nooruddin

Zaheer Nooruddin SHARES MEASUREMENT INSIGHTS AT SOCIAL MEDIA ASIA CONFERENCE

If you’re in Hong Kong this week, check out Burson-Marsteller Digital’s very own Zaheer Nooruddin, Lead Digital Strategist for Greater China, who will be sharing his insights on PR measurement at the Social Media & PR Conference on Friday, March 4th. Zaheer‘s talk on Linking Metrics with Objectives to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Your Social Media PR Strategies will focus on China-specific tools and cover the following subjects: 

 

·                Measurement from the outset – How to develop and track measurable objectives 

·                PR measurement myths – What is ROI? Considerations and pitfalls to avoid

·                Social media analytics – Applying both basic and advanced tools to measure your campaign’s effectiveness

·                Incorporating social media metrics into marketing communications

·                Case study: Pulling it all together and arriving at the right solution 

For more about the conference, check out its website.

 

If you are unable to attend, you can follow the conference on Twitter via #SMPR

Or through Zaheer’s Twitter feeds: @BMDigitalChina and @zooruddin.

—-

Zaheer Nooruddin is Digital CMO Asia-Pacific and Greater China Lead Digital Strategist at Burson-Marsteller.

A Digital Q&A with Zaheer Nooruddin

6/24/2011 1:28 PM 

Today concludes a successful digital week for Burson-Marsteller globally. Zaheer Nooruddin, Greater China’s Digital Practice Leader, participated in a Q&A session to introduce our colleagues around the world to China’s unique social media landscape.


Question: What are the key digital and social media platforms in China and what should we know about them? 

Zaheer: China’s key digital and social media platforms include Baidu, the search engine market leader in China, as well as Sina and QQ, two of the leading integrated web portals in China. On the social media front, within SNS there is Renren and Pengyou, as well as at least 10 other major players in the SNS space. For microblogging, there is Weibo, operated by Sina, and other significant microblogging services provided by Baidu, QQ, Sohu and 163. There are also emerging platforms such as professional SNS (LinkedIn for China) such as Ushi, as well as many major group shopping sites and location-based services. You should know that the digital and social media landscape in China is extremely crowded, complicated and dynamic. The landscape is evolving almost faster than anyone can keep a track of! 


Q: Are companies active in social media in China? Do you have any examples? 

Zaheer: Many companies are becoming increasingly active in social media in China. Multinational companies such as Starbucks, Coca-Cola and P&G brands are leading the trend. In the B2B space, interesting explorations in the space are being carried out by Chinese companies, such as China Mobile. Many companies have blogs, and more and more executives are adopting blogging and microblogging as means of communications with audiences and stakeholders. There are over 5,000 companies on China’s main microblogging platform, Weibo, already, and more companies are joining up every day. Companies in China are more active with social media marketing. Using social media for public relations and as a means to manage reputation is still a concept in its infancy in China. 

Q: What’s the biggest misconception that clients have about digital or social media programs in China?

Zaheer: Clients tend to think that digital and social media programs in China are not measurable in terms of tracking ROI. This of course is a gross misconception, since, if done properly, there is no medium that is more measurable and tangible in terms of tracking effectiveness and results than the digital medium.


Q: What impact has digital media had on traditional media in China?

Zaheer: Digital media is rapidly changing the way traditional media operates. More traditional media are monitoring and tracking issues around companies online today in China than ever before, and are gathering views and forming opinions and stories about companies based on what they see online. This directly affects a company’s public relations. In terms of consumer confidence and trust, there was a recent report that showed that an astonishing 94% of Chinese consumers trusted companies that had social media presences more than companies that did not. Companies are increasingly aware of this shift, and are adopting social media presences to gain more trust with consumers. They are forced therefore to engage directly with consumers within social media. This in turn changes a company’s outlook on the balance between digital media and traditional media.


Q: Do you see any emerging trends for digital in China?

