The Power of Social Media: A Case of Kentucky Fried Chicken in China

January 26, 2015

Written by Wanyi Wang


In China, recent developments in web and Internet technologies produce some new things for people. The most popular online content, applications and services called social media which has changed people’s life. A lot of people are toward the use of social media. For example, “5,700 China’s Internet users have found that 95 percent of them are registered on a social media sites” (Chiu, Ip & Silverman, 2012 [1]). Social media is a developing phenomenon in today’s marketing. (Hoffrnal & Novak, 2012) Companies are beginning to use the fashionable tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in marketing strategies and campaigns. The use of traditional media has decreased since marketers have turned their attention to social media. (Akar & Topsu, 2013) It is necessary to state that China’s social media have something different than Western. No Facebook and Twitter, people use China’s social media such as Qzone and Sina Weibo. (Chiu, Ip & Silverman, 2012 [2]) Recently, there is a hot topic discussed on China’s social network and many people reblog it. The author would analyze why most companies shift their attention from traditional media to social media through the hot topic.


The purpose of this paper is to understand the power of social media. More specifically, the author using a case of Kentucky Fried Chicken (China) to analyze why companies display online marketing campaigns can create more value than traditional media.


Literature Review

In the past, consumers accepted messages from traditional magazines, radio, television and direct mail. The product-focused one-way interruption mass communication gives a lot of trouble and inconvenience to receiver. Some consumers do not trust the information which provides by traditional media. (David, M. Scott., 2007) The new types of social media named Web 2.0 which including many different types such as social networking sites, blogging platform, social search applications and social coupon sites(Hoffrnal & Novak, 2012). According to Chiu, Ip and Silverman (2012 [2]) describe, the most popular China’s social media sites are: Qzone, Sina Weibo and Renren. The basic function is the same as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The new online technology Web 2.0 has grown to a scale. (Hoffrnal & Novak, 2012) With the rise in social media, consumers are beginning to talk about brands and products. Social media produce the opportunities to people communicate and exchange information with each other. Consumers also can get information from social media, and then they can instantly give feedback or share their ideas without any technical knowledge. (Akar & Topsu, 2013)


Hanna, Rohm and Crittenden (2011) mention that “traditional media is all about reach which can be achieved in large numbers and it often does not translate into a true marketing exchange.” However, social media has changed the traditional mode of market information, consumer changed from passive roles to an active role in the marketing process. “They simultaneously act the initiators and the recipients of information exchanges.” (Kietzmann, et al., 2011) The interactive digital media sites allow consumers connect, share and create information and fundamentally changed the way marketers control marketing activities (Hanna, Rohm, Crittenden, 2011).


As Hansen, Sheiderman and Smith, (2011) describe “billions of people create trillions of connections through social media each day.” Social media is a powerful and effective medium to communicate with millions of potential consumers for companies. Hence, companies who use social media may gain a chance of reaching a wider audience. (Bamford, 2012) Meanwhile, social media can help a company build a good relationship with consumers. Business uses two-way communication may provide an intimate and warm feeling for consumers. (DiPietro, et al., 2012) Moreover, consumers toward the use of social media in creating and exchanging message in today market. The message exchanged by consumer themselves which result in creating word-of-mouth communication. (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2012) When looking at the word-of-mouth effects, the effects of social media last longer than the effects of traditional marketing (Trusov, Bucklin, & Pauwels, 2009). Social media often has higher credibility and trust than traditional media (Akar, & Topsu, 2013). In addition, social media offer increased traffic and improved search rankings for a company or a brand (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). It means the exposure also increases. All the power of social media may lead a good consequence to sales (Dyer, 2013).


Case Analysis

Kentucky Fried Chicken is a fast food restaurant chain which famous for fried chicken and it also provides hamburgers and French fries etc. After KFC reach China market, it is intended to become the first fast food restaurant. In order to achieve the goal, KFC adjusts some products according to Chinese taste preferences and obtains consumers’ praise. In order to gain consumers’ attention and attract them to patronage, KFC promotes itself through making a series of advertisings and activities in Chinese markets. (KFC China, 2012)


In the past, KFC (China) devoted time and money to offline marketing such as TV advertising and posters etc to promote its products. Along with the social media is widely used and a large number of people fall into the trend. KFC is beginning to use social media as the communication tools. Recently, FKC (China) Company used social media to communicate a message and simultaneously involving the consumers in the campaign. ( This message told consumers that, the classical “Original Recipe” stop selling five weeks in KFC China market from 30 December 2013. The new product “Extra Crispy” instead the “Original Recipe” is provided in this period. Consumer can join the campaigns to vote “the favorite fried chicken” to decide whether the “Original Recipe” will continue to sell in KFC China market. (KFC, 2013) KFC uses China’s social media sites Sina Weibo, Renren and QQ to develop the message.

 /* Style Definitions */
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
	font-family:"Times New Roman";}
   谁能代表  KFC   (Who can represent KFC)

谁能代表KFC   (Who can represent KFC)

Figure.1 Who can represent KFC (KFC, 2013)


In the past 43 days, more than 13 million people vote for the KFC campaigns through social media. This result is not the final result and the number of voting people continues to grow. As Hansen, Sheiderman and Smith (2011) mention social media have the unique charm of billions of people create trillions of connections through each day.”In view of the large number of Internet users registered on a social media and be active in social network. KFC (China) decided to create an online marketing campaign and using social media to touch millions of potential consumers quickly. On the other hand, KFC’s main targets are young people in China. Most users of social media such as Qzone, Sina Webo and RenRen are precisely young people. Hence, creating and exchanging message through social media helps KFC accurately aim at its target group.


