Update from China about social media

Eid Mubarak to all my friends around the world who are celebrating the end of Ramadan. May you have had a blessed time with your family and friends.

China update 

Last week I was speaking at a large digital marketing conference in Shanghai, China. It was my first time there and I was a bit nervous about how the audience would receive my content – probably all speakers get nervous when travelling to a new part of the world that you’ve never been to before.

The topics I spoke about were ‘The Importance of Personal Branding Online in B2B’ and ‘Digital Leadership – How To Embrace Technology and Creativity’. Both talks went down well and I got lots of questions and feedback directly after them. I love instant feedback and great connection with the audience.

Sofie Sandell speaking at conference in China

Chinese social media 

China has its own ecosystem of social media. You can’t access sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. One thing that I learned was that for every new big social media network from outside China they are inventing at least ten similar networks for the Chinese market. So there are a lot of sites and platforms.

The most popular social media network that people use is WeChat. It’s like a combination of WhatsApp and Facebook. Very smooth interface and super smart. It already has an e-commerce shop in it. I loved it and I connected with several people I met through it.

I also joined Weibo – known as the Chinese Twitter, it has tons more functionality compared to Twitter. But so far I only have one follower, not so social yet…

As a speaker you have to have some good videos of yourself speaking online, just to show who you are. I have a few videos on YouTube.com. When I was in China I quickly realised that all Google Apps are blocked, so nobody can watch my videos… The next thing I need to do is to join Chinese YouKu – the biggest Chinese video platform, and add my videos there.

The social media sites and apps I could access online were:

  • LinkedIn – no problems at all
  • Instagram – worked perfectly fine, and I shared posts from there directly on my Facebook and Twitter
  • TED.com on my iPhone also worked well – and I also met the guy who brought TEDx to China
  • My podcast app Audioboo worked well as well, but Soundcloud didn’t work.

Most normal websites were ok to access – but you never know if they might be blocked in the future.

Like many entrepreneurs I am using Gmail, and of course it doesn’t work to access in China. I somehow could get access to it from my email app on my iPhone, but no Google Apps worked. I often use Google Translate, and when I could not use that at all I really missed it.

To get around this you can buy a VPN key, many people do that to reach outside the Chinese internet ecosystem.

To search for content online I used Yahoo.com and Bing, it’s years since I’ve used those. It worked well for me, but of course your online behaviour gets a bit interrupted when the biggest search engine is blocked.

All of the websites that you access by signing in with Facebook or Twitter won’t work. I found this annoying, I definitely need to sort this out before I go back so I can access them directly with my email and password.

Questions from the audience 

The Chinese conference delegates had lots of questions and their problems with social media and technology are similar to what we are struggling with here in Europe.

The mix of social media networks, content, communication and then add to that new technology and vast amounts of data…it all makes it complex.

Some of the questions we discussed were:

  • How do you engage your audience online?
  • How do you create a message that anyone cares about?
  • How can B2B use social media?
  • How do you conquer the challenges with big data?
  • How do you interpret social media numbers?

I was part of a panel discussing video marketing in B2B. This is something that many businesses need to look into and learn more about. We love visual things and we love stories, and if you are combining this into a video you will inspire your audience.

Not that many people are natural video producers and directors, this is a skill you need to learn. My tips is that you should work with a professional production team who can help you tell your stories.

There is no magic length of a video online, anything from a few seconds up to 10 minutes will work if you can engage and entertain your audience. I often get asked this questions and it’s like watching TV, sometimes you just get sucked into a story and can’t stop watching.

One of the speakers at the conference was from Ogilvy and she showed us some interesting campaigns from Dove. Ogilvy and Dove have paired up together for over 8 years now, probably even longer in some parts of the world. This is one of the key parts of successfully developing your message and content – build a great partnership where you respect each others talents, both as the client and agency.

