Content Restrictions for Chinese Digital Stategy

By Posted in - ALL & Content Creation & Social Media on March 31st, 2016 0 Comments

Ask anyone what makes online content in China unique, and you’ll come across the same answer again and again – and it’s not really seen as a positive one: restrictions. The strict code by which content on Chinese social media and websites has to abide by means that the digital environment in the region has developed a distinct identity.

Traditionally, this has meant that Western brands, institutions and businesses have been reluctant to develop a content strategy for Chinese digital platforms. But in this blog post, the latest in our series on Chinese social media, we provide our top tips to craft great content that doesn’t cross any restrictions.

Find Right Platforms

In our previous blog on this subject, we introduced the most popular social media platforms in China: Weibo and WeChat. With most Chinese internet users blocked from accessing Western social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, this has created a unique gap in the market for home-grown platforms. As a result, Chinese audiences have flocked to Weibo and WeChat, making them the ‘big beasts’ of Chinese social media – and important channels for brands, businesses and institutions to consider.

But to build a presence on Chinese social media, you need to make sure you can be found online. Restrictions extend to search engines, with Google blocked in China. If you want to be found in the region, focus on Chinese search engines like Baidu or 360 Search. Baidu in particular has proved especially popular, accounting for approximately 70 per cent of the market share. The search engine offers a variety of search services, including Baidu Baike – a Wikipedia-like collaboratively-built encyclopaedia and a searchable keyword-based discussion forum.

Much like Google in the West, Chinese users will turn Baidu to find just about anything – be it information, interesting content or just something shareable. So when developing your content strategy on Chinese social media, make sure you can be found on Baidu first.

Use the Right Language

In China, the government provides guidelines for the use of language in mass media, where certain terms must be avoided altogether. These instructions are usually communicated through Xinhua News, the official press agency of China and a ministry-level institution of the Chinese government. Xinhua News recently released the latest series of words and phrases that are to be banned on Chinese media.

While this list doesn’t directly apply to social media use, it’s advisable to avoid them in the interests of remaining fully compliant. Let’s take the example of the phrase ‘politically correct’. In China, ‘politically correct’ usually relates to the state government’s ethnic policy. Phrases such as ‘Mengzu’ (蒙族 Mongolian), ‘Weizu’ (维族 Uighur), and ‘Hasa’ (哈萨 Kazakhs) are particularly sensitive and best avoided. Instead, guidelines point to the complete form – ‘Mengguzu’ (蒙古族), ‘Weiwuerzu’ (维吾尔族), and ‘Hasakezu’ (哈萨克族) – instead.

The latest list also refers to more everyday terms. For example, words like ‘best’ (最佳,最好) and ‘most famous’ (最著名) cannot be used to describe the quality of products. ‘Superstars’ (天王,巨星), ‘movie queen’ (影后) or ‘movie king’ (影帝), are not allowed to be used for describing celebrities in entertainment industry – instead, it’s advisable to use the permitted terms ‘show folks’ (娱乐界人士), ‘famous actors/actress’ (著名演员),  ‘famous artist’ (著名艺术家). Furthermore, slang, swear words, or Pinyin abbreviation of swear words (e.g. SB, TMD, NB etc.) are not allowed.

This all sounds very complicated, but by following the guidelines and (where possible) working with a native Mandarin-speaker, you can create the right content for the right platforms on Chinese social media.

Want to know more about developing a content strategy for Chinese audiences? Get in touch with us here.

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