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  • Writer's pictureTingbin Tang

Social, Viral, and Fun

Updated: Jan 16, 2019

Interact with Customers, Achieve Fission Growth

It’s known that China mobile internet services have been leading the world, and people are seeing so many successful stories. It’s also known that China has a big population market, but not many people really know how the survived/succeed ones achieved their growth among so many copycats. (e.g. over 6,000 group purchasing companies and over 7,000 P2P banking companies…)

Now this term becomes popular among Chinese tech companies, “fission growth”. How to achieve fission growth effect? Traditional ways of marketing and advertisement do not work anymore. When Yahoo defined itself as a media company and many other internet companies were selling online banners and video ads, what they were doing had no much differences as traditional TV and newspaper ads. Mobile internet brings revolutionary impact, and it makes much easier to reach targeted individuals and make self-media more actionable.

1. Social, social and social

We all know the importance of social, we all know the best way of broadcasting is “word of mouth”, but not every company has really utilized social effect well. Nowadays, almost every company will have a delegated person in charge of social media, but what they do are quite routine. Run a facebook page, a twitter account, run a company blog, and so on and so forth. They will keep posting company news, product related information, educational contents, etc. But are these functioning well? Not really.

Mobile internet has made the social much easier and more effective, but not many companies have realized that, and not many companies have best utilized that. Compare to traditional media or PC internet, mobile internet makes it much easier to directly reach to each individual. Mobile phone becomes an extension of human body, at the other end of the mobile phone, it links directly to an individual person. That brings great opportunity, for companies to sell their product/services “in front of” target customers. That also brings a challenge, which is how to communicate? That makes the “communication skills” extremely important, otherwise, with the overwhelming information today, customers may just turn their back to you, instead of listening, watching, trying and sharing.

I’d like to put Pinduoduo (NASDAQ: PDD) as an example. I know many people look Pinduoduo down, I also believe Pinduoduo may have many problems as well, but for a company which establish in 2015 and went to Nasdaq in 2018 with a very high valuation, with 400 million active users, almost a quarter of China population are using it, with many growth data are even more beautiful than JD and Taobao. Such quick growth, I am sure they also have many things we could learn from.

Image credit: GGV Capital

From every corner of Pinduoduo, I can see they have really put social as its one of the important strategies. For example, PDD has a “PDD Lottery”. With just 1 cent, the customer is possible to win a Huawei phone or a jacket or some other merchandises. After customer put in the 1 cent (by doing this, PDD get the customer’s payment info); PDD will require the customer to share to be eligible to enter this lottery. Then people will share to their Wechat, which not just directly send to individuals, but also together with the endorsement from the sharing person, gain much more credit. If the customer did not win the lottery, PDD will even refund this 1 cent back to the customer. But comparing to the merchandises PDD send out, to the customers it gains, and compare to the potential cost if it was used on traditional media, such ROI is gorgeous.

When I am writing this article, I hold my physical keys on my phone to get a screenshot of PDD app, and even at this moment, it recognizes my intention, and pop up a window allow me to share to Wechat, QQ friends or QQ zone.

2. Viral, viral and viral

Mobile internet makes social more targeting, but how we can encourage customers initially to share our messages? Viral is the answer. The content itself has to be viral enough, otherwise, even put a lot of cash incentives, may still hardly to achieve the fission growth effect we are expecting. So what kind of content will be viral? I would like to ask, so what kind of things you will like to tell others about? The answer is, the content itself need to become a topic, a topic that can create echoes, bring up other people’s interests.

The topic customers like to share, are the topics that customers are able to show off themselves. For example, there was a small HTML5 game, called “Catch the Wild Cat”, which ask the customers to encircle the cat with minimum steps. This game itself only took 2 person and one and half days to finish, but after launch it, within 48 hours, it got PV over 10 million, independent IP over 2.4 million. So many people participated just trying to catch the cat with minimum steps and they will share their scores.

