Twitter appoints new Greater China head as number of Chinese advertisers balloons over 300 per cent

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 April, 2016, 8:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 April, 2016, 12:57pm

Pioneer microblogging service Twitter has named a new head for its Greater China operations, following a more than 300 per cent growth in the number of its Chinese advertisers the past year.

Although Twitter has been blocked on the mainland since 2009, the San Francisco-based company opened an office in Hong Kong in March last year to court Chinese companies who wish to advertise their products and services to its millions of users around the world.

In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post, Twitter vice-president for Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Emerging Markets Shailesh Rao said seasoned technology executive Kathy Chen was appointed as the new managing director at the firm’s Greater China office in Hong Kong.

“We’ve seen a 340 per cent growth in the number of advertisers [using Twitter], and the types of advertisers are diverse,” Rao said.

These major Chinese advertisers include brands such as Lenovo Group and Huawei Technologies, as well as domestic media outlets like the state-owned Xinhua news agency and People’s Daily.

“Because of the success we’ve seen, we want to expand the investment we’re making in [the region],” Rao said. “Kathy Chen will be responsible for developing the strategy and running the business.”

Chen, a veteran information technology executive who previously worked at Microsoft and Cisco Systems, will take over the reins from Peter Greenberger, the former director of emerging markets, Greater China and Russia. Greenberger is now the Asia-Pacific head of global brands and agencies at Twitter.

“Asia-Pacific is the largest region in the world for us in terms of total number of active users, and it is also the fastest-growing region in terms of active user growth,” said Rao. “We view Greater China as a critical component [of the region].”

Twitter also plans to increase its investment in the region by bringing in more of its enterprise offerings, such as data analytics and its Fabric mobile platform that lets developers build apps.

“With our data analytics, we can give Chinese companies insight into how their customers are thinking about their products and services, and use that insight to help them deliver tailored and more effective communication to reach their audiences,” Rao said.

He added that Twitter will introduce its customer service platform that was launched in February to advertisers in Greater China.

“We would love to offer our Twitter consumer service to Chinese users, but that’s not an option right now. Instead we will focus on leveraging some of our capabilities to create value for Chinese businesses and state-owned enterprises”
Twitter vice-president for Asia-Pacific Shailesh Rao

The customer service platform allows companies to add a link to their tweets that lets users instantly communicate with the business in a private channel.

Smartphone juggernaut Apple currently uses the customer service platform for its Apple Support Twitter account.

In the Greater China region, Twitter is focused on growing its advertising business as opposed to user acquisition due to the restrictions imposed on the company’s consumer service in China, said Rao.

“We would love to offer our Twitter consumer service to Chinese users, but that’s not an option right now,” said Rao. “Instead we will focus on leveraging some of our capabilities to create value for Chinese businesses and state-owned enterprises.”


Twitter currently has about 320 million active users, less than a third of Facebook’s 1 billion. In its fourth-quarter results posted in February, Twitter reported no growth in number of users -- a first for the company since it went public in 2013.

To make the platform more engaging, Twitter has experimented with several changes, including adjustments on how it displays tweets on a user’s feed. Feeds are now tailored to individual users instead of displaying the newest tweets first. The change is also seen as appealing to advertisers, whose tweets could be featured more prominently in a user’s feed.