Zaheer: The Chinese internet is growing rapidly. It is expected to be the world’s largest internet, in terms of pages served, soon. It is already the world’s largest internet by online population, with close to 500 million Chinese online already, and that number growing by an average of 10 million each month. In terms of trends, this year’s story has been the rise of microblogging in China (weibo), but I think next year’s story will be the story of digital integration. It is increasingly difficult to view social media platforms, channels and content in silos in China. All these spaces are converging and integrating rapidly. It will be interesting to see who the winners are.

 



Click here to find out more about Burson-Marsteller China’s digital offerings.


Establishing a Digital Presence in China: Zaheer Nooruddin co-hosts

Best Practices for Establishing Your Web Presence in China
Monday, February 6, 2012 | 10:00 am EDT (11:00 pm Beijing)

Opportunities abound in China for multinational companies seeking to expand their web and brand equity into the largest Internet market in the world. With these opportunities come unique challenges and important differences in how businesses an successfully establish their web presence.

Join the webinar on Feb 6 as Jeff Kim, COO for the United States & EMEA at CDNetworks, and Zaheer Nooruddin, Digital CMO, Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific, present best practices for establishing your web presence in China.

Webinar attendees will learn about:

- China’s Internet landscape and market opportunities
- Navigating the Great Firewall
- Website Regulatory and Licensing Challenges
- Overcoming the Internet Performance Dilemma
- eCommerce in China and what it means for multinational businesses
- Website interfaces and the key considerations for Chinese audiences
- China’s dynamic social media landscape

Registration is free.

D/BM is Burson-Marsteller China’s digital and social media consultancy. D/BM identifies key online influencers in real-time, plans innovative communications, and mobilizes corporate and consumer programming to promote reputation in the digital age.

CHINA DIGITAL AND SOCIAL MEDIA LANDSCAPE 2011

Compliments of the Season!

As we wind down 2011, a great year for us, at Digital Burson-Marsteller China we recently compiled a bunch of our digital and social media insights in 2011 into a single report.

We thought it’d be good to share this with you since China is so dynamic, and so filled with digital and social media marketing and communications for reputation and crisis management opportunities, that it might be useful to consider. We hope you enjoy reviewing it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Click here for the complete D/BM China Digital & Social Media Landscape 2011 Report in PDF.

D/BM is Burson-Marsteller’s integrated digital and social media offering for China. D/BM supports by analysing online reputation and marketing effectiveness, identifying and managing influencers, and by creating online communities that enable digital communications programming.

Contact Zaheer Nooruddin, Digital CMO and Lead Digital Strategist for more information.

A Digital and Social Media Q&A with Zaheer Nooruddin

Today concludes a successful digital week for Burson-Marsteller globally. Zaheer Nooruddin, Greater China’s Digital Practice Leader, participated in a Q&A session to introduce our colleagues around the world to China’s unique social media landscape.

Question: What are the key digital and social media platforms in China and what should we know about them? 

 

Zaheer: China’s key digital and social media platforms include Baidu, the search engine market leader in China, as well as Sina and QQ, two of the leading integrated web portals in China. On the social media front, within SNS there is Renren and Pengyou, as well as at least 10 other major players in the SNS space. For microblogging, there is Weibo, operated by Sina, and other significant microblogging services provided by Baidu, QQ, Sohu and 163. There are also emerging platforms such as professional SNS (LinkedIn for China) such as Ushi, as well as many major group shopping sites and location-based services. You should know that the digital and social media landscape in China is extremely crowded, complicated and dynamic. The landscape is evolving almost faster than anyone can keep a track of! 

  

Q: Are companies active in social media in China? Do you have any examples? 

Zaheer: Many companies are becoming increasingly active in social media in China. Multinational companies such as Starbucks, Coca-Cola and P&G brands are leading the trend. In the B2B space, interesting explorations in the space are being carried out by Chinese companies, such as China Mobile. Many companies have blogs, and more and more executives are adopting blogging and microblogging as means of communications with audiences and stakeholders. There are over 5,000 companies on China’s main microblogging platform, Weibo, already, and more companies are joining up every day. Companies in China are more active with social media marketing. Using social media for public relations and as a means to manage reputation is still a concept in its infancy in China. 