There were many other promotion cases, also utilized customers’ vanity, allow them to show off themselves. For example, there were many psychological tests, which ask customers to conduct a test, find out what kind of animal represent his/her character, and allow them to share. There were also some other fortune teller games, asked customers to test which general or king or famous person he/she was during his/her past life. There were some small games allow customers to find out which movie star he/she looks like; or how he/she will look like in 20 years… No matter how silly it sounds like, people still like to participate and share the result. While, when people participate, they contributed their own information; and when they are sharing, they contributed their social resources and bring more customers to the companies.

3. Fun, always important

Fun, of course it is always important. China tech companies have made the gamification very well, or even just a blog article, they will make it really funny. When people are laughing, they are happy with you, is not it?

When I asked some customers in China, I was surprised to know, that they were actually using Pinduoduo to play games, especially their parents, those retired old people. Why people will come to an e-commerce app to play games? Why Pinduoduo position itself as Costco plus Disney? One of the games PDD has is called “PDD farm”. In this virtual farm, customers can pick a seed, then plant the fruit tree. For example, if customer plant an apple tree, when the virtual apple tree grows up and become fruitful, PDD will ship a box of real apple to the customer, totally free, even shipping free as well. So how PDD can benefit from this game? The fruit is free, but to grow up the fruit tree, customers have to come to PDD to water the plants every day. In order to receive the water drops, customers have the choices of two tasks: 1. to invite more people to sign up for PDD; 2. Simply to browser PDD merchandises for a certain amount of time. By this game mechanic, the customers are helping PDD to grow customer base; also, when browsing the merchandises, most likely, customer will purchase much more.

So, gamification and connect online games with offline products, China tech companies have been really creatively. Another case was about Taobao, they get the license from Japan to develop the Chinese version of “Travel Frog”. And when customers “travel” with this frog around the world, this frog will bring local products to the customers, for example, if the frog travel to Paris, it may bring customer Paris perfume. But of course, the customer will have to pay for it.

Instead of taking photo with movie stars, a travel booking app use a very “ordinary” middle age man as the model, with big belly, sit in the middle of the street in the sands pile, with the texts says, “Do not need to care what other people says, as long as you have sands, anywhere can be Maldives”. Another photo shows the same guys with the same posture, sitting on the beach, with the text says, “Do not need to care what other people says, yesterday on the street, now at Maldives”.

4. Self-media

Even though nowadays people understand that we can be self-media, but not many companies really can make their own media work well, because lacking enough followers, so in exchange, they still go to those called “influencers” to pay money and hire those people to represent for the company.

Cofounder of Xiaomi, Li Wanqiang published a booked, “Participation”, revealed the secret of Xiaomi’s success. In this book, he mentioned instead of wasting money on advertisement, how Xiaomi created their own self-media, and how they create viral contents and build the community which allows customers to participate in company’s every stage of growth, and not just be part of followers, but also be part of contributors.

First, Xiaomi’s CEO, managing team and every employee have become influencers. Second, if I quote, “every day we should be on headline news.” With this principle, everyone in the company when they trying to send out a message, they will make this in a very special way to attract eyes. For example, to tell customers that Xiaomi’s quality is great, they put Xiaomi phone into the fridge, then post what happened after. Or two heavy Xiaomi employees stand on top of Xiaomi box, then post the photo online. Sense of humor and viral have been into part of Xiaomi blood. Third, they really engage customers, allow Xiaomi followers to participate debugging for new coming operating systems or pre-release phones. When people become part of the development, even though it was free contribution, they feel that they belong to, hence enhanced the loyalty.

5. Charity is not just charity

Many companies had CSR corporate social responsibility department, and they spend millions of dollars every year to support the society, which is a good thing, but not many companies really make it a great ROI deal.

When people feel that they are doing a good thing, they are willing to share. And that also meet their self-fulfillment needs. Many China tech companies have been using this smartly. For example, at PDD, many agricultural produces’ sales, are under poverty alleviation channel, which tells the customers, hi, you are not just purchasing some agricultural produces from us; when you are making this purchase, you are also helping the poor famers at developing areas. What a smart way to sell these produces. The images below show a seller who is a blind person. So PDD is not just selling the produce, but also selling the story behind.

