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The Evaluation of Chinese Social Media Users Toward the Marketing Strategies of Clothing Brands on Social Media

Nyamweya is a Kenyan scholar who has done many years of research on a diversity of topics

the-evaluation-of-chinese-social-media-users-toward-the-marketing-strategies-of-clothing-brands-on-social-media

2.1 Introduction

This section presents a review of existing literature in line with the focus of the current study. In this regard, the review will provide an overview of social media marketing as compared to the traditional marketing. It will go on to evaluate the benefits associated with social media marketing as compared to conventional marketing. The review will thereafter be confined to addressing the social media marketing in China alongside the strategies used by marketers in the Chinese new media environment. The last part will be a conclusion of the review summarizing the key points obtained from the previous literature.

2.2 Traditional marketing and Social media marketing

2.2.1 Traditional marketing

Bhayani (2018) defines traditional marketing as promotional techniques that were in use before the internet. It was and is still an effectual as well as easily accessible marketing form. Durmaz, and Efendioglu (2016) continues to explain traditional marketing as a set of tried and tested process working in liaison with other company functions to market the brand effectively. In any event, this promotional technique, which centrally places classic aspects like age, salary and location among others, is hallmarked by several features. Many businesses and users still rely on traditional media to outsource primary information. For instance, news papers are still considered to be an excellent method to conduct CD campaigns. On the other hand, radios offer quite an effective method to relay advertisements on a local level. It is also a prompt technique to pass through messages as they take less time to prepare for airing over the local station (Geraghty, and Conway, 2016).

While having consideration for the aged, traditional marketing techniques can be easily understandable (Shimp, 2010). Old folks could take a flier or two while walking about, which they would understand without further explanation. (Mirzaei et al, 2012). What is more, traditional marketing is harder to ignore and much harder to resist when multi-media campaigns are employed (Salehi, 2012). Through multi-media platforms such as billboards, TVs, Radios and so forth, it is much easier to present prospect leads with messages and offers that create huge impact. This way, the brand awareness, especially to the mass market is relatively massive (Geraghty, and Conway, 2016).

According to Shimp (2010), conventional marketing provides a means to save advertising records in hard copy. This allows for future referencing as well as making it easier to recall and process. A study by Mirzaei et al, 2012) reveals that paper marketing offers a much straightforward way for clients to remember and process mentally. Unlike digital ads which are strenuous to recall, techniques such as direct-mails provide an easier means to remember an advertisement. Direct mails are also extensively measurable and individualize.

Despite being the most expensive and effective form of traditional advertising, it is difficult to enact changes(Salehi, 2012). TVs are able to arouse sympathy and emotion from the viewer, grab attention easily and its use of both sound and vision make it more effectual compared to other marketing techniques (Geraghty, and Conway, 2016). According to Kantar Media (2019), a 30 second TV spot on the 2019 Super Bowl cost around $4.5 million, which translates to nearly $100,000 per second. This was the second largest advert listing price in American history after the 2011 edition (Kantar Media, 2019).

As Mirzaei et al (2012) observes conventional marketing methods are still effective today. The vast number of techniques employed can be crucial in addressing different types of crowds. Aged individuals, for instance, find that traditional marketing strategies are less complex and thus easy to understand. It is also evident in TV and radio commercials as they garner lots of ad revenue through their marketing endeavours.

2.2.2 Social media marketing

Felix, Rouschnabel and Hinsch (2016) term social media marketing as the use of websites and social media platforms to promote a product. The term Social Media marketing (SMM) is becoming familiar and more widely used by researchers and practitioners alike. Digital marketing or otherwise e-marketing is the more familiar term in various academia fields. On his part, Salehi (2012) explains SMM as a technique that aims to target both applications and social networks to further the awareness of a particular brand. In essence, many client-driven businesses need more social media presence as it created an immediate link between the business and the clients. This can enable the business to provide customized content for their clients regardless of their geographical location. Beig and Khan (2018) describe personal experience as one of the essential constructs of a successful SMM.

Beig and Khan (2018) describe personal experience as one of the essential constructs of a successful SMM. Nonetheless, there exist several other imperative constructs to make a business successful namely composition, property, categorization, and classification. Besides the constructs mentioned, many client-driven businesses need more social media presence as it created an immediate link between the business and the clients (Ashley, Tuten, 2015). This will allow the businesses to offer tailored content for their customer base in accordance with their interests, which is traced from their surf histories.

Brodie et al (2013) argues that social media is a rather excellent, as well as effectual tool from which a business can communicate a specific cause to consumers. In this, companies must provide information that is of high quality, which the consumers will use to interact with one another. The content should be of excellent quality in that its nature should be unique and specific, which will immensely assist in consumer retention.

