Kawo Helps Brands Take Aim At Chinese Social Media

International brands with a big presence on Twitter, Facebook, and the like no longer have to be deterred by the “great firewall” of China. Newly launched platform Kawo aims to take existing promotional content and pump it into Chinese social networks–without getting lost in translation.

Is the “great firewall” of China about to be vaporized for international brands? Netizens of the world’s second biggest economy are about to find out.


Newly launched from beta, the social media management tool Kawo is hoping to take businesses’ existing social media content, and translate and repurpose it for Chinese networks such as Weibo and RenRen.

The potential reach is huge. Consider these numbers: China has the world’s biggest Internet user base topping out at 591 million people in June. China also claims the world’s most active social media population with over 300 million users who while away more than 40% of their time online on social media, according to a study by McKinsey.

So far, only a few major brands such as BMW have tapped this massive opportunity. The German automaker, for example, trotted out a tongue-in-cheek promotion dubbed #CtrlZDay and watched as the fake holiday spread virally to some 300,000 users on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

Andrew Collins

Those numbers aren’t lost on Kawo’s founder Andrew Collins. He and his team have been operating Shanghai-based social media agency Mailman Group since 2007.

But not every international brand has the resources to translate content and create promotions that work for Chinese channels. As Collins tells Co.Create, “It’s not about enabling Facebook or Twitter in China, it’s giving brands the ability to use the content they have already created to engage with the Chinese consumer.”

Mercedes Benz, Cirque du Soleil, and several British soccer teams have already signed on for the service which starts at a subscription price of $199 per month. Kawo’s automated system pulls in content from the existing social feeds. It’s then translated by a professionally trained team of social media experts. Collins points out, “It’s not just pushed through Google translate or something like that–it is carefully curated, so if a stylistic change to the wording needs to be made for it to make sense culturally in China, then it will. But of course, if it’s material that is culturally inappropriate for the Chinese audience, it won’t end up there.”


To facilitate this, there’s also a built in flagging system that has a dual language filter system which screens words and phrases in Chinese and English. This is necessary given the long list of potentially offensive content out there. Four letter words, references to the Chinese government and all political parties including the military, recent Chinese historical events, and sexual terms are all subject to scrubbing (as are the words freedom, upskirt, Internet blocking, and Nobel Peace Prize). Photos are carefully scanned for any inappropriate nudity or use of drugs.

The new tool is self-funded from the success of their social media agency, according to Collins, and is already generating revenue thanks to its beta customers. As to why no other startup founder has tapped the potential of the Chinese social market in this way, Collins says, “I don’t know that any other entrepreneur has lived and worked on the ground there for over five years to realize this opportunity. I think it’s important that this comes from a team on the ground in China.”

In the long run, Collins maintains Kawo won’t just help brands blast their messages. “It has the potential to revolutionize the way we understand Chinese social media marketing and create new cultural bridges between China and the West.”

About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.