Q: What’s the biggest misconception that clients have about digital or social media programs in China?

Zaheer: Clients tend to think that digital and social media programs in China are not measurable in terms of tracking ROI. This of course is a gross misconception, since, if done properly, there is no medium that is more measurable and tangible in terms of tracking effectiveness and results than the digital medium.

Q: What impact has digital media had on traditional media in China?

Zaheer: Digital media is rapidly changing the way traditional media operates. More traditional media are monitoring and tracking issues around companies online today in China than ever before, and are gathering views and forming opinions and stories about companies based on what they see online. This directly affects a company’s public relations. In terms of consumer confidence and trust, there was a recent report that showed that an astonishing 94% of Chinese consumers trusted companies that had social media presences more than companies that did not. Companies are increasingly aware of this shift, and are adopting social media presences to gain more trust with consumers. They are forced therefore to engage directly with consumers within social media. This in turn changes a company’s outlook on the balance between digital media and traditional media.

Q: Do you see any emerging trends for digital in China?

Zaheer: The Chinese internet is growing rapidly. It is expected to be the world’s largest internet, in terms of pages served, soon. It is already the world’s largest internet by online population, with close to 500 million Chinese online already, and that number growing by an average of 10 million each month. In terms of trends, this year’s story has been the rise of microblogging in China (weibo), but I think next year’s story will be the story of digital integration. It is increasingly difficult to view social media platforms, channels and content in silos in China. All these spaces are converging and integrating rapidly. It will be interesting to see who the winners are.


Click here to find out more about Zaheer Nooruddin and Burson-Marsteller China’s digital offerings.

Social Media MBA - talking Asia by Zaheer Nooruddin

Zaheer Nooruddin is a co-author of the new book ‘The Social Media MBA’ published by Wiley and his chapter is called ‘Digital Dragons, Elephants and Tigers’ explaining social media trends in Asia.

It’s a fact that companies so far have only scratched the surface of what can be achieved with social media and this is first book for the experienced social media professional that want to take their activities to the next level. Here at Tech Talk we will give you a mini Social Media MBA that comprise of 15 chapter previews over 15 weeks with the thought leaders featured in the book.

Zaheer is the head of D/BM, global PR firm Burson-Marsteller’s integrated digital and social media influencer practice. Zaheer is also the firm’s Digital Chief Marketing Officer for Asia, and their Lead Digital Strategist for Greater China. Based in Hong Kong, Zaheer travels extensively on business and speaking engagements. He was previously the founding head of Edelman Digital in China. He has also held senior roles at international digital marketing agencies, Proxim- ity Worldwide/ BBDO, Ogilvy and Wunderman. A truly global citizen, Zaheer has lived and worked in India, China, the Middle East, Japan and the US. He counsels multinational companies on digital, social web, media and business strategies.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/zooruddin
Blog: http://www.zaheernooruddin.info

In his chapter Zaheer Nooruddin will introduce you to the dynamic and diverse social media landscapes of the Asian continent. He will examine the most compelling reasons for businesses to participate in social media, the opportunities for communications and marketing, while understanding the many challenges they will face in Asia. He will invite you to consider how companies and organizations doing business in Asia should think to incorporate social media and digital storytelling into their integrated communications and marketing strategies in Asian markets. He will answer questions like why microblogging in China is such a unique story, how different Asian markets vary and what is the extent of social media use in Asia?


With regards to social media what should companies plan for in 2012 to take the next step?
ZN: “Companies that have spent the last 1-2 years in social media need to look for ways within their strategies to take their commitment, design and community engagement to the next level. Deeper engagement, better design, and a stronger commitment to their social media presences is the next step forward, while constantly persevering to integrated their social programs and content with traditional corporate and brand marketing and communications programming and content, as exploring their options in Social CRM and Open Leadership and Social Business models”.

ZN: “In Asia, the big theme in 2012 is Commitment. Companies operating social media programs in Asia have essentially only been dipping their toes into the possibilities and opportunities to extend their marketing, communications, loyalty and direct sales programs with social media. 2012 will see companies staking a stronger commitment in social media, setting up presences and designing the content that will lead to long-term relationships with key online stakeholders and consumer audiences.”

