July 10, 2012
Article first appeared in Columbus Business First on July 10, 2012
A Columbus marketing firm is branching into Asia with a new venture that will help companies develop social media strategies in China.
Engauge Executive Chairman Rick Milenthal said his company and China’s WE Marketing Group (“West and East meet at WE”) saw an opportunity in the country’s 500 million social media users and stringent regulation of communication.
The two partnered to form WE Engauge, which they are billing as China’s first global marketing agency, and already count Cisco Systems Inc.’s China operation, Citibank Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council among its clients.
“The corporations there, including American divisions, are just learning how to leverage this. It’s a big education process there,” said Milenthal, who will be vice chairman of WE Engauge. “… The Chinese people have moved from virtually no involvement to hundreds of millions that are users of social media.”
Engauge, one of Central Ohio’s largest advertising agencies, launched its U.S. social media practice about 18 months ago, he said, and it has grown by more than five-fold in that time.
The two largest social media venues in China are Weibo (a Facebook-Twitter-YouTube hybrid) and Renren (similar to Facebook), Milenthal said. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all are blocked in China.
Weibo has grown from 90 million users about a year ago to more than 300 million users today, Milenthal said. Renren also has hundreds of millions of users.
WE Engauge is developing technology to listen to what those users are saying and to show companies the return on a social media marketing investment.
“Companies there have not really perfected ways to leverage social media marketing,” Milenthal said. “That was the opportunity we saw.”
Engauge is a full-service marketing agency for the digital and social age, with offices in Atlanta, Columbus, Orlando and Pittsburgh.