Economy

China Discovers Social Media’s New Formula That Will Change Business Forever

The Chinese business world has seen several recent examples of how bad management of customer relations can inflict serious damage on the social web. But will the big corporations see the upside in time?

Chinese blogger Luo Yonghao hammers away at a Siemens fridge
Chinese blogger Luo Yonghao hammers away at a Siemens fridge
Jiang Ru-Xiang

BEIJING Could the ground-level buzz of social media threaten mighty companies like Siemens and Lenovo? Don't rule it out.

Something is afoot in the way big companies do business, and brand giants risk panicking in the new commercial environment as they continue to operate according to their "massive wealth" model.

In China, microblogging on the mobile internet, or the so-called mobile-internet based SNS (Social Networking Services), are reshaping a new business landscape (much like Twitter elsewhere). Big companies which don't adapt will be either burn out like meteors or disappear like dinosaurs. Meanwhile, quick reacting and transparent small companies will rise.

Indeed, it is not by chance that we have cited Siemens and Lenovo, two corporate giants who have reacted awkwardly recently in the new business environment.

Early in September, Luo Yonghao, the founder of bullock.cn, a Chinese language blogging website and one of China's most powerful new breed of Internet celebrities, complained on his blog about a faulty door on a Siemens refrigerator. Plenty of other people came on to his site with their own complaints about the same problem with their Siemens refrigerator doors.

Though Siemens did communicate with him, Luo did not feel satisfied with their sincerity, so he summoned two other well-known people and together they smashed their refrigerators in front of Siemens' headquarters in Beijing. The event attracted a load of media coverage, which prompted Siemens to hold a press conference that ended up arousing even more jeers in microblog space.

As for Lenovo, I will recount something which occurred to CN Consulting, the company I work for. Recently we advanced 700,000 RMB ($110,000) for a number of Lenovo tablet PCs. According to the regulations, we'd be able to obtain around a dozens extra units as a bonus gift. But when the deadline for delivery was up, Lenovo called up to say they were going to replace our gifts with other products, otherwise they could not guarantee the delivery on time.

Due to the good relationship we had always had with Lenovo, we sent a formal complaint to the company. When they did not give us a satisfactory answer, I exposed the case on a microblog. Within two hours, a Levono official had contacted me. Another five hours later and my problem was solved. But before this happened, a lot of other microbloggers had already shared my account.

What the two events indicate is the fact that social media is utterly rewriting the company-customer relationship. Unfortunately, big companies have yet to realize that. They are still submerged in a sense of superiority based on the might of their brand.

The attitude of superiority of big enterprises was built on the fact that consumers used to lack information, and were therefore short of choices.

In other words, big companies used to benefit from the fact that consumers were insulated from each other, allowing their protected sales channels to establish their brands.

On one hand, these big brands do save consumers some effort in making choices. Consumers trust the brand to reduce their purchase risk. On the other hand, this mechanism also established monopolies for these giants.

Unfortunately, brands are not there to protect the interests of the consumer. Just like within the public sector, bureaucracy can also inflict itself inside big companies.

In the past, because of the big brands' monopoly of buyers' trust, they were able to establish rules such as "brand = higher price" and "higher price = higher status." Ultimately, this was totally contrary to the respect for the freedom and choice of consumers.

The proof is that on Taobao, China's biggest website for online shopping, and on Jingdong, another Chinese B2C site, big name products are often marginalized. The reason is that small companies, which focus their strategy on selling through these online companies pay much more attention to the buyers' comments on their products -- as well as their integrity -- than companies like Siemens or Lenovo do.

In the online store, numerous low-selling "long-tail" products gain vitality, in particular among youth. Traditional sales concepts are disappearing and being replaced by the interaction between manufacturers and consumers through social media.

The Internet has provided a personalized and simple trading platform. And the mobile internet-based SNS will further alter the fundamentals of business-consumer relations.

Enterprises now have to react to consumers' complaints within seconds, not days. Unless the consumer's complaints are dealt with immediately, an enterprise can pay a very high cost for its arrogance.

In a microblogging era, can mighty enterprises like Levono and Siemens be discarded? Maybe. It depends on how they face the big changes taking place around them. Any company that intends to regard microblogs as a market platform loses such illusions quickly. Social media sales is by nature a logic system that emphasizes interpersonal trust and works contrary to short-term utilitarianism.

At the same time, I advise SINA, the Chinese online media and the operator of microblogging, not to hurry in introducing advertizing and commercialization to microblogs, otherwise that might kill a platform which is likely to change China's commercial landscape.

The history of mankind is basically a history of interaction among people. Therefore microblogs, which are based solely on interpersonal relations, are bound to change the world.

Read the original story in Chinese

Photo - Youtube

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire


According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA

Unsplash/@nemo23


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council


Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire


The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Unsplash/@hkblind


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke


During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press


Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