Since the inception of Social Media Marketing (SMM), convenience has been the underlying factor that inclines more consumers to try online shopping (Beig and Khan (2018). For it true that online shopping is quite convenient, many consumers prefer to use it. According to Jiang there are primarily six aspects of customer convenience in the following regard, namely possession, post purchase, transaction, evaluation, access and search convenience. To make use of SMM effectively, especially through outsourcing, the financial requirements can be quite hefty. This makes it challenging for both marketers and business that tend to increase their brand awareness through SMM. The average cost of outsourcing social media marketing ranges somewhere around $12,000-$20,000 per month (Brodie et al, 2013). However, the industry average varies among different marketing providers. Still, it remains the contemporary technique marketers exploit since it is a major factor that provides new opportunities for promoting products. This is unlike the features conventional media have been able to provide in their marketing (Beig and Khan (2018).

In short, SMM is a tool that almost 95% of businesses employ to further their marketing efforts, primarily for its capabilities to reach masses within few seconds of postage (Filo, Lock, and Karg, 2015). However, to do this, companies require tracking the purchasing behaviours of their customers. Still, it remains the contemporary technique marketers exploit since it is a major factor that provides new opportunities for promoting products. This is unlike the features conventional media have been able to provide in their marketing (Harrigan et al, 2017).

2.3 Advantages of the social media marketing as compared to traditional marketing

Nielsen (2016) observes that digital marketing has turned out to be a high effective marketing medium as compared to traditional methods. For instance, the medium does not necessarily require huge budgets to run as those in traditional modes. In particular, it does not need huge expenditure on production, rentals, monitoring and manpower to manage. This implies that in digital marketing, only a fraction of the cost is needed in reaching a similar number of geographies or customers through the use of shopping portals, email, search engines or social media channels (Maw-Liann et al, 2015). In the modern day perspective, there are a myriad of social media sites which provide advanced but cost effective advertising options. It is now possible for marketers to choose the best social media platforms for their audience and platform without spending huge amounts of money. For instance, a B2B company could opt to use LinkedIn which is essentially the right platform for this type of company. On the other hand, a B2C company would be best suited to Twitter and Facebook. Nonetheless, marketers are still able to reach a higher audience through social media marketing over a fixed budget as compared to the use of traditional means. The graph below explains this in detail (Kannan et al, 2017).

Figure 1.1 A comparison of cost to reach 1,000 audience through traditional vs digital marketing (Adapted from Pixel Studios)

Social media marketing has also been taunted as a medium with the best experience in audience engagement. According to Kates (2013) this feature of audience engagement is the most unique benefit of social media marketing as compared to other marketing approaches. Specifically, social media facilitates a two way communication between a brand and its audience. This makes it possible for a business to pose questions to the audience, receive their feedback and vice versa. Furthermore, a business can get access to a negative or positive feedback thus giving them the correct insights regarding the perspective of customers on the brand, products or services (Kumar et al, 2015). By using methods which include search engine optimization, users will find it easier locating the brand, products or services they are looking for by searching on them on Google or any other search engine. Moreover, brand stories on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter create a platform for constructive engagement with the customers. Through these platforms, customers are able to reach the firm on issues such as complains, assistance, redressal or any other inputs (Nielsen, 2016).

Social media marketing has also been noted to triumph over other forms of marketing over its ability to measure success both in the short and long run (Kannan., and Hongshuang, 2017). . In other words, it allows individuals or business to measure and find out how their marketing efforts are doing out there. This is unlike traditional marketing systems where it is complicated to establish the metrics or performance of a marketing endeavour (Maw-Liann et al, 2015). In particular, social media campaigns can be evaluated through every network own analytic software such as Google Analytics or Facebook Insights. Stated differently, it makes it possible for businesses to reach the kind or number of audience they want. There are numbers to prove how many people have been reached and in which region. In most cases, the Cost-Per-Thousand Impressions (CPM) is the metric that has long been used in this evaluation. In social media, this CPM is less than $3. This is far much less when compared with radio which comes around at approximately $10 while TV goes for approximately $28 (Tiago, et al 2014).

The accuracy and precision capability of social media when targeting specific customers are profound (Nielsen, 2015). This is unlike traditional media whose approach aims to reach anybody who cares to listen, watch or read. After presenting the message in traditional media, marketers will then sit back,wait and hope that the consumer will pick what they had presented and finally make a purchase (Mogoş, 2016).

In this regard, social media allows a marketer to for instance, strictly market to women who are over 60 and live in Maryland, those who were recently married, or those who love skydiving (Kumar 2016). Although this may not present the idea customer exactly, it presents the business with an overall idea of the marketing can be narrowed down (Liu, et al, 2018). Brands are now able to target their ideal buyers instead of selecting a wide market base that may be having only a sizable number of customers or even none at all. Alongside these, brands are now creating relationships with their idea buyers through marketing approaches that cultivate trust in their brand, services or products. This kind of targeting is not possible with the use of conventional marketing tools (Hudson et al, 2016).

