Due to China’s enormous internet population many niche sites have been created. One of these niche sites is Douban. Douban is the main review based social network site in China. Launched on March 6, 2005, it is a Chinese SNS community for users to share opinions and create content related to movies, books, and music.
Compared with other relationship based SNS in China, it is focused on lifestyle and self expression. Such focus makes it very popular among well educated white collar users. According to Danwei, “Douban.com is based on users organizing events around their interests, forming discussion groups, fan pages of brands, bands, people etc. Users also have their own pages, listing books they’ve read, CDs they’ve listened to, and movies they’ve watched. They can write reviews and link to their blog, which appears in an excerpt on their page. People with similar interests therefore find one another.”
Why should marketers consider Douban?
According to Technode, “Douban covers reviews on 16.70 million books, 320 million movies, 1.06 million songs, 27,000 indie musicians, and 38,000 interest groups. It has registered over 75 million users, mainly from first- and second-tier cities, with a daily average PV of 210 million.” One of the unique aspects of Douban is that users do not have to register in order to use the site. This explains the lower number of registered users to total page views per day. The monthly unique users are around 200 million, which makes this site one of the most popular sites online.
How marketers can use Douban.
Now that we have established the “why,” we will take a look at the how. Douban offers a few ways for marketers to interact with this large community including brand station, advertising, and more. According to Vladi Kaplan, “Advertising options are somewhat limited on the community pages with very little screen real estate dedicated to ads. Also, those spots tend to be quite expensive selling between 15 to 20 RMB per CPM, an order of magnitude higher than on comparable sites.” As we all know banner advertisement is not effective, but it is worth mentioning because they do offer limited banner ads. The main forms of advertising on Douban are brand stations and discussion groups.
The Brand Station is a brand communication page similar to a Weibo brand page. According to Nannan Li, “In the past years, nearly 140 international and Chinese brands have set up their Douban brand station. By communicating through brand station and using interactive marketing, O2O (online to offline) marketing, on-line promotion, etc. brands have enhanced their reputation and even re-create their brand image.”
The brand station allows brands to communicate their story through Douban. They can provide company stories about their history, logo, mission, and more. The brand station allows brands to interact with both registered and non-registered users providing the brand with another touch point to educate and inform potential clients and current consumers.
Not all brands can afford the price tag associated with owning a Brand Station, but that doesn’t mean they can not use Douban. The most common and affordable solution for marketing on Douban is by interacting with users in discussion groups. Brand Stations are nice and do provide exposure for major brands, but most users are involved in discussion groups.
The easiest way to think about Douban discussion groups is to think about Reddit groups. When engaging in any type of group discussion, we must remember the general rules of community groups. Nobody in a group wants to be spammed and spamming will lead to bans.
Users are accessing and using groups on Douban to find out more about the topic of discussion. By providing relevant and interesting information, you will be able to also promote your company and product. These groups should not be used has a product platform or company bull-horn, but instead as a platform to create thought leadership and influence around a topic or interest.
You can create a lot of exposure for your product or brand by becoming an valued member of a Douban discussion group, but you an also damage your brand by spamming groups and not participating in relevant discussions.
Overall, Douban is a large and active community that has a lot to offer brands, but much like Reddit, it is also an uncontrollable landscape were opinions can change in a heartbeat. Marketers that wish to engage with Douban users should have a clear understanding of the platform and do extensive research before creating a marketing plan.
Marketers should also remember that the platform was built around books, movies, and music. This should help marketers determine if their product or service is a good fit for the platform. For those that can master the platform, the potential is enormous.