Tag Archives: social media

China Part 2: Students and Tourism

Welcome to the second of our World Travel Market-inspired posts on China and its outbound tourism markets. We’ve covered FITs and WeChat, and now it’s time to talk about students.

When creating Chinese language content for use online and in social media, the focus is almost always on China itself, the land within the so-called ‘Great Firewall’. But what about the thousands of Chinese young adults studying throughout Europe?

Students aren’t strictly tourists. Obviously. But they are an important tourist market in many ways: as a general rule, they tend to make a point of seeing as much as possible of Europe while they are studying here, to ‘make the most’ of their free time, so to speak. Many Chinese students will go on day trips to attractions and weekend trips to other parts of the country or other nearby countries (for example, hopping on the Eurostar to see France one weekend or getting a train to Edinburgh). This behaviour, of course, only increases during holidays (assuming that they don’t go home to visit family).

As well as this, despite having access to (and using) Western platforms such as Google, Facebook et al, they will still maintain their Chinese social media accounts and are still a primarily Chinese-language market. This is doubly significant when we consider their role in Chinese society: as people who have spent a good deal of time abroad, they are considered experts. Word of mouth is so crucial to Chinese people that they will become the unanticipated spokespeople for your brand as friends, relatives, and friends of friends come to them for advice on where to go and what to see.

A natural result of having a large population of Chinese students of Europe is that inevitably their family and/or friends will come and visit them at some point (or several) during their course. During their time visiting, they will treat their student point of contact as an expert, as we’ve mentioned above, and are likely to participate in traditionally ‘tourist’ activities such as visiting attractions and going sightseeing, etc.

When you have this in mind, it is clear that European-based Chinese students are a key market to consider when strategising your digital campaigns. And the best part is that they’re already here! There’s no need to entice them to get on a long haul flight to visit.

So, what to consider when incorporating this crucial market into your online/social media output? The rules are much the same as for targeting the Chinese tourism market at large: tailor-make your content, and make sure it’s impeccably translated. Go out of your way to interact with your target audiences, and encourage sharing of their experiences. Listen to what they have to say and learn from it. And most of all, get in touch with us at Rhubarb Fool! We really can help.

China Part 1: The Growing Importance of FITs

Ever since attending World Travel Market’s ‘Spotlight on China’ seminars, at Rhubarb Fool our minds have been buzzing with all things Chinese: social media, language, MICE, FITs, Students…so we thought we’d do a small series of posts on the all-important Chinese market.

‘What’, you may be asking ‘exactly is a FIT?’ Well, FIT stands for Foreign Independent Travel or Foreign Individual Travel – essentially, individuals or groups of less than 10 travelling internationally without the assistance of a tour operator.

Why are we talking about them here? Because FITs are becoming big business, and their growing significance means that the landscape of tourism marketing is changing slightly, but perceptibly. As they’re travelling independently, FITs aren’t reliant on travel agents’ and tour operators’ set itineraries or recommendations. They plan their trips alone, which means that they research their trips alone, and they seek this information online. Where else?

This brings us back to a point we’ve hammered out several times in this blog…the importance of having an online presence of China. FITs can’t incorporate your attraction into their itinerary or stay in your hotel if you simply aren’t there.

Internet word of mouth is so important in China that prospective visitors will undoubtedly be checking in with your social media pages to see what other consumers are saying about you. They’re also guaranteed to run your business through Baidu or another Chinese social network to try and visit your site. Trust is very important to Chinese people, so making the extra effort to host a .cn domain for your site will go a long way. Also, 9 times out of 10, they prefer to read content in their own language. There is no point in half-measures when it comes to appealing to the Chinese market – but going the distance will yield results.

Just think, FITs represent a whole new consumer base that is growing exponentially (especially as more and more Chinese people get online and become more mobile), and without cultivating an online presence in China (even a small one), you’re missing out on a huge chunk of the market.

Success on Weibo, Success in China

We’ve talked about Weibo here on our blog before – it’s only natural, seeing as we’re Chinese media and culture enthusiasts.