What company is the best at this today?
ZN: “The last time I checked, no company was doing a perfect job at social media in Asia, but a lot of companies are trying and doing very well at trialing programs, some successful and some not so successful. I do think B2B companies can shine a light on how to use social media for business with a focus on ROI to B2C companies, who are traditionally more ‘active’ in the social media space. Hyper-targeting and focusing on developing programs and content for niche digital audiences and influencers is critical for social media success in Asia, and the organisations that have mastered this concept will continue to make great strides and succeed.”

Why should we read your chapter?
ZN: “Asia is an endlessly diverse and fascinating region, with half the world’s internet users and some of the most dynamic and active social media markets. Asian technology companies are increasingly leading innovation in the social media space, and to ignore how social media is developing in Asia as a region, and in giant online markets such as China, India, Japan, Korea, Indonesia and others, is to miss a huge part of the story of social media and its impact on brands and consumers around the world.”

For more information: http://www.socialmedia-mba.com

To order a copy: http://www.amazon.co.uk

Zaheer Nooruddin China Social Media Landscape 2011

We recently compiled a bunch of our digital and social media insights in 2011 into a report.

We thought it’d be good to share this with you since China is so dynamic, and so filled with digital and social media marketing and communications for reputation and crisis management opportunities, that it might be useful to consider. We hope you enjoy reviewing it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Click here for the complete D/BM China Digital & Social Media Landscape 2011 Report in PDF.

D/BM is Burson-Marsteller’s integrated digital and social media offering for China. D/BM supports by analysing online reputation and marketing effectiveness, identifying and managing influencers, and by creating online communities that enable digital communications programming.

Contact Zaheer Nooruddin, D/BM head, or Leon Zhang, D/BM Digital Strategy & Insights Lead, for more information.

Zaheer Nooruddin on "CHATTER IN CHINA: MULTINATIONALS TURN TO WEIBO"

By Melanie Lee, REUTERS, Nov 16, 2011

What do the International Monetary Fund, Louis Vuitton and Unilever have in common? They are the among a clutch of Westerns institutions to join Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging platform operated by Sina Corp, which has quickly become the place to be to promote, lobby and win over a large, important audience.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms popular abroad are blocked in China by a government worried that unfettered Internet access could undermine Communist Party rule.

But with more than 250 million mostly educated and white collar users, Sina’s homegrown Weibo is similar to Twitter in that it allows users to post 140 character “tweets” and gather followers, is becoming a major influence in Chinese society. Weibo was launched in late 2009.

“Sina Weibo is becoming the national watercooler of China,” said Sam Fleming, founder of Shanghai-based social media consultancy, CIC.

“It’s where people are sharing news, gossip. If you want to see what’s happening in China, you open your Weibo account.”

Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, became the latest Western luminary to hop on the Weibo bandwagon last week.

“To my Chinese speaking friends, here’s a translation of my APEC Summit statement,” Lagarde, wrote to her more than 120,000 followers in English on Monday.

A sophisticated social media strategy has become increasingly important for Western companies, with firms from Ford to Nestle increasing the proportion of their ad spend on the Internet and Facebook pioneering the mining of online data about users’ likes and dislikes.

Now that trend is spreading to China.

More than influence, the ability for multinational corporations (MNCs) to reach the Chinese public directly with their message is one of the reasons why Weibo is growing in popularity, branding experts say.

“It’s the quickest way to communicate with Chinese audiences,” said Rand Han, strategy director at Resonance China, a Shanghai-based social media digital agency.

“When done right MNCs can quickly locate their target markets, gather information, habits, etc., from available data, and begin connecting almost immediately at significant reduction in costs versus traditional media.”

Some analysts, however, caution that managing the “noise” on Weibo can be tricky because a brand message put out there can be readily challenged by Internet users on the platform.

