Chinese digital & social media space

My weekly Friday 5 briefs on the Chinese Internet are (hopefully) a useful resource and (fingers crossed) an excellent way to keep up with online trends / culture, local web communities, and social media engagement on the Chinese Internet. However, you are still left six days out of the week in which you can’t expect a Friday 5. Fortunately, there are a wealth of other respectable online sources focused on social media, online marketing, and digital trends in China. The selection below represents English language content of such sources, ranging from websites put out by ad / marketing / communications agencies and consultancies, to personal blogs by individuals and groups captivated by China’s Internet culture.

personal :
In2Marcom describes itself as “a weblog all about INnovative and INsightful marketing communication, around Digital and Social Media in China.” It’s run by Jason Zhan Jia (ZJ), who started it up just this past March after working in digital and social media for several years. One interesting recent post looked at the development of a “test paper” meme, in which netizens repost exam questions answered with sarcasm, dirty jokes, or non-sequiturs, and its use as a marketing tool by Peugeot, Cadillac, and finally BYD. Dutch entrepreneur and social media practitioner Marc van der Chijs is an online personality based in Shanghai. The co-founder of Tudou.com and CEO of The Netherlands Spil Games Asia (”the world’s ultimate online game destination”), he keeps an English-language blog with a pretty good following. He’s an enthusiastic Twitterer, and many of his posts are about Twitter, for example, when his “Tweet” appeared in a Dutch newspaper from June 2009, which was about a frustrated attempt to book a flight on KLM, the Royal Dutch Airlines. Another notable post was “Talking and Talking”, from July, in which he spoke about Spil Games in Holland and Internet entrepreneurship in China. Included at the end of the blog post is an embedded video interview with an online TV station.

group :
88 Bar (八八吧) is maintained by Jason Li and Lyn Jeffery and is the successor to Virtual China, the blog they ran for the Institute for the Future. They launched 88 Bar when their focus on Virtual China expanded from purely virtual culture to include offline culture and interactions between the two. They still blog regularly about Chinese social media, trends, and viral memes, although more as pointers to in-depth treatments on other sites. Recent posts include a look at steampunk animations and coverage of the World of Warcraft protests at this year’s China Joy. Danwei, a group blog that covers Chinese media as a whole, also dips into social media from time to time. It recently interviewed Dan Brody of 360quan and covered the shakeup of China’s microblogging platforms in the wake of the Urumqi riots.

tech :
TechBlog86 (the number refers to China’s IDD prefix) is kept by David Feng, whose gossipy, insiderish writing style assumes that readers are familiar with the larger context behind the latest developments in China’s digital sector. The blog, which relaunched in May following an unfortunate hiatus, covers a wide and (sometimes random) variety of topics, from the most interesting MSN signatures to conference writeups (CHINICT 2009) to speculation about impeding changes in the local Web 2.0 industry: will Xiaonei get shut down? No, it’s just changing its name to RenRen. MOBINODE (动点博客) is a group blog focused on the Asia tech industry, with an emphasis on China. It’s maintained by Gang Lu (see this interview on 56minus1). Recent notable posts include advice to Facebook to forget about its prospects in the China market, and a look at Tencent’s rebate program. MOBINODE is associated with Mobinode.tv (动点博视), a series of Chinese-language interviews with Asia tech professionals. It has plans to develop an English-language counterpart, but has only done one subtitled interview, with Yeeyan co-founder Jiamin zhao, so far.

agencies / consultancies / professional entities :
CNReviews, which hosts active discussions on hot-button issues in Chinese politics and culture, also features content from Blogger Insight that looks at the Chinese SNS / social media scene. Recent highlights include a look at the four distinguishing characteristics of Chinese SNS websites and a hilarious examination of opaque 3G advertisements. One of the things that makes CNReviews such a fun read is that it stakes out a firm position on issues – no wishy-washiness here – which generates energetic comment threads. Little Red Book looks at advertising and marketing in China, with a particular focus on the Internet and social media. It’s run by BA360, a “boutique marketing firm” (from its about page), and the major contributors to the site are strategy director Rand Han and media director Sherry Xie. Posts introduce viral marketing campaigns, quirky print ads, and SNS strategy as well as general Chinese Internet and youth culture issues. Little Red Book also provides a forum for further discussion of ad and marketing issues that haven’t made it to the front page yet. Many of the social media marketing / SNS case studies excerpted on Little Red Book come from ZeroDegrees, a project launched by BA360 in association with postcard design firm Mailman. ZeroDegrees has a fairly active comments section, and it also features discussions of more abstract issues, such as this recent post on the actual significance of Shanghai’s Expo 2010. Recent highlights include a look at micropayments in QQ, an unimpressed examination of Pepsi’s SNS campaign, and a look at how L’oreal celebrated its centenary on Chinese SNS. Ogilvy Digital Watch, although gathering dust now, has an great archive of posts about social media in China and the local tech / web industry. It unfortunately has not been updated since December 2008, about the time the agency’s key digital ninja Kaiser Kuo departed. The China IWOM Blog at CIC Data should already be on your RSS reader. The blog covers IWOM trends / culture, social media marketing case studies, and strategies for monitoring / measuring online public opinion and Internet word of mouth conversation. Mostly teasers for the company’s full-length reports and white papers, but even the excerpts are fairly interesting, and the linked PDFs invite careful perusal. An archive of past CIC slideshow presentations is available even if the latest installments, such as “Social Media Getting Closer to Real Life”, are unavailable to the casual user. Similarly, for the non-subscriber, Ad Age China has promising headlines (”Watch Out Ebay! Here Comes Alibaba” and “Can Baidu Keep its Crown as King of China’s Search Market?”) that tantalize from behind a pay-wall.

updates :
Two other notable sites that look regularly at Chinese SNS and local social media in general are China Web2.0 Review and China Youth Watch, which were covered in a previous Friday 5 brief on Chinese bridge bloggers. China Youth Watch recently featured an article titled SNS and the Changing Chinese Youth, as well as an interview with 360quan.com editor Hui Wang. 56minus1 interviewed CYW co-founder Zafka Zhang back in November of last year. China Web2.0 Review recently covered the Xiaonei / RenRen changeover. (Incidentally, if you’re a fan of cheesy soaps and boom-era product placement, check out the TV show Heart-Net (心网), the story of a group of friends who start an Internet cafe in Shanghai. The old RenRen.com, which was huge back in 2000, is all over the show). Also mentioned in the Friday 5 brief linked above were ChinaSMACK and Youku Buzz, two blogs that regularly feature the latest hot memes and viral videos to hit the Chinese Internet.

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