In this period of doing the campaign, consumers simultaneously act the initiators and the recipients of information exchanges through social media (Kietzmann, et al., 2011). First of all, consumers receive the message and then who like the new product “Extra Crispy” may offer a positive evaluation in social media sites. Then, they are willing to share the positive information and recommend the new products for their friends through the social media. This interactive communication provides an intimate and warm feeling for consumers, then building a good relationship between company and consumers (DiPietro, et al., 2012). From the recipients’ perspective, they are more likely to believe information which provided by friends than a marketer. Hence, a company use consumer as the recipients can bring higher credibility and trust (Akar and Topsu, 2013).


Of course, social media cannot avoid negative evaluation. Some consumers think the classical “Original Recipe” is the soul of KFC. They do not support using new fried chicken instead of the classical one and they hope to enjoy it unceasingly. Some of consumers hope KFC keeps both “Original Recipe” and “Extra Crispy” in market. As Papasolomou and Melanthiou (2012) describe the message exchanged by consumer themselves which result in creating word-of-mouth communication. More than 40 days later, many consumers still discuss this topic. Some consumers are waiting for a result of the campaign. Like Trusov, Bucklin and Pauwels (2009) mention, the effects of social media last a long period of time than traditional media. Launching the campaign only uses one day, but consumers’ discussion leads the campaign exists in people’s mind for a long time. However, if launching the new product through TV advertising. The effects will disappear with the stop of the advertising.


No matter the positive or negative evaluation provided by consumers through social media. The campaign “Original Recipe PK Extra Crispy” causes a fierce discussion. The hot topic increased KFC exposure and also improved search rankings (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). The results prove that consumers accept the interactive communication and willing to join the campaign. Consumers are beginning to contradict the traditional one-way communication which companies tried to control and decide how their products should be perceived by the customers. Sometime, consumers dislike the feeling that advertisings interrupt them when they watch TV or listen to the music.


From another aspect, social media can help the company improve sales (Dyer, 2013). No matter consumer tries the new product for the campaign or fierce discussion makes consumers want to try. A sustained rise in the sales of “Extra Crispy” from the campaign obtains consumers’ attention (CYOL, 2014). Consumers will continue to patronage the new product if they love the product. It also has opened the door to the sales of products in the future.



In summary, the power of social media is obvious through analyzing the case of KFC (China). The cheap social media create a great value for KFC not only result in sales, but also involve many aspects. First, social media provide a chance of reaching a wider audience for a company or a brand (Bamford, 2012). Second, social media help company to build a good relationship with consumers (DiPietro, et al., 2012). Third, the message exchanged by consumer themselves which result in creating word-of-mouth communication (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2012). Fourth, social media involve higher credibility and trust (Akar, & Topsu, 2013). Fifth, social media offer increased traffic and improved search rankings for a company or a brand (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). All these benefits from social media let companies shift their attention from traditional media to social media.


Social media have begun to explore a location in online marketing and have influenced companies and consumers to a large extent. Companies now pay attention to social media marketing. It is worth reminding, social media is a two-edged sword. We cannot say social media is a flawless approach. To be sure, companies need to consider both advantages and disadvantages of social media in the future. Using it in the correct way will bring more value to a company.


Akar, E., & Topsu, B., 2013. “An examination of factors influencing consumers’ choice of social media marketing”, Journal of Internet Commerce, 10(1), 35-67.

Bamford, N., 2012. “Why you should consider using social media”, Money Marketing (online edition), pp.8.

Chiu, C., Ip, C. & Silverman, A., 2012. [1] “Understanding Social Media in China”, Mckinsey quarterly, 2, pp.78-81.

Chiu, C., Ip, C. & Silverman, A., 2012. [2] “China’s Social-media Boom”, Mckinsey quarterly, [online] Avaliable at:<> Viewed: 11 Feb 2014.

CYOL, 2014. “Consumer support the new product ‘Extra Crispy”. [online] Avaliable at:<> Viewed: 12 Feb 2014.

David, M. Scott., 2007. The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly”, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

DiPietro, R., Gustafson, C., Strick, S. & Crews, T., 2012. “The use of Social Networking Sites in the Restaurant Industry: Best Practices”, Journal of Foodservice Business Research, 15, 3, pp. 265-284.

Hanna, R., Rohm, A., & Crittenden, V., 2011. We’re all connected: The power of the social media ecosystem, Business Horizons, 54, 3, p.265-273.

Hansen, D., Sheiderman, B. & Smith, M.A., 2011. Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL: Insights froma a connected world, [Electronic Resource], n.p.: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, A-Z Resources.

Hoffrnal, D., & Novak, T., 2012. “Toward a Deeper Understanding of Social Media”, Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26, 2, pp. 69-70.

KFC China, 2012. “About KFC in China”, [online] Available at: <> Viewed: 12 Feb 2014.

KFC, 2013. “Who Can Represent KFC: Original Recipe PK Extra Crispy”. [online] Avaliable at:< > Viewed: 12 Feb 2014.

Kietzmann, J.H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I.P. & Silvestreet, B.S., 2011. “Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media”, Business Horizons, 54, 241—251.

Papasolomou, I. & Melanthiou, Y., 2012. “Social Media: Marketing Public Relations’ New Best Friend”, Journal of Promotion Management, 18, 3, pp. 319-328.

Trusov, M., Bucklin, R. & Pauwels, K., 2009. “Effects of Word-of-Mouth Versus Tranditional Marketing: Findings from an Internet Social Networking Site”, Journal of Marketing, 73, 5, pp.90-102.

Dyer, P., 2013. “The Top Benefits of Social Media Marketing”. [online] Avaliable at:<> Viewed: 12 Feb 2014.