NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organization, has built a highly engaged social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram across the globe. However, these social networks are banned in China, a market which has quickly become one of the most important in the world for travel providers, thanks to its rising population of global travelers. In fact, according to Ctrip, the number of Chinese passport holders is expected to double by 2020.

This growing class of Chinese travelers is getting much of their trip planning inspiration from digital media. But instead of utilizing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the country’s outbound travelers rely on local Chinese digital platforms such as Weibo, WeChat, and travel related content platforms such as Mafengwo and Qyer.

Travel-related content on these platforms is sparking inspiration for future travels, meaning that destination marketing organizations overseas that want to reach this lucrative audience of Chinese travelers can’t afford to ignore them. Furthermore, because Chinese outbound travelers and the digital platforms they use are so unique from their Western counterparts, destination marketing organizations should take a specialized approach when trying to engage with them.

Taking this realization to heart, NYC & Company partnered with Mailman X, a Shanghai-based agency focused on destination marketing for today’s Chinese outbound traveler, to map out how to best showcase the destination to digitally savvy Chinese outbound travelers. New York City, one of the first DMOs to step into China’s digital space, is now one of the top destinations throughout China’s digital landscape and continues to grow in both followers and engagement on Weibo and WeChat. But it didn’t happen overnight –– there was an intricate, thoughtful strategy behind the destination’s Chinese social network growth. Here are some strategies used to build this successful approach to Chinese social media.

Look at the Big Picture

Consumers use Weibo and WeChat in very different ways, which means that destinations that want to utilize them need to establish the use cases for each platform early in the strategy planning process. Weibo, a more traditional social media platform, is a useful tool for brand building and one-to-many communication. Meanwhile, WeChat is a closed loop platform useful for customer relationship management and one-to-one communication.

For example, on WeChat, a user might see a picture on a brand’s official account or a friend’s post about a recent trip on their Moments that inspires a travel idea. On Weibo, a user might join in a conversation about a destination led by a Chinese digital influencer. But both platforms serve a unique purpose when it comes to conveying a specific message. Mailman X used Weibo to drive inspiration about New York City to potential travelers, but turned to WeChat to act as the official “pocket” visitor guide and provide users with richer destination-focused content on the go.

The goals were similar for both platforms. The primary aim was to inspire Chinese travelers to visit New York City and provide them with tools to help them experience everything New York City has to offer. They also wanted to position NYC & Company as the best example of marketing in China for a U.S. destination. Finally, they wanted to grow NYC & Company’s WeChat and Weibo followers.

In order to do so, a core positioning statement was created to attract the attention of potential travelers: “There is always something to do in NYC.” A study that identified potential content pillars –– such as culture, food, entertainment, and shopping –– as well as opinions about New York City held by Chinese consumers was also launched. For example, “New York City owns shopping,” or ”New York City evolves continuously and it’s never boring.” Key performance indicators and industry benchmarks of measuring the social media presence of other U.S. destination marketing organizations were also established to assess their progress.

Key Touch Points to Winning the Chinese Digital Market

There are a number of things that destinations looking to reach Chinese consumers via social should keep in mind.

First, destinations need to understand that simply translating content is not enough to create local content that resonates. Content should speak directly to potential travelers and reflect their culture and interests. Perhaps most importantly, content should showcase the fun, joy, and excitement that your destination has to offer.

Destination marketing organizations should also stay abreast of digital trends –– and instead of relying on them, they should work to enhance them and align them with their messaging. Destinations should also listen to their audiences to understand what content works and what doesn’t. Finally, destinations should make sure they grasp the differences between each social platform and how consumers use them day to day.

Delving Deeper into the Details

Given the variety of push-and-pull factors that influence where a traveler chooses to go, how does the destination marketer keep track of what’s right for whom? The insights, patterns, and trends attained by properly measuring, categorizing, and tagging data can help answer this question.

Mailman X utilizes its KAWO marketing technology to understand what’s happening in real-time, whether that’s looking at New York City’s Weibo and WeChat follower and engagement growth, best performing posts, behavioral trends, or what competitors are doing. Tracking the performance of each individual piece of content through tagging is key to understand effectiveness as well. By aggregating and analyzing this data, actionable understandings of patterns and trends can be extracted to help target campaigns to the right recipients at the right time.

For example, Mailman X learned that New York City’s posts tagged as “Attractions” performed 87 percent better than average. However, these posts only accounted for 4 percent of posts published. Meanwhile, posts tagged as “Accommodation” represented the third-highest number of posts tagged, but performed 69 percent lower than average. However, with this insight, Mailman X was able to frame accommodation content in a new way. This new content angle, combined with a slight media promotion, led accommodation content engagement to improve by 31 percent. Understanding such performance was useful to fine-tune both the content subject and presentation to better resonate with consumers.

Recipe for Success

The deep strategy behind New York City’s presence on Weibo and WeChat was effective, as content became more consumer-driven and goals were defined. Weibo followers grew by 49.8 percent in just three months, and engagement increased by 2400 percent. In May 2018, Weibo ranked all destination marketing accounts by spread, interaction, and fan impact –– New York City ranked as the second most popular destination marketing account after Hong Kong.

Social media allows destinations to reach both a broad audience as well as more specifically targeted ones, serving as the touch point throughout the inspiration, planning, booking, and sharing phases of Chinese travel. However, it can do more than just reach the customers –– if the right technology is in place, there can be valuable opportunities to learn about them as well.

By using technology-driven insights to gain understanding into the uniqueness of Chinese outbound travelers and the digital platforms they use, destination marketing organizations can position themselves to successfully stand out to and engage with this group. To learn how your destination can best make use of technology-driven insights to attract Chinese travelers, visit Mailman X.

This content was created collaboratively by Mailman X and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.