As a multiculturalist hub in Asia and due to its proximity with China, Hong Kong faces various challenges when it comes to develop a digital marketing strategy.
Taking into consideration that the digital marketing landscape has never been that developed, especially with the multiplication of the channels that a brand can use to drive people to its website, business owners may have a hard time leveraging them to develop their audience.
Therefore, what are the specificities of the Hong Kong market and how to efficiently set-up a digital marketing strategy?
Three languages to take into consideration
Officially, Hong Kong has two languages, Chinese and English, and it plays a key role in the economy. While Cantonese (Traditional Chinese) is the main language, Mandarin (Simplified Chinese) is also spoken, written and used in the daily working life, therefore, it is important that these languages are part of your digital marketing strategy.
Depending of your business, there might be various involvements:
• If you have a website or an app, translate your content in English, Cantonese and Mandarin in order to be able to reach the relevant users according to their language.
• If SEO is an important part of your strategy, having a multilingual website implies various optimisations such as a language oriented URL structure and the implementation of tags (hreflangs) in order to make sure that the right pages will be served to the right users. Indeed, Google proposes three versions of its search engine (English, Cantonese and Mandarin) and it would unfortunate if a Cantonese speaking user lands on your English page without being able to understand what you’re talking about.
• For the same reason, whenever you use social media, online advertising solutions and emailing, make sure that your copy is translated and served to the right users. For instance, Facebook also allows brands to translate their posts while segmenting your database according to the language might also be a good practice when it comes to send newsletters.
That first step is mandatory if you want to target 100% of the Hong Kong users.
The rise of mobile and social media
I’m pretty sure that you know that mobile is a big market in Hong Kong. We all use it all day long and therefore, it has to be taken into consideration in your digital marketing strategy.
For instance, We Are Social released a survey last year stating that:
• There are 12 million mobile subscriptions in Hong Kong, which represents 165% of the population. To compare, France, which is 8 times more populated than Hong Kong has a penetration rate of 101%.
• In terms of Active Social Media Users, Hong Kong has a penetration that reaches 75% in 2017 which is +15% compared to 2016. In the meantime, France is only 56%. As for China, the penetration rate is about 57% but it represents around 787 million users.
We could dig into the data and compare Hong Kong to various countries but the statement will be the same: Hong Kongers are extensively using mobile and social media and China can’t be ignored if you have a business in the region.
In terms of social media platforms, there are also differences between Hong Kong, China and the other countries.
According to We Are Social, in 2017:
• Whatsapp was widely used in Hong Kong (64%) but not in China.
• Wechat is extremely important in China (62%) but less in Hong Kong (33%).
• Specific social networks such as Sina Weibo (20% in Hong Kong, 45% in China), Youku and Ozone are used daily in China.
If you do digital marketing in Hong Kong and China, these platforms can’t be ignored.
A different search engine landscape
When it comes to search online, Hong Kong and China also have some specificities and, as a business owner, if you want to be found, there will be a need to take into consideration various search engines.
In Hong Kong, despite Google is the main search engine with 85% market shares, according to Statcounter.com in February 2018, Yahoo is still used and must be taken into consideration, especially when it comes to SEO or PPC campaigns.
However, in China, the leading search engine is Baidu (58%), followed by Shenma (28% - a native search engine which comes with the Chinese browser, UC Browser) and Haosou (5%).
If you’re doing SEO, then there might be a need to launch specific actions to target these search engines while if you’re dealing with PPC campaigns, knowing where your buyers are and sharing your budget wisely between these different platforms will be a key step.
How to get started?
When it comes to do digital marketing in Hong Kong, and to an extent in China, the most important is to adapt your business model to the market, whatever the channel you want to focus on to drive people to your website:
• SEO: Take into consideration the different search engines.
• PPC: Dispatch your budget between the available platforms.
• Social: Leverage the right networks.
Moreover, adapting your business plan to the market should also include:
• Translate your content in order to reach the largest audience.
• Think about using local payment solutions, such as We Chat Pay or Ali Pay.
• Consider having more detailed product pages for the Chinese market if you’re an e-commerce company such as Taobao does.
• Use the marketplaces that are available in China to sell your products online.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Killian Kostiha is a French digital marketer who started to work on SEO in 2008. He has more than 10 years confirmed experience in digital marketing and has worked in various countries (France, Spain, Bulgaria, Hong Kong).
He works in Hong Kong since 2014 and was SEO manager for iProspect Hong Kong (digital marketing agency) where he led a team who was managing the SEO strategy for iconic brands like Shangri-La or Peninsula. In 2015, he moved to Lane Crawford and was SEO manager during two years, before starting its own SEO agency, Get Clicks, in 2017. He offers tailored SEO and content marketing solutions for SMB, start-ups and larger groups in France and in Hong Kong.