Post Categories: April 2015

Global Perspectives: Leading the Social Revolution—International Social Media Platforms Drive Consumer Decisions and Sales

april-2015-global-imgQzone, WeChat, Weibo, QQ, Line, Baidu Tieba, VK—if you’re based in the U.S., you probably have no idea what these names refer to. But for people in countries like China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Russia, they’re instantly-recognizable social media platforms that rival the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In some cases, these alternative sites have gained such popularity because they are much more accessible (for example, Facebook and Twitter are banned in China). In other cases, they offer a platform that is uniquely tailored to a country’s particular culture and language (as is the case with the Russian social media site VK). Regardless of the origins of their popularity, one thing that all of these social media platforms have in common—and something U.S. social media has yet to accomplish—is that they’re playing an increasingly important role in consumers’ shopping decisions.

A recent survey by consulting firm A.T. Kearney showed that about 52 percent of Chinese consumers say social media frequently influences their buying decisions—a number that grows to 68 percent in the prime demographic of ages 26 to 35. The results were similar for shoppers in Russia, India and Brazil. But by comparison, only 5 percent of U.S. consumers said social media often plays a role in their buying decisions.

Danny Chen, Vice President of International for Interactions, says much of the appeal for international consumers is access to objective reviews and opinions from their peers, rather than direct marketing by brands and retailers. For example, “in WeChat, you need to install the WeChat app and then subscribe to the content publishers to view brand information,” Chen explains. “Most of the control is on the users, not the brand owners, unlike Facebook here in the U.S. where brands can push you information without you having to do anything.”

Because of the opt-in nature of these global social media sites, “they create a fair platform for retailers and brands to win over customers,” continues Chen. “They can use social media to listen and respond to consumers. By making content authentic, fun, relevant and in real-time, they can leverage buying decisions.”

As for U.S. brands and retailers looking to establish a presence on these sites, Chen says the key is to truly understand their audience. “It has to be a multi-platform approach and accommodate local consumer preference and even culture,” he says. “For example, some folks thought Thanksgiving in the U.S. was very close to the meaning of Chinese New Year for Chinese society. However, Chinese do not eat turkey over the holiday. U.S. retailers and brands need to understand what is the ‘turkey’ is for Chinese customers.”

To learn more about international business opportunities with Interactions, contact Danny Chen at