China.  It’s the last frontier for sports events in the developed world.  As the most populous country on the planet continues to host more events with an international audience, the ability of rights holders to communicate effectively is still a concern in a place that is a black hole for western social media.

But all is not lost.  To answer the question on everyone’s lips – can you even access Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in China? – Yes, you can.  Providing of course you have a decent Virtual Private Network (VPN) provider.

Drawing on REDTORCH’s recent experience delivering an on-site social media strategy for FISE World Chengdu in October this year, we’ve put together 6 useful tips on managing western social media channels when working in China:

Tip 1: Internet connectivity – We’ve yet to meet a digital marketer that doesn’t use the internet.  Research and consider how the local internet speed will affect your strategy.  If you are, as may well be the case, working in an area of poor connectivity, be realistic in the type of content that can be distributed.

Adapt your content plan and manage expectations accordingly.

China suffers from appallingly slow internet speeds that significantly affect the time it takes to upload and download content.  This has means a strategy that relies heavily on real-time video is a no-no.

Tip 2: VPN – choose your VPN wisely.  A VPN to get access to network resources when they’re not physically on the same LAN (local area network).  In Chengdu we used Express VPN with little trouble, but we’d strongly recommend researching the ones for the best on the market at the time.

China has a firewall that blocks a long, long list of websites, including most western social media platforms.  A VPN will allow you access to most of these platforms, but it will hinder your upload and download speeds.

> You can find a comprehensive review of the best VPNs here

Tip 3: Time difference – hold back your best content and distribute it at the best time for your core audience to maximise engagement levels.

Find out where your core audience is and what time they engage with your content.  The biggest platforms like Facebook have become increasingly proficient in catering for scheduled posts, so make full use of this feature.

Tip 4: Local audience social media platforms – if you’re in China for the long haul, use local help to handle your Chinese social platforms.  Make sure they are briefed properly and understand exactly what it is you want them to do.  The language barrier is strong is China.

When formulating your strategy, always take into account the local social media platforms and their audience.  Remember, in China the local platforms don’t suffer from the same restrictions as western ones.  If you don’t have presence on them, the potential exposure of your event is during event time will be greatly limited.

Tip 5: Onsite influencers – The engagement you normally achieve via onsite influencers such as popular western athletes will be significantly lower than western events.  They will be suffering from the same connectivity and restriction issues as you, except they haven’t given any solid thought on how to overcome them.

Factor in the issues they will face in distributing their own content and the time differences of their own audiences, and see if you can help a select few to boost your numbers.

Tip 6: Communicating with colleagues – WeChat is where’s it’s at.  The Chinese app is the easiest way to communicate onsite at the event as it isn’t blocked by the firewall.

The standard western messaging apps like WhatsApp don’t work very well in China, so get familiar with WeChat and coordinate your onsite team with ease.

Considering these tips and insights should make your social media activity in China more effective in engaging your target audience, or at least a little easier to reach!