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Where Are All My Chinese Customers?

In recent months I have been asked on many occasions how an American based company can tap into the "American-Chinese" community and win customers.  To keep it simple I'll address just two critical questions that deserve being asked.

How much of your communication is in Chinese?
More often than not the degree to which you market in Chinese will determine your success. It makes sense, right? You at least should be talking their language. If the answer is very little (or none, in many cases), it's time to dedicate resources to do this. Statistics show Chinese is the top spoken language globally both online and offline—and unlike the banks of 2008, it would appear this boemeth really is too big too fail.

Where do Chinese engage in social media?
The 'default' strategy is to assume all immigrant, tourists, and second-generation Chinese in America follow our way by building out their Facebook/Twitter accounts. But the reality is, they don't. This is not an assumption, it's a fact. Sure, many will create Facebook accounts and have a presence; however, the majority (upward of 90%) are active on the Chinese equivalents such as Weibo, RenRen, and others. If you doubt this, politely enquire with the next Chinese passerby.

China continues to restrict access to the leading international social media networks, video sites and more, thus ensuring a head start for its locally owned social-media counterparts. To keep in contact with family and friends back home, both sides must maintain an active Chinese social media account regardless of location.

These networks are gaining significant weight globally, and by all reports will top the growth of a network like Twitter by the end of 2011. For a marketer it's not a matter of "should we," it's a matter of when to engage directly in Chinese on their playing fields.

By addressing these two realities you can begin to flush out a clear direction as to the scope and channel to invest your time. This is nothing to be alarmed about; the rewards are big and the numbers are booming. Like many international companies like American Airlines that have recognized this market requires a targeted approach, it may be time to discover both a Chinese and global social media strategy.

[Image: Flickr user Eastenhuh]