How Social Media and Growth Hacking Works in Hong Kong and China?


In the post-COVID-19 era, digital transformation is imperative. How should companies better leverage social media for business recovery and growth?

A sudden outbreak of the pandemic COVID-19 disrupted the business agenda of countless industries and companies. It is said that the advertising industry is a barometer of the macroeconomic situation, while how advertising agencies are affected by COVID-19 is visible. For example, in the first quarter of 2020, one of the major tasks of advertising agencies is to help clients “adjust spot plans” (postpone or even cancel the original advertising plan).

As offline businesses are affected, many companies start to accelerate their digital transformation. According to a survey conducted by Totem Media at the end of March 2020, 84% of the companies surveyed said they would maintain a balance or speed up digital transformation and would pay more attention to the investment in digital media channels (Douyin/short videos, WeChat, Weibo, and other social media are at the top of the list).

In such a situation, which trendy social marketing tactics are worth attention in helping brands better recover and grow business in the post-COVID-19 era?


1. Growth Hacking and Social Media Franchising

A popular term in the fields of Internet products and entrepreneurs is Growth Hacking, which refers to a way of user growth. It was first raised by Sean Ellis: “A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.” The rapid user build-up of well-known Internet products in the early stages, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Quora are said to have benefited from growth hacking and even created the position of a growth hacker.
Among growth hacking approaches, the AARRR model should be a well-known user growth model, which can also be applied in marketing and is closely related to social media. AARRR refers to Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, and Revenue.
One of the key points can be understood simply as “old users bringing new”, a common social franchising model, which gains revenue through interest stimulation, motivating existing users to invite new users. This model has been validated by the successful cases of many brands.

Growth hackers and social franchising will be quite useful in a situation where the cost of acquiring users is increasing while users spend a lot more time online under the impact of COVID-19.


2. Private Group Traffic


Along with the disappearance of demographic dividend, the simple and crude way of acquiring and monetizing fans and traffic is gradually eliminated and is replaced by careful cultivation of existing users, a now popular approach of private domain traffic management.
As a saying goes:“fish where the fishes are.” If comparing the acquisition of users through marketing communication to fishing, then the public domain traffic is like a public sea area, where there are more and more fishing vessels and competition, and where the fishes are more and more intelligent and unwilling to take the bait. However, Private domain traffic is like a fish pond enclosed by ourselves, the flexibility, stability, and controllability of which is much better.


Generally speaking, there are now two types of applications of private domain group traffic.


One is a self-built community. For example, the brand itself sets up several WeChat groups to attract users through other platforms, advertising, and KOL and then cultivate and transform them. This method includes two ways. One is to build our brand community, such as the official fan community of a brand; the other is an interest group, a community created on the theme of interest or field, which is run (or sponsored) by the brand, such as game strategy communication group.

The other is cooperating with third-party communities. Nowadays, many WeChat group owners accept brand cooperation. Cooperation forms also vary, such as organizing group purchases, sharing discounts, encouraging repost, and spreading information. Plenty of mature resource partners on the market can also support brands in this field, such as MediaCom’s KCL (Key Community Leader), a DSP-like community resource planning, and a purchasing platform.


3. Entertainment and Sports Marketing Tend to be Socializing


The year 2020 was supposed to be the big year of sports, but the Olympic Games held every four-year was postponed because of COVID-19, and various offline sports events can’t be held on time. However, people’s love of sports has not decreased. On the contrary, because the pandemic leads to the attention to health, people are more aware of the importance of physical fitness. And because of the limitations of offline sports, there is a trend of shifting offline sports events towards digitalization, socialization, and gamification.

For example, the hot “Ring Fit Adventure” game earlier this year (one of Nintendo’s Switch games, which makes use of fitness ring to do exercise) also triggered a trend of home fitness; many sports stars also met with the public via live stream or short videos, such as the famous snooker player Pan Xiaoting, who teaches online fitness classes on Xinhua News Agency app via short videos; Many e-sports events, such as KPL, one of the Chinese well-known e-sports events, have also announced a shift to online competition.

For brands, there are also many opportunities to close the distance with consumers and achieve a win-win situation. For example, many sports-related tags on social media platforms can be used to directionally find people who are interested in sports and accurately disseminate feed ads to them; discover the connection with e-sports events or make use of suitable resources in the business promotion resource package of events; launch the matic marketing campaigns related to a healthy and positive attitude towards life, which not only have social values but also improve users’ preference to brands.


4. The further integration of social, search and e-commerce, in the context of path-to-purchase


Although social, search and e-commerce seem to belong to different areas of digital marketing they are closely related to each other, and the boundaries of these subdivisions are already blurred for marketers and consumers: people can directly order and purchase in social platforms, interact with KOLs in e-commerce platform and search directly in social platforms.
As marketing platforms and areas are becoming more and more complex, back to basics, that is, users, have become a weather vane of the industry. This is why full customer journey marketing has been widely mentioned in the industry since last year, and the major Internet giants have already had their full customer journey marketing models and languages, including AIPL(Aware,Interest,Purchase,Loyalty)of Alibaba, AACAR(Attention, Association, Consensus, Action, Reputation)of QIY and 5A (Awareness, Appeal, Ask, Action, Advocate)of Byte Dance.
Working on marketing solutions in a niche for a long time, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. For example, after receiving a client brief, social marketers may often first find suitable social platforms and what KOLs should do in activity, etc. In fact, in many cases, the right and basic way are to start from the user and business needs, or so-called “source of business growth”.
For example, start along with the idea of full customer journey marketing, that is, to utilize the idea of user life cycle management operation to derive the scheme and then find user touchpoints, which are often found not in a silo, or difficult to strictly define the subdivision, so maybe there is no need to define. “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” A lot of industry innovation cases originate from this bigger picture mindset.

At these intersections among areas, many solutions are mature and can be implemented directly.


For example, there are at least three integration approaches between social and search that we can take advantage of.

1) Intelligence exchange: hot and better-converting keywords discovered in search marketing can be used to guide the creation of social marketing topics, and hot topic words found or created in social media can be used to supplement purchased keywords in search;

2) link & traffic redirection: social content supports SEO backlink construction, and social sharing features embedded in search ads can help boost the popularity and interaction of social topics;

3) Social Search: The Search function in social platforms has also introduced several search ads similar to Baidu’s search ads that support purchases. Social media and e-commerce are also closely linked, such as JingTeng plan, U-Wei plan; social functions in e-commerce platforms such as e-commerce live streaming and Weitao private domain traffic management, e-commerce in social platforms such as Mini Programs Store. 


Quote from Mr. Henry Ford: “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops the clock to save time.” It is a little exaggerated, but after careful thinking, we’ll find its deep meaning. Even though under the impact of COVID-19, advertising marketing still has its value, while it’s just the approaches that might need to be adjusted, in which taking advantage of digital transformation and social media is worth trying.