What Kind of Content Works in China?
This section probably deserves a guide in its own right, as we are of course dealing with a country that is vastly different culturally, and naturally the types of content that work over there are going to be different. Familiar mantras of humour, awe, originality, debate and shareability still reign supreme, though here are few things to think about before considering content marketing for China that should double up nicely with some of the content research processes we’ve outlined above.
Despite huge leaps in modernisation, tradition is something that still plays a huge role in Chinese society. One shining example of this is the importance of family and the Confucian notion of filial piety, the importance of which is frequently reiterated on Mother’s and Father’s Day in the form of hundreds of millions of “thank you parents” messages being shared on Weibo.
Understanding Chinese Humour
There are rather large misconceptions thrown around regarding the lack of sarcasm and irony in Chinese society. This of course couldn’t be further from the truth, with Weibo’s users staking a well-earned reputation as holders of a unique strand of scathing satire whenever a political scandal or an all too well-known “China problem” (such as pollution) makes the rounds.
To escape censorship, one common method is the use of wordplay and homophones (Chinese being a tonal language of course) to establish running jokes or evade certain forbidden terms. Homophones also play a vital role in advertising and branding in China, with a great example being the Chinese word for Coca-Cola – pronounced as “ker cole ker ler” (可口可乐) with the Chinese characters roughly meaning “tasty fun”.
Taking Care with Censorship
We had to touch on this at some point as unfortunately it does cast a rather large shadow over the openness of the Chinese internet. Day to day Baidu SEO and marketing activities shouldn’t be affected by it, though as many of us are used to forging content that frequently sparks debate on the world we live in, some awareness won’t go amiss. To get an understanding of the type of lexis and topics you should avoid beyond the three Ts (Tiananmen, Tibet and Taiwan), give this Wikipedia article a read. International news publication Foreign Policy also recently published a practical flow chart which offers insight into some of the logic behind content which gets censored in China.
When working within Baidu, be it for outreach or linkbuilding, you’ll seldom come across a censored site in the index, though for whatever reason if you wish to double check whether it or your own site is blocked or not, run the domain through the Blocked in China tool.
Ultimately, Chinese internet censorship is a rather fickle beast that can fluctuate periodically, with sensitive dates such as the yearly national parliamentary meetings in Beijing or Chairman Mao’s birthday (December 26th) causing sporadic 404s and internet blackouts when even seemingly harmless terms are queried. All in all, it’s not something that will disrupt your normal activities so certainly don’t be put off!
China Content Examples
Here are a few examples of content marketing campaigns that we’ve pulled from the Chinese content sphere that recently did well, with thoughts as to why.
a) Sohu News’ “Nowhere to Breathe” (无处呼吸) pollution infographic
b) Swissotel’s “Best Superfoods for Travellers” (最适合旅行者的超级食材)
c) Baidu’s “Qianxi” (迁徙) Map