While its social network might still be banned in China, Facebook is chasing revenue within the country that houses a population roughly equivalent in size to its own user base. The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook has stepped up efforts to entice Chinese advertisers to adopt its platform, even if they might be unable to use it within their own nation at the moment.
According to the report, Facebook’s ad revenue from the Asian Pacific market has risen significantly over the past two years, jumping from just under $200 million at the beginning of 2013 to over $500 million at the end of 2014. But despite this rapid growth, Facebook still needs more Chinese businesses to take up its banner if it wants to win over the country and its authorities.
Facebook was blocked by the government of China for the social network’s role in student demonstrations and politically motivated riots in 2009. Protestors used Facebook as a means to communicate and spread their message, so the government abruptly cut them off and have only recently begun easing some of its restrictions. In September 2013, China allowed Facebook and other blocked services like Twitter to begin operating within a limited area of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, which the country uses to test less regulated economic activity in an enclosed environment.
“The baseline evangelism is already there”
In December, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg entertained China’s top Internet regulator at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, and now the social network is taking further steps toward repairing its relationship with China by hiring in Hong Kong and partnering with local companies to increase its profile with advertisers. Facebook seems to be laying the groundwork to ramp up business if and when its block is lifted.
“The baseline evangelism is already there,” Thomas Crampton, global managing director of Social@Ogilvy, told The Wall Street Journal. “Companies here [in China] look at advertising from a pragmatic perspective and say, ‘Is this the way to accomplish our business goal? If it is, let’s do it.’”
Youzu Interactive Co., Ltd., a Chinese game developer, noted that half of its players come from Facebook. Youzu ad manager Liu Wanqin said, “Facebook is our most important ad tool right now.”