This holiday, you will harvest ______?”
  By alternating posts that actively engage customers and those that inform customers of new product options, Starbucks keeps fans engaged and up to date. Brands can engage Chinese consumers by creating a Sina Weibo post, updating regularly, and responding to user comments. Connecting with customers through social media platforms in China likely contributed to Starbucks’ 11% sales growth in the China and the Asia-Pacific, as compared with a 7% increase in the Americas. Premium lifestyle brands are appealing to Chinese consumers. But brands need to tell their story, and Chinese consumers want that story told through social media.