Fresh from a 3-month long campaign for one of London’s most significant visitor attractions, we thought we’d share some of our thoughts and findings:

1. Content Matters

‘Yeah, yeah’, you’re thinking to yourself, ‘of course they’d say content matters! They’re a content agency!’ but there’s no exaggeration here – it really does matter, and it matters a lot. The millions of Chinese netizens on Weibo are a discerning crowd, and they won’t follow, favourite or retweet any old thing. In fact, when Weibo first launched its sponsored posts advertising platform, the network was awash with user complaints. They weren’t upset about the advertising itself, however – just about viagra sans ordonnance its quality and relevance! Putting effort into creating engaging, relevant content will yield results.

2. Quality Over Quantity (at first, anyway…)

When American basketball star Kobe Bryant first joined Weibo, his mere presence was enough to garner hundreds of thousands of followers within a few hours – all without saying one word. But we’re not all Kobe Bryant. The rest of us have to start slow and build up brand knowledge and recognition from scratch. This means that for a while, you might be staring at the ‘followers’ figure with a feeling of growing dismay. It takes time to get some momentum going and build follower numbers – in the meantime, focus on the quality of your posts and interactions with existing followers. You’ll see the views for each individual post go up and the followers you do have will be more inclined to recommend you to friends after meaningful engagement with you.

3. Engage with the people who matter

But plenty of quality content will only get you so far – think of it as the first step to establishing your presence. The next step is to reach out to others. Following the accounts of other Western businesses and personalities is a no-brainer, but they’re not the ones you’re marketing to. To get ahead you need to interact with KOLs: Key Opinion Leaders. These are the people with followers in the thousands and hundred-thousands – both real-life and internet celebrities. When they start interacting with you, it’ll get noticed. Reaching out to those with a natural interest in your business is preferable, because they want to talk to you too! Larger, co-ordinated marketing campaigns can benefit from engaging KOLs as brand ambassadors to spread the message far and wide – the cost will vary according to their fame and interests (for example, a super-famous luxury fashion blogger will cost much more than a hobby-blogger history enthusiast).

4. Paid-for Promotion

Paying KOLs to promote you is just one aspect of the many promotional options available. As in the west, PPC advertising is very popular in China and can yield some great results. Last year Weibo launched a sponsored posts system similar to Twitter’s, with promoted posts appearing in targeted follower’s news feeds and those of their friends. You pay per impression or engagement, with a flexible bidding and budget system. China’s biggest search engine, Baidu, offers a similar service, which is comparable to Google AdWords.

The simple reality is that to go the full distance in China and really build up your brand’s presence there, you need the reinforcement of paid-for advertising: your Weibo account is a part of a larger system. But it’s a very valuable one, so why not invest? It’ll be worth your while. At Rhubarb Fool, we’re always happy to advise you.

Header image courtesy of VisitBritain.

Social Media Gets Serious

We recently read an interview that got us thinking (again) about social media and how people and brands use it to represent themselves.

Novelist Teju Cole is known for his beautifully slow-paced and well-written books Every Day is For the Thief and Open City, both of which offer a unique insight into the cultural dynamics of Nigeria, America and Europe.

Recently he spoke to The Guardian about, amongst other things, his presence on Twitter. An active tweeter, he gets involved with the political sphere, challenging those opinions he finds either lazy or pernicious.

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This perhaps isn’t unique – plenty of public figures use Twitter as a platform to air their political views. What is somewhat unusual, though, is how seriously Cole takes social media. He admitted to writing drafts of his tweets, stating: ‘When I tweet, I’m still a writer’. One can’t imagine some other prolific tweeters taking so much time over their posts.

Perhaps more of us should follow his example. Well thought out posts that accurately represent and enhance your brand identity make for more relevant, interesting, and profitable conversations all round.

One of the beauties of Twitter is how instantaneous it is – it’s so easy to type out a quick message and send it out to the world. Bite-sized nuggets of information can be transmitted immediately. Just look at how quickly topics become trends.

But this ‘instant-ness’ sometimes fosters carelessness. When it’s so easy to send out a tweet, they can seem ephemeral. Here today, gone tomorrow. That’s not really the case though, is it?

Your feed is a timeline of your activities on Twitter that all of your followers can see, and who knows how many people see each individual Tweet? Even if it’s limited to just 140 characters, it’s still a platform on which to display your brand, your business, or yourself.

Cole, conscious of his role as a writer and all that it entails, aims to ‘create a space’, even with his Twitter feed, admitting that he ‘actually sits and thinks about this’. It’s no bad thing to consider one’s online profile carefully. Through his thoughtful and measured outputs, Cole ensures that he honours his values as a writer and is cohesive across all fronts. This is something brands should put effort into too.