The big data trend 

I see a trend that more and more companies are pushing towards equipping their digital marketing teams with people who love to interpret numbers. Many marketers I know are scared of sitting down and looking in detail at what the numbers mean. They are much more comfortable managing the creative side of their brand, writing and creating stories.

In marketing there will be more analytical hybrid roles in the future, and there is already a big need for these kind of skills.

People who are mathematicians and statisticians will be part of the marketing team and interpret what all numbers mean. Sort of like a modern digital marketing accountant. Numbers are a huge asset for us and also big part of our language and culture. But if we don’t know how to interpret them we are not going to use the knowledge that the numbers are telling us.

Social media and integrity 

Another mega problem in social media is ‘how to share your message with integrity’. With integrity I mean being honest and having good intentions with what you are saying and doing.

So many brands are not sure about who they are, what they stand for and who their audience really is. You need dedicated leaders who care deeply to get this right. Brands with no opinions and no stand point feel meaningless to many people. We want to know who you really are, and in the world of social media there is not much you can hide as a brand.

There is the Swedish food company, Kavli, whose CEO, Gerhard Bley, sent their whole management board to therapy to get the company and its processes to work better. (sorry, I could only find the article in Swedish)

Gerhard Bley thought that if they can’t act in a balanced ‘adult’ way and make decisions based on good intentions and empathy they can never be great leaders. A pretty impressive thing to do. I am sure they will write some interesting case studies about this in the future.

The question ‘Who are you?’ is scary to answer, and it takes a lot of time for formulate this for all brands. Without knowing who you are and what you stand for it’s hard to lead.

Warm wishes,



A sketch of Sofie Sandell's Digital Leadership talk

What people say

“Sofie conducted a workshop around digital leadership for JCI London in June 2014. It was a very interesting and engaging workshop that allowed us participants to get involved and think about the way we present Svenja Kourselves online and what can be achieved as a digital leader.

I learned what it means to be a digital leader and what the steps are in becoming one. It is not only helping myself in business but it is also great on a personal level. It makes you conscious about the time that you spend online and how you interact with people online through various platforms.

I can recommend Sofie as a social media and digital expert to everyone because you can never learn and know everything when it comes to the digital age.”

Svenja Koeppe, London, UK 
“I organised and attended a seminar entitled “How to become a Digital Leader?” delivered by Sofie Sandell in May 2014 at London Chamber of Commerce. Rafael TM

During the workshop, Sofie shared with us the reasons why it is important to be present in the digital world for effective leadership but also how to do it. Sofie’s insights allowed me to get a framework on how to use digital tools for leadership, something which is highly valuable, especially in my leadership role at JCI London.

Sofie delivered her workshop with passion and enthusiasm, providing concrete examples and drawing on her extensive knowledge on the subject of digital leadership.  I would not hesitate to invite Sofie to deliver a workshop again at JCI London and would strongly recommend her for any audience who wants to make the most of the digital world to create an impact!”

Rafael Tselikas Mauro, Training Director, JCI London 

“Sofie gave a guest lecture on digital marketing and innovation to my MBA and MSc students.She was very enthusiastic about and competent in digital marketing techniques. Her talk was very beneficial to those students who aspire to start their own businesses as well as those who want to pursue a career in a corporate environment.”
Catherine L. Wang,  Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Royal Holloway, University of London“Sofie is an excellent presenter with up-to-date and in-depth knowledge of all social media platforms. Her preparation for each piece required detailed research and drew on her experiences from many industry-specific courses and workshops.Sofie is a highly accomplished public speaker who I have seen perform outside of the radio environment to a very high standard. Beyond that she is a constantly upbeat and flexible colleague and an asset to the Tech Talkfest team.”
Richard Lee, Producer and Station Manager at ZoneOneRadio, London,UK“Sofie is very professional, generous with her tips and ideas, has an infectious passion for social media and an empowering focus on people rather than just the technology itself. SheMel Larsenwill definitely make you rethink your approach and will probably inspire you too!”
Mel Larsen, Director, Director of Women on Purpose, London, UK
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