Creating Social Media Content for Chinese Lunar New Year

Brian Powers
Brian Powers

2022 is moving fast, February is right around the corner, and it's going to be a big one this year!  

In order to help you maintain a killer social media editorial for 2022, we made a calendar marking some special events and other opportunities around the world for this year, and in this post we're going to highlight February's big event: Chinese Lunar New Year. 

 

What makes Chinese New Year special? 

A time of renewal, of family, friends, and the observance of a long tradition, Chinese New Year is important for an enormous part of the global population. 

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring or Lunar Festival, is a multi-day celebration that begins on the first day of the traditional Chinese Calendar. Some years this can occur at the end of January, but in 2022, the festival kicks off on February 1st. 

chinese-new-year-festival-luna

 

Not only is it an important cultural event, it's also the single largest travel period of the year anywhere on Earth, vastly exceeding Christmas travel globally. There's even a name for the period: Chunyun, (Spring Festival travel rush), which is a roughly 40-day period starting in mid-January. It was estimated in 2020 that about 3 billion passenger journeys would occur globally.  

Official celebrations last seven days, but the festivities often run for two weeks until the Lantern Festival, which takes place on the 15th day of the first lunar cycle. In 2022, that date is February 15th. Because the dates are based on the phases of our moon, they vary from year to year. In 2023, Chinese New Year will begin on January 22nd.  

 

2022-calendar-page-concept-bAn interesting note on calendars worldwide:

Unless you're living in Afghanistan, Iran, Nepal, or Ethiopia, you're almost definitely using the Gregorian calendar in some form. A number of other countries use modified versions of the Gregorian, and 18 others use both traditional or religious calendars and the Gregorian. It may be worth keeping these in mind when creating international or regional content on social media, so here's a very basic overview. 

 


Celebrated not only in the world's most populous country, China, Chinese New Year, or a variant of it, is also popularly observed in other East Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and many communities around the world including those in North America and Europe, making it an enormous opportunity for your company or organization to put its best foot forward and acknowledge the traditions of an enormous global demographic.
 

If it is done tastefully and accurately, showing solidarity and respect for one of the world's largest groups via social media can absolutely work in your favor.  

 

What happens during Chinese New Year? 

As a traditional holiday period with a long cultural history, a number of activities take place during Chinese New Year. These include the preparation of special dishes, grand fireworks displays, the exchange of money between friends and family – traditionally gifted in red envelopes –, and activities honoring ancestors and the deceased. Of course, the lighting of lanterns plays a central role as well.  

Each day is marked by different activities and traditions, and these too can vary from region to region. 

Fun fact: One of the reasons gifts are exchanged in red envelopes and why red is so commonly seen is steeped in mythology. Traditional folklore varies, but a common (and extremely simplified) story is that a village was being terrorized by a monster. After a traveler offers to stop the beast, the villagers discover that the monster is afraid of the color red. Thereafter, the villagers, dressed in red, hung red lanterns, and took other colorful steps to successfully ward off the creature. The myth goes on, but that's the gist. 

We could write a book about everything that takes place during Chinese New Year, but we won't, since that's not why you're here. If you want to learn more details out of curiosity or to create specific content, you can get more detailed info by following this link. 

Moving on. 

 

Incorporating Chinese New Year into your social media editorial 

First, let's establish that the key to virtually any editorial additions is that they should be made in some way relevant to your organization's pages in either a direct or indirect way. There are many ways that you could incorporate holiday events and activities into your content, but sometimes the best way to do it is to remain less promotional. 

chinese-new-year-festival

Social media can be a fantastic and extraordinarily powerful platform for ecommerce and sales, but that was never its original purpose, and not the reason at all why individual users make accounts. Nobody is on Instagram because they want to see your ads; they want to be connected, informed, and entertained.  

If your ads can also suit this purpose, great, that's the dream, but sometimes it's better to remind your followers that your organization is made up of people who care about their customers and followers, not just a money machine.  

This is especially true during holiday or cultural events, since it's important not to look like you're simply a greedy company taking advantage of an important heritage tradition.  

To do this, non-promotional content can vary from something as simple as well-wishes for the new year, to "mood" content, such as photos or other visually impressive imagery that send a message of respect and support rather than one specifically of sales.  

Simply featuring graphics or basic text posts that inspire and acknowledge can have a powerful effect. People like being recognized and respected, and showing your followers that you think their traditions matter can go a long way towards fostering brand loyalty. 

Not to mention it's good for engagement. 

 

That doesn't mean you can't promote at all

Chinese New Year is a big deal, and people have a lot of needs during this time. The travel, restaurant, and hospitality demands alone are usually incredible. 

It’s a fact that the Covid-19 pandemic isn't going anywhere by February 2022, and travel restrictions in China will likely remain in place a while longer.  

But interestingly, in 2020 and 2021, Chinese New Year spending actually went way, way up! This may seem counterintuitive, because less travel, more staying at home, etc., should imply reduced spending, right?  

Not so.  

According to this piece by think.ing, business activities in restaurants and retail related to Chinese New Year spiked overall by 28.7% in 2021. This has a lot to do with urban populations not traveling to rural areas, and an increase in gifting in industries such as electronics (39%) and jewelry, which rocketed up 161%, among others.

There is speculation that 2022 may maintain, or even exceed this trend. 

This means that it is a time like no other to remain visible to your target market. It means subtle reminders to your followers that you and your products exist. You may also want to keep your social media ad rotations in motion, and maybe even create some holiday-themed ads, though not as feed content.  