When you tweet, you’re tweeting as your company or brand, and so it’s important that your message comes through even in the briefest of messages. Whether it’s through the careful use of certain hashtags or ensuring that specific company vocabulary is used, it is paramount that you establish a distinctive tone of voice in line with the rest of your brand and run with it.

Aim to create a ‘space’ of your own online that’s dedicated entirely to the showcasing of your brand. Whether you’re dealing with customer service queries or promoting a new marketing campaign, you’re still contributing to the associations consumers have with your company and you brand identity overall.

To use Cole as an example once more, as a Nigerian-American writer whose work focuses on Nigerian people and culture, he often engages in discussion about Africa and the prejudiced opinions that some Westerners seem to have of his native continent.

A cosmetics company, despite being a completely different entity entirely, could use the same principal in their social media usage: posting make up tips and engaging in conversations about top performing cosmetic products would enhance their brand identity and integrity. Consumers are given the impression that they know what they’re talking about and further opportunities to interact with them. Every tweet has a purpose.

The same, of course, goes for other social media platforms as well. Put thought into images you post on Instagram (there’s no shame in setting something up especially, or using some super-flattering filters) and give some substance to your posts on Facebook or your blog.

When you say something online, you’re not just making a comment; you’re representing yourself and your brand.

Harness the Power of Regional Opinion Formers

Rhubarb Fool’s blog has talked a lot about Social Media. This is with good reason – few things are as pervasive and influential these days as platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and the rest.

The significance of social media doesn’t seem to be waning any time soon, so we expect to be talking about it for a good while yet.

We all know that companies, big and small alike, are cultivating an online presence to better engage their customers and to promote their brand. Celebrities do the same thing, engaging their fans and controlling their public image.

But what about the users themselves? They are not all mindless consumers. In fact, many are actually creators. One thing that social media has engendered is sharing on a whole new level, with blogging. Many bloggers have huge social media presences, and achieve a kind of Internet celebrity, particularly in their country of origin. Occasionally, this internet celebrity even transfers to ‘real life’, with bloggers being featured in magazines and television.

A great example is Gabi Gregg of GabiGresh.com. Her fashion blog started out with her sharing her ‘OOTD’ (outfit of the day), and has grown to the point where she is a columnist for InStyle USA, a brand ambassador, and even collaborator on a plus-size swimwear line. By reaching out to Gabi, brands reach out to her followers and receive unique exposure to a specific target market (plus-sized fashion lovers).

At Rhubarb Fool we call bloggers like this ‘Regional Opinion Formers’, and we know how important they are. Not only are they talented and creative, but they provide the opportunity to collaborate and consolidate a powerful social media presence for the brands we work with.

When we create magazines for our clients, in addition to providing great design and well-known British writers, we commission these regional opinion formers to give a sense of authenticity and relevance to the final product. The publication goes hand in hand with a social media comms plan, allowing the bloggers to talk about our clients and the magazine on social media, thus increasing brand awareness and driving traffic to our clients’ websites.

On our magazine for Selfridges, we had the pleasure of working with the fabulous Tala Samman, of myfashdiary.com. Her understanding not only of fashion, but also of the Middle Eastern market gave the magazine some real cultural relevance. Ultimately, her contribution helped to create a better product for the target demographic.

More importantly, through her involvement, we were able to insert Selfridges into the existing fashion conversation going on in the Middle East.

This unique approach is something we’re really excited about at Rhubarb Fool, and we’re already looking forward to applying it to several future projects.

Social Media: Know Your Audience Part I

We’ve talked about social media before. But at Rhubarb Fool we’re more than aware that sometimes important things bear repeating – and if we blog about social media a lot, it’s because we’re thinking about it a lot.

More specifically, we’re thinking about how it can be used to our clients’ best interest.

We live in a fast-paced age where the consumer rules. These days, people have a whole lot of choice, not only in the products they choose and the brands they ultimately engage with, but in the ads they engage with.

Marketing and advertising campaigns are no longer just inconveniences foisted on people during an intermission or leering at them from a poster on the tube – they are morphing into content that people actually want to interact with – something they’d choose to watch, or look at, and most importantly, share.

You have to be ahead of this trend if you want to make the most of your business. Which is why specialists in content marketing like us at Rhubarb Fool are here to help deliver quality, original content that will captivate your customers.