2.4 Social media marketing in China

2.4.1 Chinese social media channels

In China, common western social media channels such as Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and Facebook do not exist as they are banned. In these light, foreign companies venturing into Chinese market may find it problematic going into this market without these social media platforms. However, there are myriad of other social media channels that exist which businesses can rely on for their marketing endeavours in China. For instance, WeChat is a social media platform that is more of like Facebook. Many people spend a considerate amount of time on this channel while socializing or perusing through promotional material. Among its features include instant messaging whether text, video or voice, ability to view updates of contacts through timeline, send or receive money from friends/family/business, ability for businesses or individuals to engage with followers, read news, chat with strangers and receive services. Other than WeChat, other social media platforms in China include Sina Weibo which has come to be reffered as the Twitter of China since it exhibits similar features with Twitter, Tencent QQ which is a popular instant messaging app and Tencent Video which is the leading online video channels in China. Others include Baidu Tieba, a search engine forum, Doublan, a forum for lifestyle discussions, DouYin, the short video app, Toutia, breaking news, entertainment and information platform (DeGennaro, 2019).

Patrick attests that the three social media networking channels,Wechat, QQ and Weibo are the most used and popular social medial channels in China. The author explains that understanding these three platforms alone would give one a glimpse of China’s online social networking. Nonetheless, as much as Wechat is the leading social media channel in China, QQ which was founded much earlier than Wechat is the most popular among the young generation. This popularity among the youth stems from the fact that unlike Wechat and other social media channels, QQ users are not necessarily required to own a mobile phone or phone number to use it. This thus becomes more convenience for many young Chinese people considering that many of them, particularly students do not have mobile phones or phone numbers. Furthermore, QQ provides more entertainment and playful functions compared to Wechat and other social media channels. Besides, it also supports selfie filters that are animated, photo retouching, personalized avatars alongside other entertainment-oriented features. A user is also able to decorate his or her Qzone, play online games, check the number of visitors, read news/books, follow interesting topics, watch live and short videos as well as make use of storage functions.

In summary, Wechat is still the dominant social media platform in China owing to its strong ecosystem. This is a must have tool for businesses who want to connect with the Chinese market and residents. Nonetheless, () observes that the Chinese social media landscape is rapidly changing. With the current trends, it is not possible for any social media channel in China to opt becoming complacent since users are always ready to try novel things. A good example is Weibo which has of late recorded good performances. On the same note, QQ has remained and continued to remain appealing among Chinese young generation and its future development is something to recon.

2.4.2 Strategies used to market products in the Chinese new media environment

Despite lack of the global social network channels, China has been regarded to be the largest social media market worldwide (MarketmeChina, 2019). Internet users in China alone amount to approximately more than 800 million. These massive numbers of users are constantly looking for a place to access product recommendations, share their opinions, as well as in connecting with others (GoDigitalChina, 2019). Apparently, China’s mobile uptake is incredible, with 98% of Chinese already using the internet through mobile devices. This makes Chinese social media to be dynamic and immediate, with mobile users looking for platforms such as Weibo and Wechat for latest tips, testimonials or recommendations. The high penetration of mobile has also been found to facilitate and drive high performance of massive online events such as Alibaba’s Singles day program. With the high focus of Chinese social medial channels on attracting mobile users, businesses have been mandated to incorporate expertise to analyze and track online discussions on topics, products or brands (Chan, 2019).

Due to the nature of the Chinese social media which center on one-to-one conversations, marketers have been required to device new approaches to content and social media marketing. In essence, the tactics they use have to make it easy for the audience to consume and find content in a single platform (MarketmeChina, 2019). This requires a greater focus on creating content that is highly engaging and organic content instead of relying on paid media to push disengaging content to the audience. Just like any other market, peer to peer recommendations are also quite critical in Chinese marketing (GoDigitalChina, 2019). Indeed, word of mouth is a critical approach for marketers considering that Chinese traditional media is highly regulated. Due to the highly engaged nature of Chinese netizens, recommendations, both those offered offline and on social media channels such as QQ, Weibo and Wechat are a significant factor in the internet shopping decision of Chinese users (Chiu, Ip and Silverman, 2012). In other words, electronic word of mouth marketing appears to be one of the most effective form of marketing communication. This behaviour have warranted brands to explore the dynamics of social referral works in China for their particular industry and audiences and exploit that in moving from social engagement to social conversations(Maw-Liann et al, 2015).