Just don't overdo it. 

It's worth noting that Chinese New Year most often includes official public holidays, which usually occur during the first 1-3 days depending on country, meaning that many businesses may be closed. This may affect your activities for better or for worse and should be kept in mind.

 

But you must be careful with any cultural content 

The name of the game when handling traditional or religious observances on social media is research first and foremost, because anything you decide to say on your pages needs to be done carefully. This is generally good social media practice regardless of topic, but in this case it is of especially high importance.

When you start involving yourself with traditions and customs that are closely tied to the identity of a group, you need to get your facts straight. Social media can be a merciless place and blunders here can have explosive consequences. 

Ensure that your marketing team looks into everything it goes to post. Make sure that content is culturally and politically sensitive. Then double check it, and if need be, ask an expert. 

Many companies over the years have fallen prey to inaccurate messages or communication failures when trying to produce translated content. At best, mistakes may make you seem a bit goofy, and at worst, you may offend someone. This is true for all international campaigns. 

One important example to be wary of is an approach to Taiwan.

Naturally, just as in Mainland China, the Taiwanese people also largely observe the Chinese Lunar New Year. However, referring to Taiwan as a sovereign country is a highly controversial and political consideration, and a very common "mistake". Because the People's Republic of China claims that Taiwan is still a part of it, saying otherwise on social is a surefire way to tick off a lot of people in a big way. 

Many companies and influential individuals around the world have made this mistake and been met with extreme consequences. Some companies that have been "forced" to withdraw certain comments on social media or in product advertising that mislabeled the island. These have included Gap, Versace, Nike, and Coach, among others.

Just this past year, in 2021, US former pro-wrestler and actor John Cena made a statement referring to Taiwan as a country on his Weibo account, which blew up and resulted in a profuse, public video apology in Mandarin. 

After everything above, we don't want to discourage you. We wouldn't suggest holiday content if it weren't a valuable idea, so it's still a worthwhile investment of time for your social media team to come up with something, and pitfalls can be avoided with a bit of caution.

social-media-team-duscuss-content

Still, if you're not 100% sure of your statements' accuracy or likely impact, maybe it's best to skip this one. 

 

Don't forget about censorship in China

Most major global social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and most recently LinkedIn, are censored in Mainland China. Thus, content for these platforms intended for this specific audience may not be met with a great deal of success. 

If your company operates on social media with a Chinese audience in mind, China keeps many of its own extremely popular social media sites including Weibo, Douban, and WeChat, among others.  

In any case, the community outside China that takes part in Chinese New Year festivities still numbers in the hundreds of millions and is still active on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and the rest. 

 

Lastly, be cautious with translations 

It is a common theme among social media pages to wish fans and followers well during celebrations such as Chinese New Year, or Ramadan, Diwali, or others. There's nothing wrong with these gestures in general, and they can make for a very short and sweet content piece that sends a small message of positivity without getting too involved.  

But many decide that it's a nice gesture to offer these well-wishes in the native language(s) of their target audiences. And it certainly can be! Many people like recognition in their native languages and appreciate the attempt very much. 

Unfortunately, translations can also be a trap.  

As many owners of poorly researched tattoos can attest, languages do not always translate cleanly 1:1, and Chinese languages don't always translate into English or other European languages very well, such as closely-related German and English might. 

Be careful when wishing prosperity – a common theme at this time of year – or other well wishes. As with other languages, there are many ways of formulating statements, and some are better suited to certain situations than others.

Make sure that your content is properly localized, and if possible, ask a native speaker. Machine translation tools such as Google Translate or DeepL are great for checking overall meanings and certain kinds of text, but they often lack subtleties and nuance, which are very important in professional and public cases such as this.  

If you're not 100% sure, maybe it's best to stick to a language you do speak. Your followers will still probably get the message. 

 

February 2022 is a big month for China 

In addition to the new year's celebrations during the first half of February, the 2022 Winter Olympics will be taking place in Beijing at the same time. This global sporting event, which takes place every four years, will run from February 4th through 20th and offers another opportunity for your marketing team to take advantage of something big, and this time not just for a specific audience. 

The Olympics are a big deal for the whole planet, not just China, and are watched by countless social media users. Big sporting events are another spectacular chance to show thematic content that supports sportsmanship, global unity, or just cheers on your local team! 

This year's Olympic motto will be: "Together for a shared future" (一起向未来 in Chinese.) 

 

Conclusion 

As one of the world's most celebrated annual events, Chinese New Year is a goldmine of opportunity for social media managers across virtually any industry. Creative marketing teams can devise countless ways to appeal to followers by taking advantage of the festivities and fostering a respectful, globalized company image. 

We can't tell you whether taking part in certain global events on social media is always in the best interest of your organization's campaigns or not - that's for you to decide. But we can point out the potential. 

And finally, if you're looking for a great solution for creating and supporting a full social media content editorial in 2022 and beyond, Facelift Cloud offers the features you need to succeed. With Facelift Cloud, you can plan campaigns, schedule content across all your social media channels, and engage directly with your community with centralized, customizable inboxes and communication tools. 

To get started yourself, you can start your free two-week trial of Facelift Cloud without any commitment or credit card info required. Visit this link and give us the chance to show you what we can do! 

 

Brian Powers
Brian Powers

More about the author:

A New Yorker in Hamburg, Brian is facelift's content marketing manager. With over a decade of experience in content and social, he is responsible for creating much of facelift's English digital content, in particular the facelift blog, guides and downloads, as well as the writer and co-director of facelift's YouTube series "The Socials".