With that in mind, let’s think about the importance of audience. The most effective social media campaigns – the ones that resonate most strongly – have a keen sense of who they’re trying to target and why.

A great example is Dove’s 2013 ‘Real Beauty Sketches Campaign’. It’s no secret that their biggest consumer group is women, so their social media marketing team zeroed in on that key demographic, focusing on their observation that ‘women are their own worst critics’.

It was with this resonant truth in mind that they created a campaign encouraging beauty as a source of confidence, hiring an FBI sketch artist to draw two portraits of women without seeing their faces – one as described by the portrait’s subject and another as described by a subject’s acquaintance.

The difference between the two portraits was striking – the women themselves focused on their flaws, whilst their acquaintances saw beauty.

Even more striking is how this moved the customer base: over 114 million people have watched the video, which went viral on social media outlets. The compelling video also became the number one viewed online video ad of all time within a month of launching. It is currently the 4th most shared video ad of all time.

The lesson to learn from all this? Knowing your audience is important. Don’t only figure out who they are, but get inside their heads. How do they view themselves? What are their aims and aspirations? What makes them feel good? All of these things will help you to create a successful social media campaign that will engage them.

What social media platforms do they use? Youtube tends to be a safe bet as everyone watches videos on it, and share via other networks. Instagram is becoming the daily go-to

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for most people to look at beautiful images, whilst Tumblr attracts more creative types.

Twitter encourages immediate engagement and up-to-the-minute communication, whilst Facebook fosters more meaningful social interaction and sharing.

If you target the platforms where your audience are most active, then your campaign will reach them and resonate even more effectively.

But what about knowing your audience when they hail from further afield than the western world? That’s one for next week…Knowing Your Audience, Part II.

Social media is just like … football Part IV

Rhubarb Fool attempts to apply its love of the beautiful game to the challenges presented to small businesses by social media

You’re passing the ball backwards. 

It seems that a lot of people are still making the mistake of beginning their tweets with an “@”. This serves only to make the tweets invisible on their followers’ streams, unless they are following that other tagged handle as well.

If you insist on starting a tweet with tagging another account, put a full-stop in front of the “@” so the tweet is visible to all of your followers.

You think that the World Cup should never be played in Qatar. 

Maybe it shouldn’t. But you can’t afford to ignore the new in favour of the old all the time.  You might see Snapchat as little more than an adolescent phase. (Remember “Phasebook”). Your assessment might ultimately be proved correct. But it would be a folly to ignore a social platform whose users send 400 million messages each day. Snapchat has a core audience whose ages are between 13 and 25. It’s already fulfilling a vital function in the way that the next generation shares things with each other and communicates with each other.

We don’t dispute that it’s going to be difficult to play your game in circumstances that might be unfamiliar and uncomfortable.  But sometimes it’s the boat that heads out to sea in the storm that lands the biggest haul of fish.

So ask yourself. Are you playing it safe with the unfamiliar? Are you letting others find out the lie of the land in these emerging markets? Or are you learning and adapting so that you can prevail in spheres that may initially seem unattractive.

Rhubarb Fool Content Creators

Social media is just like … football Part III

Rhubarb Fool attempts to apply its love of the beautiful game to the challenges presented to small businesses by social media

Too much shooting. Not enough passing.

Research suggests that customers engage with brands that “Pass” (offer something of value) a lot. These are essentially the brands that put out a lot of thoughtful and attractive content, without explicitly making sales pitches. In doing this, a brand is essentially collaborating with its customers. It’s creating a shared emotional experience with each person and demonstrating its value to them and their lives.

Just like football, it’s the considered and complex string of passes that sets up the perfect shot. There’s no mystery as to why the teams that play thoughtful, intricate and measured football garner so much support from the neutral football fan.

So ask yourself what’s your ratio of passes to right shots? If it’s not–Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Shot – you could be doing something wrong.

You’re trying to play the game and support your team from the stands.

