CIC Data

cicdata.gifWhat makes social media companies outside the US different? Language and familiarity with local cultures are the obvious answers, and my conversation with Sam Flemming tomorrow morning (fun with time zones!) really brought that home. Sam's Shanghai-based company, CIC Data, delivers Internet word of mouth and competitive intelligence research for China.

CIC Data focuses exclusively on China, typically working with the China headquarters of multinational clients. They have also worked with other social media research firms to provide Chinese market coverage. The services they offer are similar to the services you'd find in other countries: social media monitoring, trend analysis, and identifying influencers. The big differences are—surprise—language and culture.

It turns out that the work on analyzing Western-language social media doesn't help much with analyzing Chinese-language media. But beyond the technical challenges of the language is the importance of cultural awareness. It turns out that Chinese consumers are creative producers of slang, such as the 10–12 different ways to refer to "Bluetooth." Imagine instant-messaging-style abbreviations, with specific slang and abbreviations for different industries. Add mobile phone terms that vary by the user's phone and market-specific slang for some of the industries CIC Data watches (such as automobiles), and the text analysis becomes a worthy challenge.

And then there's the choice of technology. According to Technorati, Chinese language represents 10% of blogs. The real action, though, is on message boards (but call it BBS); that's where Chinese consumers share their opinions of companies, brands, products... the stuff that shows up on blogs in the US. If you've seen online message boards, you get the idea, but add to your mental picture longer, bloglike articles and mainstream adoption. CIC Data tracks 4 million messages each month from automobile-related boards alone.

China is awash in marketing messages—ads are everywhere (including escalator handrails). Consumers who trust other people more than marketers are heavy users of social media to share information and opinions about companies and products. If China is an important market for you, you'll see the value in a China specialist's knowledge of the language and culture.


About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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