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Communicating with Chinese Buyers – Socially!

Without a doubt, digital strategy and online marketing strategy become more and more important each day for our business as the media landscape evolves. Esther Yong, from AC Property, discusses how you can use some of the the more modern and social methods to communicate with Chinese Buyers.

Even though newspaper and offline media are here to stay, the influence of those platforms appears to be in decline. To confirm, just need to take a look at the News Limted and Fairfax Media’s annual report. The newspaper circulation is on doubt in decline (see below for ABC stats). The only bright aspect of those media empires are the digital subscription and revenue growth.

Among all digital media channels, social media marketing is now an essential platform to increase your brand awareness and develop deeper relationships with your target audience. Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Youtube, LinkedIn, and Instagram are all the popular brands. Even politicians started using social media to attract young votes in the past election.

Wealthy Chinese are now among the biggest buyers of real estate in Australia, picking up properties ranging from modest suburban homes to waterfront mansions with views across Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Garden and Sydney Harbour. Attracting and selling to Chinese buyers could be the key to our success now and in the next decade.

Along with its uniqueness in culture, geographical and political, the social media landscape in China is very unique. We should not simply copy whatever we do in Australia to Chinese market. To give you a few examples, Facebook and Youtube are inaccessible in China and we cannot find Twitter in the top list of the blogging websites in China. That means we need an understanding of the social media landscape in China, the culture and its people. Asking the following three questions might be able to get you a head start.

1) What is your QQ number?

Ever received email enquiries from an email address full of numerical numbers ending with @qq.com and wonder if that is a spam mail? You are not the only person scratching heads.

Tencent QQ, popularly known as QQ, is China’s favorite free online/mobile instant messaging software, similar to MSN messagener, Google Chat, Viber and WhatsApp. The average number of concurrent QQ users online is 120,000,000. Yes. It is 120 million with the peak number being 177,100,791 according to Tencent QQ’s official announcement.

Apparently that unique number that is assign to the user’s account also happens to be its email address and social networking account. And more importantly, QQ is also one of the most popular applications on smart phones in China. It works perfectly for instant text messages, voice messages, emails. QQ has become an integral part of the Chinese people’s life, and as I quote one of our real estate agent who swears by using QQ to ease his communication with Chinese clients:

“It is as if every single person uses QQ in China, but no one else does or have ever heard of it outside of China”

As bizarre as it might sound, this statement is very true. We have received numerous calls from our agent clients asking for more information about QQ as they have been requested by their Chinese clients to communicate via QQ. On the other hand, our Chinese customer service line has also been asked the same questions many time: “Can I contact the agents on ACproperty.com.au via QQ?”

QQ has been such a huge part of Chinese communicating culture that people no longer exchange phone numbers or email address but “What is your QQ number” is more commonly asked. And you won’t be surprised if you find your business partner in China are using a QQ email rather than the cooperate email. Do not put your enquiries from QQ emails into Spam too easily. It might be an opportunity from behind the Great Wall knocking at your door.

2) Did you see the post on Weibo?

The Australian Open has an account, so does Kevin Rudd. Others with these accounts are the State of Victoria, Monash University, Central Equity, and the Commonwealth Bank. But what is Weibo?

Weibo, literally translates as “micro-blog”, is often explained as the Chinese Twitter. However, more accurately, it might be considered as a hybrid of Facebook and Twitter. Users can post pictures and embed videos directly from their Smartphones and share it with all their friends in Weibo.

With more than 500 million registered accounts, more than 46 million active accounts and more than 100 million new posts every day, Weibo is biggest micro-blogging website in China. Therefore, this large visitor base attracted a lot of businesses to build their own Weibo account and use it to market their products to lucrative Chinese buyers. This is a good platform to reach out to our prospective clients who are interested in our products and inform them timely about any new projects and promotions.

3) Can we WeChat?

Comparing to QQ and Weibo, WeChat is a new relatively new phenomenon but with a very strong momentum. It functions like WhatsApp and Viber as a messaging application. In addition to text message, it also supports voice and picture messages. Functionality wise, it is a combination of QQ and Weibo. It is mainly used on smartphones. People could add you to be their WeChat friends list through a QR code scan, name search or proximity search (search for the people around you).

So how can our real estate business benefit?

To start with:

a) Get a QQ and WeChat account

In this way, we can use the same communication tools as buyers use and to provide timely customer service. We will also find people reply their QQ messages much faster than an email.

The more accessible we are for Chinese investors to reach out to us, the more likely we will close a deal.

In addition, by using these social media channels, it also shows a great deal to Chinese investors that we are committed in this market and we are able to service them. The first visitor who used ACproperty.com.au’s Chinese customer service QQ account started with saying that “It’s so great you guys have QQ, this makes it much easier to ask my questions.” Then the visitor asked some questions about Doncaster area and subsequently made enquiries to two Doncaster listings in the website.

b) Build a Weibo account to release your marketing information and get more exposure

Unfortunately, all our Facebook and Twitter contents are not accessible by Chinese investors as they are blocked in China. Even for local Australian Chinese who can access to Facebook and Twitter, they will still stick to the Chinese equivalents. Why? Their families and friends are all using these Chinese equivalents. Definitely, your fans will not grow to 10,000 in one week’ time. But it is still great that if you could get 2000 people who are interested in your Weibo over a few months. Each of them could be your prospective buyers, and you will never know which of your project poster catches their attention and they show up in your showroom the next day. While we want to use Weibo as our marketing channel, it is just as important to take care of our users at the same. ACproperty.com.au’s Chinese Social Media Promotion consultant, Mr. Wang suggested “The key to succeed in the Weibo is to provide our fans with the things they like rather than the things we want to sell.” We need to spend 29 days of a month to provide our fans the valuable information that helps them and then use the other 1 day to promote our products. The very first step we need is to attract people who are considering investing in Australia, then build our trust and rapport with them, then we could start to sell things to them.

c) Acquire a Chinese customer service capability

Of course, most of the Chinese investors would like to communicate in their mother tongue (i.e. Chinese). Getting the Chinese customer service capability ready is a prerequisite. Speaking their language and understanding their culture is a game changer. This will require investing. If Chinese strategy is a key component contributing to the future success, uplifting this capability will only put us at the driver seat. What we need then is to wait for the opportunity to knock at our doors.

Until next time, happy exploring everyone. Welcome to follow us at our Weibo at http://www.weibo.com/acproperty