That is not deterring companies and brands such as LVMH’s Louis Vuitton, Unilever Plc and Coca Cola Co, from opening accounts at least for now. China, with its burgeoning middle class, is a rapidly growing market for them and gathering insights via Weibo is essential in crafting branding messages.

“A lot of our brands which are growing in China, the multinational brands we work with see Weibo as an immediate opportunity to set up a stake in a way that they then have a voice directly to their consumers,” said Zaheer Nooruddin, lead digital strategist for Greater China for Burson-Marsteller.

BILL GATES TO MARIA SHARAPOVA

Celebrities have also caught the Weibo fever. Tom Cruise, who is affectionately known as “A-Tang Brother” in China, opened his account in February and now has almost 3 million fans.

Bill Gates, tennis star Maria Sharapova and actress Emma Watson have also taken to Weibo to promote their ventures and strengthen their fan base in China. Weibo says it has verified these accounts to be genuine.

Anybody who can navigate a Chinese website can register for a Weibo account. But in order to get verified, Weibo requires users to submit proof of identification. Companies can also apply for special enterprise accounts that give their Weibo page a more polished look.

The Chinese government has also taken note with numerous government departments and officials using the platform.

Shanghai’s Communist Party chief said on Tuesday that government officials must respond swiftly to the needs of the people expressed through Weibo and other new media outlets and not hide their heads in the sand.

Sina employs technicians to censor content on Weibo that contains politically sensitive keywords. China’s tolerance of Weibo so far is in part due to the willingness of Chinese Internet firms to self-censor.

For foreign companies, the key benefit of Weibo is that it provides them with a clear dominant platform to go to in what was once a fragmented social media scene, experts say.

This has allowed foreign companies to move beyond the traditional marketing to more creative approaches, such as interactive campaigning, that resonate with the Chinese people, they say. If used properly, Weibo can also be effective in countering negative news.

Last week, official media reported that China’s quality watchdog found toxic content in five brands of tea, including the Lipton brand. In response, Unilever posted on its Weibo account (www.weibo.com/unilevercn) that its “Tieguanyin” tea product was in line with national standards and included photo scans of tests done on its product.

“People universally respond to honesty and true connection. If brands are willing to give (that), then they can turn a negative situation positive,” Resonance China’s Han added.


Zaheer Nooruddin on DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS TREND 6

In 2011, those companies in China that have been worked hard at building their social footprint will finally integrate these channels with their corporate presences. Social Networking site fan pages, microblog streams, and externally hosted blogs will become increasingly visible on corporate websites.

Who wins? Everyone.


The online shopping site Taobao makes it simple to share your recent purchases with your network through various social media - showing your friends what brands and products you support. 

 

- Zaheer Nooruddin is Digital CMO Asia-Pacific and Lead Digital Strategist for Greater China at Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific.


Zaheer Nooruddin on DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS TRENDS IN THE YEAR OF THE RABBIT 2011

Over the next few weeks we will discuss 11 Digital Communications Trends that we are seeing at Burson-Masteller China. We begin by looking at the year that has past us by, 2010, and the year ahead, to put our thoughts in perspective.

The year 2010 proved a milestone for digital penetration, communications, marketing and innovation in China. With rich media stories such as the continued  ascendancy of Renren and Kaixin001, the fevered speculation around Google’s ‘exit’ from China, the start of new social concepts such as Location-Based Services [LBS] and Group Shopping the coming of age of Social Media  as a mainstream channel for communications and marketing in China was writ as de-facto by the end of 2010.


 

Perhaps the most interesting trend was the phenomenal rise of Sina’s microblogging platform – Weibo, leading to spectacular issues, online crises, rumors, gossip, and more dynamic ways for businesses to market and communicate. 

 


Many companies in China still continue to struggle with the new realities of the real-time “Social” Web. Social technology advancements have so fast and furiously altered the landscape of corporate reputation, brand management, public relations and market influence.

Burson-Marsteller’s Corporate Social Media Study, published last November, revealed how large organizations and multinationals, particularly, have yet to sustain cohesive strategies around Digital Engagement and Social.