The same concept I applied to a project I designed before for Mengniu game on Qifang platform. To help Mengniu rebuild their company images and let customer trust the quality of their milk products, I designed such a milk production game. Customers are willing to play this game, because when they Play this game and produce a bottle of virtual milk, Mengniu will donate a bottle of real milk to the poor kids in the developing area. Via this game, Mengniu also delivered the message to customers that their milk production process is trustable, and their products are Safe and healthy.

There was a charity autism art work sales event went popular. Anyone can purchase a digital copy of art work done by autism kids, to put as their phone screen saver. Many people participated and shared this event, besides sharing the art work they purchased.

6. Really understand target customers

Really understand target customers, sometimes means really understand their weakness. What is people’s weakness? Vanity is one of them, or good way to say it is, to feel belonged, to feel be recognized, self-esteem, to attract attention, and so on.

A Chinese mobile phone company, Tecno, becomes very popular in Africa, it is beat all other famous brands, even though many people maybe have never heard of this brand. Why? Because Tecno developed its camera/filter special for Africa people, which allows them to take very clear and good toned selfie.

An app called “cute face” also become very popular and attracted millions of users within several months. It allows customers to create a cartoon portrait of themselves and be able to generate their own face style emojis. It went viral.

Penny wise is also many people’s weakness besides vanity. When Pinduoduo has this Price Bargain feature, customer can send the link to their friends to help them bargain the price of an item. Everyone can help bargain the price down a little bit. Ideally, it is possible to get the merchandise for free if they have enough friends to help them bargain. By doing this, PDD gain more customers through current customers’ network, as a result, also gain fission growth effect.

Another case I designed for Pingan auto insurance, was to allow customers purchase virtual gasoline from Pingan today’s market price if it is low; then store in the app; and redeems it at any partnered gas station when the price goes up. By doing this, we utilized people’s penny wise to build the customer loyalty for Pingan Auto insurance, because like many other auto insurance providers, they all have the challenge of old customer retention rate is very low.

People’s social needs are also important. Ebay failed in China, many people think it was because Ebay charge sellers for publishing cost, while Taobao was totally free. These people ignored the facts: 1. Ebay also started to be free in China market very quick; 2. Chinese people even put a lot of money to purchase QQ game coins or mobile phone ring tones, so they are willing to spend money for online services. Per research with the customers and sellers, the main reason was because Ebay did not really understand Chinese customers and did not provide good customer experiences. Besides giving sellers more freedom and control, Taobao also allows sellers to communicate with customers via Aliwangwang (a chat app owned by Ali group), by this way, customers and sellers build up a much stronger relationship, they can communicate about their requirements for the merchandises, and even can bargain for the prices.

7. Stay innovative

Many people, especially people from western countries are criticizing Chinese government for not protecting the copyrights well, and they blame that to be the excuses for many foreign companies failed in China market. I do NOT agree.

I saw many western companies or individuals just sit on their patent, enjoy the royalty income, and lose their motivation to continue innovate. Some people/lawyers may even maliciously squatting patent to take advantage out of it. In China, copyrights are not protecting so well, on one side, of course, that is not a respect for the inventors; on the other side, it urges the companies have to move fast, and always stay ahead in terms of innovation, to keep themselves stay leading in the market.

Like the Pinduoduo Farm I mentioned, there was another company called Koubei, which is a restaurant rating app. It copied the concept from PDD, and have their Koubei farm, where customers can raise chicken, cow and so on. And when the chickens/cows grow big, they will be able to get free Fried Chicken or beef hamburger from Koubei partnered restaurants.

Just like a famous painter Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” The business has no moral, as long as it is legitimate and can make profits, companies has only one rule, which is to survive and be successful. Stay ahead of innovation, and move fast, that is the key!

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