When localizing social content for China, think beyond Facebook and Twitter

So your company is successful on Facebook. And Twitter.

And now you want to expand your social reach into China.

Well, you can pretty much forget Facebook and Twitter, because these services are blocked.

Instead, you’ll need to focus on networks like RenRen, Sina Weibo, and QQ.

If you find this a tad bit intimidating, you’re not alone.

Which is why I was intrigued to come across a company that offers a simple but compelling service for companies wishing to expand their social footprints into China.

I’ll let the visual they provide sum up their service:

KAWO social

The company is KAWO and founder Andrew Collins recently answered a few of my questions…

Q: What social networks do you localize social feeds for in China?

KAWO allows brands to translate and localize their existing social media content from their Facebook and Twitter accounts to their Chinese social media counterparts, RenRen, WeChat, and Sina Weibo, giving brands digital access to over 500 million people where these key Western social media platforms are blocked.

Q: Roughly how long does it take for your localizers to translate a newly created social update in English across to the local feeds?

Although posts can be posted as quickly as 10 minutes, we give brands a 30 minute allowance to manage their posts in case they want to change something. Brands can also directly post on the KAWO dashboard to expedite the process. KAWO has several layers of protection to ensure that all content is in line with the local environment, but this allowance lets brands to have more control over their content.

Q: I’m assuming you work from English to Chinese, but do you also support other source languages?

Currently, we only support English to Chinese (simplified), but we have plans to roll out French, Spanish and German by 2014.

Q: Are all your clients organizations and companies without a local marketing team?

Some do, but almost all of our clients do not have a local on-the-ground team in China.

Q: And if not, why would a company with a local team work with you?

Aside from offering a range of packages that allow brands of all sizes and budgets dip their toes into the China market, we offer an unrivaled level of transparency, control, and protection. KAWO’s dashboard lets brands monitor activity on their accounts as everything is tracked, as well as control content- brands can directly post or take down content. KAWO’s dashboard also streamlines the process by having a central location where content from Facebook and Twitter posts are aggregated and broadcasted on multiple Chinese networks at the same time. KAWO’s multi-layered protection, consisting of both our proprietary technology and human moderation, ensures that potentially harmful words, phrases, and pictures won’t go unnoticed.

Q: I realize your service is quite new but are there any success stories or positive anecdotes you can share?

Table tennis is the largest spectator sport in China, but the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) had almost no presence on Chinese social media. Their Facebook page had great content, but as that is banned in China, it is obviously more difficult for Chinese fans to connect to them. We pulled that content in, translated, localized, and published it, and now ITTF has over 15,000 fans in just two months. Additionally, the Sina Weibo and TenCent accounts for Liverpool FC are already at over 1.5 million fans. In such a short amount of time, companies are definitely getting more bang for their buck.

Q: How much does your service cost?

We offer a range of packages, starting from $199 going to $2995, depending on a company’s needs. Our ‘Lite’ package is perfect for small businesses looking to just dip their toes into the China market and get a feel for the environment. Our most recommended package, ‘Pro,’ is a little more comprehensive: with a ‘Pro’ account, brands, universities, destinations, and personalities can sync their Facebook and Twitter accounts to China’s three top social networks (Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, and RenRen) and get detailed demographic and competitor analysis. Finally, our ‘Enterprise’ package is the most extensive package. Clients with an ‘Enterprise’ package, ideal for clubs, teams, and large brands, not only have everything detailed in the ‘Pro’ account, but also full marketing support from our team- a dedicated account manager to help with campaigns, contests, and more.

Q: Do your localizers interact with locals in addition to just translating content? And how is this managed so the brand is well served? Also, what if there are customer service questions that need to be handled by corporate?

Our moderators are all local recruits, who are then trained to Internet and social media best practices. Since they know the local environment as well as international best practices for brands, they can gauge what posts are appropriate for China. Additionally, our team, comprised of both local and foreign employees, works closely together to make sure our customers’ needs are met. Our different packages offers varying levels of service as well- our enterprise account, for example, offers a higher level of customer interaction than our light package.

Q: If companies were to pick just one social network to embrace in China, what would you recommend and why?

The digital landscape is very dynamic in China, but Sina Weibo has consistently demonstrated its dominance for the past 2 years, and with its new partnership with e-commerce giant, Alibaba, there are going to be a lot more commercial opportunities for companies.

Q: Finally, can you tell us the significance of your name?

Kicking Asia Wide Open!


Apple’s China apology and the value of a flexible global template

Apple China Apology

Here is the image used on Apple’s China home page to announce Tim Cook’s apology letter regarding Apple repair and warranty “misunderstandings.”

Here is The Wall Street Journal take on the matter.

From a web globalization perspective, what interests me is how Apple’s design template allows for localized messages.

Apple China home page

Apple placed this message in one of its “lesser” promotional windows, the one near the footer of the page.

These windows are quite handy for localized announcements. Every company should build into its global template the flexibility to allow for last-minute local announcements.

Now, what I don’t like about these windows is that they rely exclusively on images with embedded text. Locking in text may allow complete control over appearance but also cost you in localization overhead. While it may be trivial to localize a Photoshop file for one market — multiply that by 30 markets on a weekly or monthly basis and costs do become a factor.

But what I do like about the windows is that they can be easily swapped in and out based on the market, for local products, promotions, or, in this case, a heartfelt apology.


The problem with the Internet is that it’s too global…

From an interesting (and concerning) CircleID post by Milton Mueller:

Three Chinese engineers are proposing a way to alter Internet standards to partition the Internet into autonomously administered national networks, using the domain name system (DNS). The idea was not proposed in the ITU; no, it was sent to a multi-stakeholder institution, the granddaddy of the Internet itself, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Stay classy, China.


Local by design; global by accident

When I first visited Japan, I was struck by the range of local products made by the Japanese subsidiary of Coca-Cola, like Georgia Coffee (in a can, no less).

This phenomenon is not unique to Japan.

Consider the recent AdAge article: In China, Multinationals Forgo Adaptation for New-Brand Creation.

According to AdAge:

In China, which overtook Japan in 2010 as the world’s second-largest economy, U.S. and other multinational marketers are going a step further by creating new brands specifically for the needs and desires of Chinese consumers.

Levi Strauss & Co. launched a more affordable brand, Denizen, for China last fall, and General Motors Corp. and other automakers are designing entry-level cars such as GM’s Baojun, going on sale later this year. The trend is also moving upscale, with Hermes’ new Shang Xia lifestyle brand. And PepsiCo is tapping the Chinese taste for green tea with Spritea, sold only in mainland China.

Brazil is also mentioned in the article; Coca-Cola and Pepsi have launched guarana-based drinks for the market.

The decision to develop local brands is not one made lightly. The expenses can be significant, but so too can the rewards. And this is where things get really exciting; there is no reason why locally created brands (like Spritetea) can’t one day be exported to other markets.

After all, Georgia coffee is now also sold in Singapore, South Korea, India and Bahrain. Perhaps someday we’ll see it in the US.

When I think about the globalization of brands in general, very few were “global by design.” Sometimes global success is by design, but more often it is by accident.