This is likely to change quickly over the next two years. If 2009 and 2010 was a period of “digital foreplay” for companies at large, then 2011 and 2012 are pegged to be the year of “digital embrace.”

Defining future communications trends is never an easy task. Nowhere is this more true than on the world’s largest and most dynamic internet market, with over 460 million internet users, actively participating and spending more time on the web than anywhere else.

2011 promises to be an even more interesting year. Of course, China is a vast country, filled with a diversity of consumer behavior and experience – from international metropolis’ like Shanghai and Beijing, to tier 2 and 3 cities. But there are predications we can safely make, based on our understanding of China’s fascinating digital communications landscapes.


—-

 Zaheer Nooruddin is Digital CMO Asia-Pacific and Lead Digital Strategist for Greater China at Burson Marsteller  Asia-Pacific

Of Renren.com, and How Social Networking in China is Evolving Faster Than the Eye Can See

I recently came across a report by a local tech analyst company in China, Red Tech Advisors, about the status and “future-value” prospects of China’s RenRen (人人网) social networking platform. Renren as some will know, is one of China’s leading SNS site, often (quite erronously) referred to as “China’s Facebook.”

That is not to say that Renren was not once China’s Facebook; it very arguably was. In its previous brand incarnation as Xiaonei (校内网), the on-campus social network where it gained its credentials, robust feature-led platform and following of university students from China’s best schools, Renren fast emerged as the leader of the SNS marketspace in China. It’s competition for the title of King of Social Networks in China at that time, not so long ago, mainly came from other standalone social networking sites like Kaxin001 (开心网) and 51.com

How times have changed? As with Social Media everywhere, so it is in China, and in a matter of just a few years (we’re taking 2 or 3 years here), the social media and networking landscape has rapidly evolved. Gone are the days of “just a handful” of viable social networking platforms. In this time, new standalone rivals have emerged to make a play for various audiences and geographies in China, and old players such as Baidu, QZone and Sina, to name just a few (the big 3 Online News Portals - China’s veritable Google, Yahoo! and AOL - to offer a loose comparison) have expanded their traditional online media plays with new media business models - models in which Social Networking is at the center of their user retention strategies.

These days Renren finds itself in the business news again, as the company looks to consolidate its market share with major new funding and gets to ready to launch its first IPO on the New York Stock Exchange during this month.

There is no doubt that, with all the hype around China as the world’s largest internet market by far, with such dynamic prospects for growth in the Social Web and Media spaces, that Renren’s IPO bodes well for the Chinese tech company, and will act as a signal for further IPOs of similar success stories on China’s internet.

The report is interesting on many levels. Most interestingly to anyone interested in Social Media in China, will be the fascinating study of Renren’s challenges. Certainly it is not going to be all smooth-sailing for the company, as it tries its best to stay relevant to as many Chinese as possible, increasing its audience and registered (and active) user bases as it moves forward. In fact, as one studies this report, it becomes clear that if anything, Renren has a major uphill battle against it.

Check out some of interesting timelines and comparative statistics and figures in this report; definitely worth a peruse.

 

Here are 11 key highlights about SNS (social networking sites) in China that I found in the report that were fascinating:

  1. Renren suffers from a lack of differentiation in the crowded SNS market
  2. Renren’s 120M registered users, only around 30-35M are active users
  3. Gaming remains the top draw in terms of what people do on Renren, especially in Tier 2 & 3 cities
  4. “Killing time” and “maintaining friendships” and “making new friends” are also top reasons to use SNS in China
  5. Group Shopping is a big focus in how the platform will develop going forward for Renren
  6. The most used apps on Renren are (1) Dairy (2) Photos (3) Music (4) Gaming
  7. SNS is gaining over online News Portals like Sohu and Netease in terms of # of views. Only Sina is maintaining its lead due to its stand-out popular Weibo
  8. Weibo (microblogging) is turning out to be SNS biggest “threat” currently. In fact, some SNS are turning to developing Weibo features to complete. Not to be outdone, some Weibo services in China (like Sina Weibo) are in turn developing SNS features on their platforms! 
  9. In terms of stand-out competition in the “pure” SNS space, QQ’s Pengyou is a rising threat to Renren’s market share
  10. Unlike in the west, “integrated SNS” (the likes of what Google tried to do with Buzz, for example), has proved popular in China. There are a variety of integrated SNS platforms, competing for time and user-base share in China, with the “stand-alone SNS” platforms (such as Renren)
  11. Prospects of the rumored Baidu-Facebook partnership in China look “highly challenging”

What is my key takeaway? 