Despite the low popularity of paid ads in social media, a research by iResearch Consulting Group established that paid ads in China social media has continued to increase over the years. It also continues to do so over the next years. The study went on to observe that, major social media networks are encouraging brands and businesses to utilize paid promotional advertisements to market their products or services (Bieliński, 2013). In particular, many social media platforms have introduced different ad formats to appeal to the brands different tastes. They include search ads, display ads, newsfeeds etc. Accordingly, brands have been inspired to use paid ads on social media on a ample budget, use influences and celebrities on social media, and utilization of paid promotion for always on content. The financial report for Weibo’s first quarter of 2018 indicates that the company gained 87% of its total revenue from paid social ads. This is a good indication that many brands are actually using paid promotional ads on social media. In this regard, there are many social media platforms that allow brands to advertise on their platform with KOL advertisements, banner ads, and Moments ads. Although the Moments ads are the most expensive of advertisements on WeChat and other channels, they also happen to be the most effective in reaching customers (GoDigitalChina, 2019).

As much as ad platforms are playing a significant role in social media marketing, brands are finding it necessary to use data and insights from the same social media channels to help them target specific groups. They do these through tailored content which enable them achieve balance between customization and scale(Chiu, Ip and Silverman, 2012). A common approach in this as been the creation of strong connection between social media data and e-commerce provider data. Platforms such as Weibo and Alibaba’s U-Wei Scheme” (which is essentially integration between Weibo and Uni-Desk) and JD.com and Tencent’s Jing-Teng Scheme have of late become of interest to marketers. Additionally, the concept of group-packet customization which is essentially a campaign target data packets generated by media organisations on the basis of the marketers specific needs has also become a popular method(Zhang, 2018). However, targeting specific users necessitates the use of divergent content in scale. In this regard, the Dynamic Creative Optimization is used to facilitate achievement of this goal. The basic principle in achieving this entails breaking each advertisement into different segments, each of which offers different options. The aim is to ensure that the most suitable element is automatically matched to the end user information on the basis of data analytics. This has also seen advertisement being built up the same way as putting building blocks together, hence; making advertisements to be more appealing to users resulting into more interaction and attention (Zhang, 2018).

Companies and individuals use WeChat and other social media platforms in generating content for marketing purposes. It has also become common for businesses and brands to implement Customer Relationship Managment (CRM) in their WeChat accounts and on other channels that allows this feature to facilitate personalized interaction with their users. These are all aimed at creating closer ties with the customer (Bieliński, 2013).

In essence, the use of Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) and high-quality content on search engines are used to develop effective digital marketing strategies. These features have been used to boost conversations, credibility and awareness (Topdigital agency, 2019). Indeed, any effective Chinese digital marketing strategy across all social networks in China requires quality content (MarketmeChina, 2019). Furthermore, a majority of consumers in China trust the opinions of influencers and others in their networks to make purchasing decisions. This necessitates creation of high-quality content which is both sharable and engaging across personal social networks(MarketmeChina, 2019). This also helps businesses to boost their credibility, ultimately leading to attracting potential customers and more followers(Topdigital agency, 2019). An important consideration is that content written in Mandarin has a more likelihood of being shared compared to content written in English. In this regard, companies including foreign ones have deployed ways of maximizing engagement through writing their content in Mandarin or to be on the safe side, a bilingual content (Robinson, 2016). Quality content is specifically effectively when marketed through KOL. These are official accounts of trusted public figures, bloggers or celebrities who are paid to post content on behalf of another person or brand (Robinson, 2016). Through KOL, brands have the opportunity of cross promoting their services or products across WeChat and Weibo to unscaled and large audiences which could not have been possible without these. Alongside reaching a broader audience, endorsement of products, brands or services by KOLs provides businesses with the additional “cool factor” and credibility which cannot be bought by advertisement alone. In this regard, platforms such as PingPong Ditigal offer brands and even individuals access to influential KOLs in China with close connections to WeChat and Weibo to promote and reach many consumers in China (Robinson, 2016).

2.5 Conclusion

The review has brought up the advantages of social media marketing as compared to traditional medium. These benefits include reduced budget, ability to communicate and interact with the audience in a two way means, reaching a higher number of people within a shorter time, ability to generate a long term following among others. This is in addition to measure the digital media marketing ROI, thus making social media marketing investment much more valuable. It is also noted that China has different social media channels other than those used in the global arena. However, these platforms including Wechat, Weibo and QQ have almost similar features as those of the global social network channels. Accordingly, businesses operating in China need to have a grasp of these platforms and understand how to use them in reaching their market in the country.In order to succeed in the Chinese social media environment, brands have found it necessary to adhere to the “rules of the game” that is incorporate the use of available social networks, use paid promotional ads on social media, use of social media influencers, use of data and insights from social media platforms to study and target their audience and even create a presence on these platforms. Nonetheless, the dynamic nature of Chinese social media environment requires companies to be strategic on how to employ each of these platforms to market their products or services.


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