Social Media Hong Kong Style


I’m back from a week in Hong Kong visiting digital agencies with six social media students from the University of the Sunshine Coast. Here are five key social media trends that we learned during our visit.

Hong Kong is an amazingly vibrant city that rarely sleeps. It offers visitors a mix of the old and the new. As the world’s most vertical city, Hong Kong is home to 7.4 million people and 75% (5.6 million) are active social media users.

View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

With nearly seven in 10 people using smartphones, Hong Kong residents are highly mobile, connected and tech-savvy.  In terms of social media platforms, Facebook reigns supreme with YouTube and WhatsApp also leading the way.

Penetration of leading social networks in Hong Kong as of 4th quarter 2016 | Statista

Having so many Hong Kong residents active on social media  can be a definite advantage for businesses trying to connect with them. Yet, with such a large concentration of users being focused on two platforms (Facebook and YouTube), the challenge for marketers is to devise ways to cut through the noise to attract attention and build strong relationships with target audiences.

Here are five methods that digital agencies in Hong Kong use to reach and resonate with audience segments using social media:

1. Including offline experiences in social media campaigns

Adding an offline experiential component to social media campaigns helps to strengthen a social media user’s relationship to a brand. It can achieve this by providing the opportunity for interaction with the brand in a very tangible way, building positive memories and brand associations in the process. Some methods used by Hong Kong agencies include providing a coupon code that is redeemable in-store, publicity stunts or invitations to launch events.

2. Micro-Influencers and KOLs

Micro-influencers were described as having 5K – 20K social media followers (the jury is out on the specific number), but generate an excellent rate of engagement from their content. The agencies visited found using micro-influencers to be an effective marketing tool for many of their clients in Hong Kong because: 1) Many of their followers were usually from a specific geographical area making targeting easier, and 2) Engaging micro-influencers for a campaign is much more cost-effective than using influencers with a larger following, because they charge much more. For example, when spin studio XYZ launched in Hong Kong, micro-influencers who were also female office workers, were given free passes to try some classes and share their experiences through their social networks. It was a locally targeted strategy that worked in bringing people through the doors.

KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) aka influencers are also used in a very big way. Hong Kong celebrities and those famous on social media remain an effective way to attract audience interest and endorse a brand when the budget allows.

3. Chatbots

In the Hong Kong market, chatbots are also becoming a common way for digital marketers to connect and build relationships with members of their target audience by providing one-to-one brand experiences. Rather than purely imparting factual information, when designed well, chatbots can facilitate a dialogic experience for consumers with a brand personality in a way that has been challenging to orchestrate in the past. Below is an example from Set Sail Software of a chatbot in action.

4. Creating useful content for customers

The approach to social media content creation in Hong Kong is the same as that espoused by the likes of digital evangelists such as Gary V; give, give, give.

Creating and sharing content that is helpful to customers, or that solves a common problem is one of the key methods used by the agencies that I visited in Hong Kong to build relationships with social media users. AB testing of advertising, is also a common practice to ensure that only the most engaging content is being posted.

Social media is a long-term marketing and relationship-management strategy. If you freely provide helpful advice to your target audience, they reciprocate by using your product or service when they need it, because it will be top-of-mind.

In other words…


Going for the hard sell before providing value to a prospective customer is like expecting to get married on the first date. You’re expecting way too much.

5. Empathy is at the heart of storytelling; creativity must meet logic

The importance of storytelling was a prominent topic mentioned during our agency visits in Hong Kong. Telling stories about real people and their experiences to make the audience care was seen an effective tactic to connect with customers.

However, while the creativity associated with storytelling was viewed as a positive, ensuring that the creative process produced content that supported business objectives was also highlighted as important.

Thanks Hong Kong, you’re amazing

My week in Hong Kong was invaluable. While exploring the city (and the shopping and the food) was lots of fun, the agency visits confirmed that the social media courses that I have developed for the University of the Sunshine Coast are in line with industry practice. It also allowed me to pick up a few new tricks to add into next year’s courses. Thanks Hong Kong. I will be back.

Our visit to Edelman, Hong Kong

A big thank you to: the New Colombo Plan, Ben Hui from IPG Media Brands, Shanice Wong from Society, Andrew Ryder from Edelman, Celia Lei from MSLGroup, Albin Lix from Digital Business Lab, Hon Lee from MWI, Caleb Dawkins, Jared Dixon, Angela Doust, Bonnie Kowaltzke, Seona MacDonald, and Maddison Nettleship-Holmes for a fantastic trip. 

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