Let’s think of hashtags as being like a potential audience that’s prepared to get behind you and applaud everything that you do well, so long as you meet its wishes. The best way to respond to this audience would be to use it as a resource and make it work for you. Let the audience offer you

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support and momentum, rather than trying to create this support and momentum for yourself. An audience can be like a great wave. Sometimes it’s effective and expedeint to try and ride the wave, rather than create one of your own

Like it or not, the fact is that it’s unlikely that you will single-handedly get a hashtag to trend on Twitter (unless of course you’re David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo). However, if you pay attention to what’s popular and effectively hitch yourself to the popular wagon you may yield heightened performances from rather unexceptional tweets. You might not have the profile you’d like to have in an ideal world, but you can attract attention by surrendering to the currents that are being created by the audience

So take the time to follow what people are talking about on Twitter and identify what the audience is talking about? Are you listening for the wave and tacking your colours to the appropriate mast, or are you wasting time and effort by trying to determine what’s popular within the audience yourself.


Social media is just like … football Part II

Rhubarb Fool attempts to apply its love of the beautiful game to the challenges presented to small businesses by social media

You’ve got the wrong boots.

You wouldn’t play football in running spikes and you shouldn’t post essays on Instagram.

The best social content is essentially indigenous to its platform. This means that the content should be appropriate to the context it’s presented in. Your objective in engaging with social media should be to seamlessly offer the right message in the right environment, by ensuring that your content is right for the playing conditions (each platform’s unique style).

For example, Tumblr seems to engage those of a more artistic temperament and supports animated GIFs; whereas Twitter speaks to a younger, socially engaged, savvy urban audience.

So ask yourself what’s the indigenous environment of the platform you’re trying to speak on? Steven

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Gerrard is unlikely to burst through from midfield and net the winner in Mo Farah’s running spikes.

You haven’t changed your strategy since 1966.

The last thing we’d ever want at Rhubarb Fool is to detract from the glory that others have earned back in the day. But the likelihood is that what worked then won’t work now. Back in the glory days of television, you’d be watching the F.A. Cup Final and at half time you’d be sold washing powder. That worked then.

Today any break in a live football match offers the opportunity for you to be offered the opportunity to take a punt on the next goal-scorer. It’s advertising that’s bang up to date, responsive and interactive.

Businesses engage with social media to sell their products and services. However, potential customers have a different objective when they use this medium. And it’s largely to be entertained. The fact is that if you want your business to interact with people while they are seeking entertainment, you have to be that entertainment.

For example the person using Instagram is likely to be doing so because they want to look at beautiful pictures. So you’ll gain nothing by interrupting their experience by posting a picture of a 10% off coupon. Rather your focus should be on how you can integrate a picture of your product into an image that maintains a degree of aesthetic appeal and artistic integrity. Do this in an intelligent and sophisticated fashion and you could find yourself setting agendas and attracting attention to your brand. So don’t disrupt the entertainment, become part of the entertainment. What worked then, won’t work now.

Social media is just like … football Part I

Rhubarb Fool attempts to apply its love of the beautiful game to the challenges presented to small businesses by social media

Gary Vaynerchuk, the best-selling author and the man considered by many to be the king of social media, recently compared social media strategy to boxing. Gary broke down social media strategy into five simple words: “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook!”

While we at Rhubarb Fool don’t wish to detract from the pugilistic analogy, our love is for the beautiful game. As such, we’re more inclined to base our sporting analogies on football. At Rhubarb Fool we’re not thinking about “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook!” We’re thinking about “Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Shoot!”

So what do such analogies actually mean? The passing analogy is useful

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to a point because in a game of football a good pass will create space and opportunity. But the relationship between you and your customers is not really, as adversarial as the relationship between two football teams playing each other. You won’t build opportunity by breaking your customer down. You’ll do it by offering something of value to them. So for the Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Shoot! analogy you could read instead: “Offer Something of Value, Offer Something of Value, Offer Something of Value, Offer Something of Value, Pitch”.

It could also be reasonably argued that the world of social media is far more confusing, complex and sometimes more overwhelming than a match of football. Social media can be difficult to navigate and its constantly evolving nature is such that only routine use of and exposure to it will allow expertise to develop. Just as the great professional footballer trains every day and maintains a dedicated (and sometimes all consuming) focus on their game: so the social media professional will dedicate themselves to maintaining a position at the forefront of innovation, development and effectiveness in their industry.

But let’s be clear. Most of us are too busy running business to dedicate ourselves entirely to social media. The luxury of staying abreast of all that is new and exciting in this field is simply not viable if you’re spinning a dozen other plates. So please indulge us at Rhubarb Fool and let us critically assess the elements of practice than can lead to mis-placed effort and undesired outcomes. We’ll apply our football analogy to some social media faux pas. In this series of posts we’re going to set out seven of them for your consideration: