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Donna Li is the GM of Strategic Marketing & Media Planning of RenRen.com, the largest SNS of China. She oversees the network’s corporate marketing as well as monetization models through brand advertising. By developing effective marketing solutions via social media mechanisms she has been successful:
1. Leading the re-branding campaign of RenRen.com from Xiaonei.com, by working closely with agencies like Saatchi&Saatchi, OgilvyOne, and Starcom.
2. Planning numerous benchmark SNS marketing campaigns for MNC brands, where McDonald’s “Let’s Meet” won a Digital Media Award and EFFIE Award among others.
3. Creating an innovative business model by integrating SNS with E-commerce, generating new sales leads, by building partnership with Taobao and almost all major B2C e-commerce sites.
4. Developing innovative ad products and systems, which disrupt the traditional online marketing funnel and reward the advertiser with better ROI.
5. Building a strong and competitive marketing, planning and creative team, gaining recognized reputation in the industry.
In our interview with Li, she walks us through how RenRen is fast becoming a dominant player in the social media space, not only in China but worldwide. With the network’s recent IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, the world is starting to take notice of a social network that one day might rival the likes of Facebook and Google+ internationally. And for travel brands, RenRen might be an option to reach a global audience.
Since the popularity of RenRen as a social network has scaled favorably amongst Chinese netizens over the last couple of years, what would you say is the key to its success over other social networks in China?
We focus on what we believe in and what we can do best; that is, people’s need for social belongings. This is especially true for the demographic born in the 1980s. Our mission is to define the social networking experience and to revolutionize the way Internet users connect, communicate, entertain and shop in China.
Based on this, we have been developing products and services that satisfy our users growing needs, like streaming music, light blogging (Xiaozhan) photos sharing, social gaming, public pages, mobile apps in all operating systems, privacy management within an open platform that enables users to visit and share quality content from all sites.
We also stick to “real name, real social graph” – this is the core of everything in social networking and sustainable development. And we market our brands to the right people at the right time.
We understand that a partnership with Microsoft has just been struck. Aside from sharing a range of applications, can you tell us how you foresee this strategic alliance benefitting RenRen with its growth over the next couple of years?
Like MSN, we are open to all possible partnerships that can create a win-win for both companies we well as users. With this partnership, we expect to make our users’ communication among friends more accessible, smoother, and more efficient, while, at the same time, driving our users growth with the senior white-collar professional demographic.
Since “travel” appears to trend very well as one of the major topics on RenRen, can you share some your findings on users’ travel interests and behaviors?
From our travel industry surveys, we found the following:
- 87.7% RenRen users are travelers, and 82.9% are travel enthusiasts. 95% Renren users have travel plans in the next year, while 62.4% travel at least once per year.
- Internet and their friends are the two major channels to obtain travel information.
- 48.3% Renren users would like to proactively share their travel experiences. About 50% users browse and click the ads of travel related, and 22.4% have browsed a variety of tourism boards’ official pages or websites.
- Travel photos and videos in RenRen are most popular among Renren users; 33.2% users actively upload and 28.9% comment or reply, and many like to recommend travel information to their friends.
How can hotel, airline and restaurant brands use the network to improve on their brand messaging and customer relations on RenRen?
I’d like to recommend a simple but effective SNS marketing model as below:
This model would help brands accumulate massive brand fans and build Social CRM faster, easier and cost-effective. In addition to this, brands could analyze their fans through our Data Analytic System, with which they can constantly optimize their communication strategies and contents, while finding insights and making brand fans their advocates.
RenRen has developed advertising opportunities for brands similar to what Facebook calls “Fan Pages” – yet your social network charges fees for this channel, where FB does not. So, while large brands may have the budgets for this type of advertising, how can a small to mid-size business gain exposure on your network?
RenRen “Fan Pages” have been FREE to all brands and enterprises since Aug 1st this year; So, no matter your business is big or small, you are all welcome to start your “fan Page” now FREE, and with an upgraded version and analytics.
Why should international travel brands outside of China consider RenRen as a viable marketing channel?
For the following reasons:
1. RenRen covers over 190 MM real-name users in China, mainly white-collar professionals and college students, the group with best education, strongest consuming power and highest travel interests. In addition to the survey data noted above, according to the latest third-party research 83% of RenRen users like travel, and over 20.6% of them travelled abroad in a year, for leisure purposes, And most importantly, over 54% of them have spent between 10,000 to 20,000 RMB on the average, per year!
2. Users share their travel experiences on RenRen and are reciprocated by receiving travel recommendations in return.
You are credited with developing innovative ad products and systems, which disrupt the traditional online marketing funnel and rewards the advertisers with better ROI. Can you provide us with some examples of this?
Our innovative ad products are called “Social Ads”. It allows advertisers to earn free media (WOM) through “news feeds” generated by users, in addition to paid impressions and clicks.
RenRen’s recent IPO this past May on the New York Stock Exchange has been watched carefully by other social media companies. How has the stock fared and how has it benefitted your company in China and internationally?
While I am not the right person to comment on stock, what I can say is that the IPO definitely has increased RenRen’s brand exposure with all stakeholders, domestically and internationally.
On a lighter note, what is your favorite hotel in Beijing and why?
I am a heavy business traveler and an avid leisure traveler. Unfortunately, I live in Beijing and rarely stay in hotels when my home is here. If I had to choose however, I would recommend the St. Regis, Park Hyatt, and The Opposite House.