Web Strategy Field Report: The Hong Kong and China Web Sphere (Part 4 of 4)

(Left: Classical Chinese Garden, Bao Mao Gardens)

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I ventured to Hong Kong and met with many of the web industry leaders, below is the final report of 4 of my Web Strategy Field Report to understand the web sphere in Hong Kong and China. If you’re a web strategist with global responsibilities you’ll need to understand what’s happening in one of the world’s largest internet user base.

To date, there are more Chinese internet users than all of North America combined, and only a portion of China is full online, the potential has not yet been tapped. Simply re-skinning your website in Chinese and adding a ‘.cn’ domain may not be a sufficient strategy.

I want to understand the global web better, and am doing what I can to learn more. It’s easy to become very insular in the Silicon Valley bubble, so if you’ve any suggestions, please leave a comment


30-60 minute formal or casual interviews. I’ve met several successful Entrepreneurs, Investors, Analysts, Professors, CEOs, Strategists, Bloggers, Podcasters, and Marketers during this period.


Please note this field report is incomplete. I’ve neither the time nor resources to do thorough analysis, and do a 360 degrees research. The information and anecdotes collected are from interviews with those that I met. As always, a web strategy and plan should have thorough research completed before starting. If you disagree or have other data points to add (even if it’s just your own opinion, I welcome them in the comments, please don’t be shy).

“In mainland China, the youth don’t know how to communicate to each other, offline or online. MySpace put a .cn as a domain extension…it was lame”

For the online marketer wanting to reach China’s users, simply re-skiinning a website is not sufficient, understand the changes in design, information layout, content requirements, and cultural technographics differences.

“Xiaonei.com is a Facebook Clone”.

“Clone” is the right word, the design looks copy pasted. There is more reports from VentureBeat on this company and a recent acquisition.

“Linkhurst.com is a linkedin clone”

This business like social networking site offers tools similar to popular LinkedIn. There’s some other interesting resources for internet marketers in China.

“Two types of internet users in China: 1) Lower end surfer, likely less education, and will gravitate towards Tencet. May be rural. 2) The Urban and Educated will have a career focus.

I learned this from a CEO in Hong Kong with roots in mainland China, he suggested there are two widening gaps in Chinese culture, society, and thus the web. Understand which segment you’re aiming for, and build accordingly.

“Chinese may not make virtual friends, as web friends doesn’t make sense, real events offer more value.”

Value, is the consistent theme I heard from this CEO, with the differences in online behavior to connect with others, creators of online events need to take extra special care of purpose. Perhaps start with an in person event first.

“Social Networks will not work in the mainland, as the web is used for entertainment [consumption], if there’s no value, usage will be low therefore, networked games and virtual games work as there’s entertainment value”

If the web is used as an entertainment medium, building sites with large interaction may not work, says this CEO.

“The ability to quickly access copyrighted content, young users don’t feel a need to ‘earn’ money for media and content”

Copyright issues have continued to plague western software, media, and music industries, eCommerce strategies around eMedia should be aware and cautious in developing their strategy.

“The change from Web 1.0 which is Information, to Web 2.0, which is People, is challenging for mainland China, trust is important”

This is not a China phenomenon, it’s happening all over the world, the real value of information is what is being delivered, filtered, and exchanged by networks of common interest, and eventually trust.

I really enjoyed Paul’s additional commentary, although he questions why I would visit HK to cover mainland. Most of the people I talked to were from mainland, served mainland, or had their users in mainland, it was all tied. Best find? Paul linked to this Ogilvy blog reporting on Asia, I subscribed.

Love to hear your commentary, this concludes my report series. For additional related interviews, see what Shel has been doing with Andrew Mao on the impacts of Social Media, Culture and the Chinese Culture (part 1, and then read part 2). Also related, Alibaba’s IPO may hit 1.3 billion.

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| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 |