Linlin Xie

Linlin Xie

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

China’s “Plan B” Social Media Strategy; Interaction After Connection.

If you’ve been following LRB recently, then you’ve noticed many posts on social media sites in China. When beginning this quest to catalog China’s SNS landscape, I was under the impression I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. However, like anyone who thinks they know something, further digging always reveals they didn’t know enough.

I find as I continue to write these profiles one major theme recurring. The days of the Facebook model are fast disappearing; ie: creation of a vanilla social media network. I imagine this is similar to the invention of the telephone: suddenly everyone could call each other and that was great, but at some point they just ran out of things to say. Calling then, wasn’t so important as what you’d talk about once you called. And with today’s incredibly explosive SNS growth, connection is a given; now people want something to connect about.

The strategy then is not to focus on social networking, but to focus on content that drives user interaction; once this content is found, and created on some sustainable basis (ideally by users), your basic social media features can then be inserted to support the content spearhead. One great example of this vs.; these two are basically Facebook clones, but took a decisive lead due to its heavy emphasis on online games; ie: interaction beyond simple connection.

This seems “slap you across the face” obvious in retrospect, and I guess the idea was always lurking in the back of my mind; but as you’ll see in these SNS profile posts, along with future posts regarding QQ/MSN, + China’s twitter clones, and LRB’s next post on, that people are already connected, and you’ll never beat the first mover (QQ has a ridiculous 90% market share, and, the best twitter clone, has about 10 times the traffic of its nearest competitor).

I’ll put my money on

When considering the average user, this makes sense. We can compare this to cell phones; lets say each new social media site you sign up on is similar to carrying around another cell phone. So you sign up with Facebook, then you sign up with Linkedin, then you sign up with Twitter, etc; this is almost akin to carrying around 3 cell phones is it not? To communicate with each group, you’ll need to login, update etc; kinda like you need to use a specific cell phone to call a specific portion of your contact list – at some point it’s just too much trouble.

In my personal experience I’m on the 3 sites above, plus a few others, and I run this blog. So what’s my personal social media strategy? Simple, I just focus on this blog, and have it RSS feed to my Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook accounts. After, I respond to direct message on each of those sites, but as for updating, I can keep it simple; ie: I’ve drilled down to one cell phone.

“And your point is…?
The point of my ramblings is that users cannot take another vanilla “just connect” social media site; if you’re going to force them to carry around another cell phone, then you’ll need to add some serious bling; with SNS, if you want them to sign up to a brand new site, then you’ll need to give them something more interesting than what’s currently offered.

I’ll attempt to prove this point sometime this year with one of BA360‘s inhouse projects, a China social media experiment (completely separate from LRB). If it proves successful over the next few months, I’ll begin detailing our process in getting it off the ground, with the challenges and successes we found along the way.

…and now back to China SNS.
So if new China social media sites cannot beat the 1st movers on even terrain, the popular strategy is to go niche; ie: instead of generally focusing on connecting everyone, to instead focusing on driving specific interactions between connected members. This is evidenced by the continued popularity of Tianya.comand; users don’t simply connect here; they also express a wide range of opinions on social, political, and entertainment topics that spark threads of consisting of thousands of comments.

The takeaway is while technology sparked revolution, it will never sustain a lead on fundamentals: value and benefit to the user. In this fast commoditizing SNS landscape, value is defined not as connection, but interaction after connection. When multiplied by millions of users, this small point sheds bright light on the most recent stage of China’s SNS evolution.

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