As soon as Semester 1 ended at DCU Business School, the Techspectations Team headed off to Shanghai to deliver social media seminars and workshops in Shanghai, China at Tongji University, Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade and to the Irish Community group in Shanghai, Le Cheile. This was our second trip to Shanghai in 6 months; previously we had attended World Expo 2010 and suffered somewhat in the high temperatures Shanghai experiences in the summer. In December, we brought the rain with us.
Just preparing for the trip was a great learning experience. The Chinese have really embraced social media and while many of the social media sites look like their western counterparts, the functionality has been cloned and extended and how people use them are different. Some commentators have differentiated the approaches to social media along a conversation-community spectrum:
Many western social media sites are (legally) restricted in China so showing real-time examples can be difficult and drawing comparisons a challenge. The graphic below provided students, and the team, with signposts and reference points on which to compare the similarities of the various networks. Using this, we were able to compare and discuss social media marketing by reference. Irish pronunciations of Chinese social networks becomes quite amusing and comical for the Chinese so going through this slide was a great icebreaker too!
Our seminars and workshops are very hands-on. Restricted access was real problem. In advance, we downloaded and created offline examples of blogs, facebook sites, twitter accounts etc. We could avoid restrictions by using VPN services like Astrill but this would probably be inappropriate in a university setting. You can also access your social media via your mobile phone while data roaming as the phone is operating from an Irish account – apps etc all function. This may be expensive. There must be an opportunity for someone to organise a cheap data bundle SIM for sale to Chinese mobile users and expats!
WordPress was not allowed although blogging is quite popular in China. LinkedIn was permitted but not Twitter, yet a Twitter widget exists on LinkedIn. Therefore, in true Techspectations fashion, the team were able to keep followers updated throughout the course of the trip. However, responses that people may send you from Twitter will not come through on your LinkedIn feed. In order to see a response to a Tweet, it has to be posted directly to LinkedIn. Similarly you could post via Twitpic.
Interestingly, social bookmarking sites such as Digg and Reddit both had search functionality, however, submitting a link was not permitted. YouTube was not available, however YouKu (a Chinese YouTube) had a surprisingly large number of the videos we use in our sessions.
Despite this, we managed to work through a lot of the content and gained a lot of insights (too much for a blog!). Chinese students were very familiar with Facebook but not as familiar with other popular Western sites. However, their own versions look surprisingly similar to their Western counterparts. Interestingly, e-commerce functionality has been built-in much earlier and very entertainment and communication focussed.
Our sessions varied. The time for our session in Tongji University was shortened which meant that it was more of a traditional lecture. Notwithstanding this, it was a great practice session for our session in SIFT and as always Grace and the team at Tongji were were very hospitable.
SIFT had a great set up which a very well designed room and more than adequate time allotted for our workshop. The students were very enthusiastic with excellent English which helped a lot – we enjoyed seeing their social media sites and examples in YouKu.
Before we left, we also had a morning briefing session with our friends in Le Cheile on social media marketing and how they might use it for their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in 2011. Eoin and the other folks in Le Cheile are great ambassadors for Ireland and we have learnt a lot from them. This session was held in Eoin’s house which also gave us an insight in to how some of the Irish community live in Shanghai but also meant that we had full Internet access!
Our lightning visit to Shanghai was a great learning experience and we got to visit some of those places we missed out on at World Expo. But wouldn’t you know it – no sooner had we left Le Cheile, it started to snow!