China Social Marketing: How to Leverage Private Domain Traffic

Understanding private domain traffic in China

Although public domains give you access to near-limitless online traffic to increase your brand reach in China, they are highly competitive spaces without much potential to foster any real connection or trust with your customers.

And as the country’s web industry experiences a growth slowdown and grows ever more saturated, leveraging customer value is paramount. As such, increasing revenue from the customers you already have is as essential to your growth strategy as acquiring new customers.

That’s where private domains (私域) come into play—by helping brands maintain direct communication with their target customers and engage them directly to drive retention and repurchases.

To help you understand private domain traffic in China, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about leveraging them in your marketing strategy.

But before we delve in, let’s further clarify what we mean by private domain traffic.

What is private domain traffic?

Private domain traffic marketing is the method whereby a brand’s communication with its customers is “funneled” into private channels (i.e., “private domains 私域”), where it has complete control over how and when it wants to communicate with this audience.

This stands in contrast to “public domains 公域”, which are traffic sources not controlled or owned by brands. Instead, brands here will usually use different methods to direct public traffic to their campaigns or accounts before trying to engage the users and bring them into their private traffic pool. Examples of public traffic sources include search engines and user traffic on some e-commerce or social networks.

Ultimately, the purpose of private domains is to continue “selling” even after customers leave your website. Since it often only takes a catalyst to trigger customers to repurchase, private domain channels help by keeping your brand fresh on their minds and increasing their likelihood of returning to you (i.e., user stickiness).

Why use private domain traffic?

Private domain channels offer myriad benefits for brands. They can:

  • Ensure you’re consistently targeting the right customers
  • Improve your brand perception among ideal target customers
  • Maintain direct, two-way communication with customers and a build long-lasting relationship
  • Boost customer engagement, retention, and repurchasing rates
  • Lower your customer acquisition cost

Where to leverage private domain traffic?

Before the upsurge of private domain traffic in social marketing, brands would typically cultivate their own customer communities via more brand-owned channels, like EDM and brand website/blog. Many brands in western countries still rely heavily on these channels to reach their customers.

Now, brands in China are increasingly shifting towards social media applications to achieve this, opting for platforms popular with their target customers that can enable private domain traffic with free, user-friendly features and allow for direct marketing campaigns.

In China, WeChat has been a popular source of private domain traffic among brands, owing much to its behemoth userbase and comprehensive ecosystem encompassing messaging, social media, e-commerce, and payment functions.

In this case, a brand’s WeChat official account, group chats, and WeChat Moments are all forms of private domain channels on WeChat—each considered a “private asset” of that brand since they are operated by the brand.

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How to attract private domain traffic?

There are two main types of private domains you can leverage in your marketing.

Build Your Own Community

Firstly, you can leverage public traffic domains—your main website, for example—to attract customers before funneling those who are more likely to convert into private communities like group chats, even if they’re hosted on third-party apps like WeChat.

Here are some tips to consider when building your own community:

  • Organize group chats: Private domain channels, particularly group chats, rely heavily on moderators and quality content to stay relevant. Therefore, after gathering interested users in a private group chat, you’ll need to cultivate a proactive brand voice to build a long-lasting relationship with your customers.
  • Host live webinars: By addressing customer pain points in live webinar sessions, you can build rapport and attract more targeted and higher-quality leads to your private domain channels.
  • Offer personalized services: Based on your customers’ concerns and queries, you can offer 1-to-1 customer support via private chatrooms.
  • Target users by past behavior: You can set up profiles of your repeat customers in a CRM system and monitor their purchasing behaviors to inform your targeting strategies.

Find Pre-Existing Communities and Audience Groups

Each KOC/KOL curates and manages their own group of followers, so you can reach out to those that align with your brand.

Here are some tips to consider when leveraging pre-existing communities and audience groups:

  • KOC/KOL campaigns: Aside from moderators and content, promotions can hugely appeal to customers in your group chats. To this end, you can enlist key opinion consumers (KOCs) to stir excitement and mix your brand-owned community with target platforms and communities by offering regular promotions—e.g., discounts, coupons, lotteries, live broadcasts. Unlike key opinion leaders (KOLs), however, KOCs are usually amateur influencers keen on testing or reviewing products they are interested in, so they will likely resonate better with your target customers.
  • Industry experts: As free knowledge-sharing grows ever more ubiquitous across online communities, you can blend your brand-owned community with target platforms and communities by inviting industry experts to share their expertise about industry trends relevant to your business category. This will appeal to customers seeking educational value when joining your private domains.

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At a time when online attention spans are diminishing, private domains can help brands establish more vertical and sticky customer acquisition and engagement channels.

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