It is that the Chinese SNS landscape will remain deeply fragmented for at least the next 1-3 years. Perhaps longer. Before a clear frontrunner emerges again, as Renren was to China’s internet in the mid and late half of the 2000s.

What I think we will see are “communities” developed within various SNS around “interests” – and as social media consultants, we need to talk to clients about the niche, targeting opportunities based on these insights about where their audiences and stakeholders are – i.e. within which cluster of SNS sites – some standalone, others integrated.

All in all, deeply fascinating stuff. 

And who said China was simple?

 

Zaheer Nooruddin on HOW DIGITAL CONTENT TRAVELS AND WHAT THIS MEANS FOR CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS AND BRANDS

Groupon’s now infamous TVC during the Super Bowl, for which it paid out many millions to produce and air, majorly backfired on its Chinese business prospects. After watching the story unfold, my own take is that, essentially, Groupon didn’t take into account two key facts about the changed world that we live in.

First, that media content transcends format and borders. When a company runs a TV commercial in the US, that commercial does not live just on TV inside the US and the message does not only reach the intended audience in that media market. Content, especially high-profile Super Bowl commercials, is immediately transferred to different formats - video sharing sites, entertainment blogs, mobile phones, social networks, and links to it are shared on microblogs like Twitter – broadcasting messages to viewers around the world with different worldviews and cultural sensitivities.

Second, that messages that work in one market may not work as well in others. So, it’s all well and good for a company to design messaging for a certain target audience in a certain market. But, in the real, dynamic world of the Social Web, messages have the potential to cross state and international lines in a flash, be received by different groups and impact a company’s reputation. As such, Groupon’s Tibet commercial, which commented on Tibetan culture and celebrity activism, was received very differently by audiences in China than by its intended audience in the US.

Culturally insensitive content aside, Groupon is really guilty of failing to understand these changes in the worldwide Social Web. Multinational companies with operations in China, or those hoping to expand in China, can learn from this example. The time has come for many brands to fundamentally redefine the way they think about “local” communications, creative marketing and brand storytelling. Needless to say, it’s ironic that these oversights came from a Social Web company looking to expand worldwide.

The fallout from this commercial is particularly damaging for a company that has so intently set its eyes on the immensely lucrative Chinese marketplace. Groupon has invested millions of dollars into its China market entry strategy in 2011 and recently announced plans to hire as many as 1,000 employees in China this year.

After the spot went viral on the Social Web, Groupon’s CEO took to their corporate blog to explain the rationale behind its Super Bowl advertisements and to make clear that they did not mean to offend anybody. Then, following five days of criticism from both sides of the Pacific, Groupon announced that it would no longer run the controversial ads and replace them with “something less polarizing”. Some damage control was accomplished by the apologetic blog posts, but whether this was enough damage control to salvage its business prospects in China remains to be seen.

With its technology and funding well in place, Groupon’s fate in China will lie in the strengths of its partnerships. Partnering with Tencent or another Internet major in China is obviously a great move to help gain market access to China’s exploding social commerce sector. Groupon also needs to engage a strategic communications consultancy as a partner - not only as a firefighter in times of crisis - to help build trust among government regulators and engage Chinese consumers in a meaningful way both online and offline.

Once strong partnerships are in place, perhaps Groupon’s principle goal should be to ensure that it remains on the right side of China’s Internet industry regulators. The best way to do this might be by keeping a low profile until it really has something to tell the world about: social shopping deals that roundly beat the socks off its competitors. 

(download)

-   Zaheer Nooruddin is Director and Lead Digital Strategist at Burson-Marsteller Greater China.

vimeo

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