Social Media Facts in China

Four Interesting Facts About Social Media Use In China
by Jacob Maslow

Many people recognize China as a leader in technology. In fact, according to one report, China ranks 4th in the world when it comes to technological expertise. Just recently, the most populous country on the planet was the first to successfully land a probe on the dark side of the moon. When it comes to computer technology, China hails as the most prolific maker of supercomputers. And despite the fact that internet freedom in China is suppressed by the government, there are still over 630 million internet users in the country, many of whom are on social media.

For those who are curious about how it gets used, here are four interesting facts about social media use in China.

1. China Is the World’s Largest Social Media Market

Considering that China has nearly 1.4 billion people, it’s an astounding fact that half of the consumers in China use social media. Consumers between the ages of 26 and 30 are most likely to use social media in China with the average internet user spending 46 minutes a day on a social media network. When it comes to the online population of China, 91% of them has a social media account.

2. The Government in China Bans Non-Chinese Social Media Sites

It might be hard for Americans, and those in other countries who enjoy their freedom to comprehend, but some governments ban certain social media sites. This is the case in China where they ban websites that do not contain Chinese content.

Along with banning numerous news and information websites, they also ban the following social media sites:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • YouTube

China also bans Google, Gmail, and many messaging apps and streaming websites.

3. Weibo Is the Most Popular Social Media Site in China

The most popular Chinese social media website is called Weibo, a microblogging website that is a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook. Launched just 10 years ago, the wildly popular social media site has over 770 million users.

Like other kinds of social media, Weibo allows users to do a variety of things including keep up with major topics, upload photos and videos, send private messages, and write 140-character posts. Even though Weibo can be used China, it still gets censored. The website’s moderators are instructed by the government to delete posts that contain certain keywords.

4. WhatsApp is Blocked By China

It might surprise some to know that WhatsApp, the most widely used messaging app in the world, was blocked by China in 2017. However, for the 1.5 billion users who still want to use it in China, they can get through the country’s Great Firewall by downloading a virtual private network (VPN).

This allows user to encrypt their internet address and hide their IP address. Users should know, however, that only certain VPNs work in China. For those who can’t or don’t want to use WhatsApp, another messaging app called WeChat is the most widely used app in China.

9 Chinese social media platforms

#1: WeChat

The true goliath of social media in China, WeChat boasts a massive monthly active user count of over 1.06 billion (August 2018).

Developed by Tencent, this versatile app offers pretty much everything: online shopping, games, financial services. Combine this with its huge user count, and you have an unbelievably rich source of potential customer engagement.

Often described as a mix of apps, WeChat is the equivalent of Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Uber, Amazon, and Whatsapp, and also features integration with over ten million third party apps.

WeChat also allows international brands to sign up for subscription and public accounts, allowing them to market content to WeChat users in different ways.

WeChat is also increasingly venturing into e-commerce, using what it calls ‘mini programs’ embedded within its platform to offer things like discount coupons and ride-hailing. Given the size of WeChat’s user base, this has the potential for huge growth.

#2: Tencent QQ

Instant messaging app Tencent QQ remains a major player in the Chinese market, with 803.2 million monthly active users at August 2018.

Like WeChat, Tencent QQ offers a bunch of different services, including gaming, music, movies, blogging, and group chat. This mix of services has made the platform incredibly popular with users under 20, attracting a dedicated user base for this older platform.

QQ includes a high degree of marketing functionality, allowing users to publish ads and links to friends. QQ also offers a paid marketing feature allowing users to pay Tencent to create and publish content for products.

For global brands wanting to make their mark in China, Tencent QQ is definitely a platform to keep an eye on.

#3: Douyin (TikTok)

Short-form video app Douyin (known in the international market as TikTok), has experienced a rapid rise since its initial release in September 2016.

Designed to allow users to create and share short videos, Douyin has become incredibly popular, attracting 500 million global users by July 2018. This includes over 6 million users in the United States.

Sometimes referred to as a “lip-synching” app, Douyin has become popular particularly among younger users, who use the platform to create and share short, punchy clips laden with memes and niche cultural references.

Like the now-defunct Vine (RIP), Douyin features an addictive feed promoting videos from users all over the world, offering a mix of strange, creative, and irreverent content.

This unique offering has helped Douyin to hit some truly crazy numbers lately, including attracting a massive 75 million new users in just December 2018 alone.

For brands looking to engage a younger audience, Douyin is a key platform.

#4: Meitu

Meitu, which translates roughly as “beautiful picture”, is a photo touch-up and sharing app with over 455 million active monthly users (April 2018). With Meitu, users can upload pictures and edit or airbrush them quickly and easily.

Though the platform has attracted some criticism for promoting unrealistic standards of beauty and physical attractiveness, Meitu remains a popular site.

Following a decline in user numbers, Meitu announced in April 2018 that it intended to focus more on the social aspects of the platform. Since then, it has seen a tenfold increase in user interactions. The company has even said it is positioning itself as the Instagram of China.

For brands in the beauty or cosmetics industry, Meitu is a key advertising tool. In fact, a number of luxury brands – such as Gucci and DKNY – are already using Meitu to promote their products.

#5: Sina Weibo

A microblogging platform released in 2009, Sina Weibo has since become the most popular micro-blogging platform in China.

Sina Weibo users can upload gifs, images, videos, and text to their networks. This, combined with Weibo’s easy sharing functionality, enables Weibo to be a large source of trending content and information.

Best considered as a combination of Twitter and Facebook, Sina Weibo has 446 million monthly active users (December 2018).

Brands continue to use celebrities to build interest in their products on Sina Weibo. For example, Louis Vuitton announced a collaboration with Kris Wu, helping to drive a significant amount of online hype.

Many businesses – both local and international – rely on Sina Weibo as a source of real-time consumer reviews, and use the platform as a place to engage customer communities.

It’s worth mentioning that Linkfluence has advanced market access to both WeChat and Sina Weibo in China. With our expertise, you can access a lot of helpful information on both of these platforms.

#6: Meituan-Dianping

Meituan-Dianping, commonly referred to as ‘the Yelp of China’, is a restaurant review and recommendation site. It also features elements of Groupon and Uber Eats, allowing users to order food directly from its app and buy promotional offers at restaurants.

With 382.3 million users at November 2018, Meituan-Dianping, which translates roughly as “everyone’s comments”, has become a major source of local food know-how.

The service isn’t just limited to eateries, however – users can also review services like gyms, hotels, bars, and a bunch of other things. With over 60 million reviews, Meituan-Dianping represents a rich source of consumer information on all kinds of businesses.

The huge degree of community participation on Meituan-Dianping makes it key for brands in China to pay close attention to what’s being said about them and their competitors.

#7: Douban

Launched in early 2005, Douban is a social networking platform allowing users to connect and share content on a range of interests, including movies, television, books, music, and more. By 2016, Douban has already reached over 300 million monthly users, and the number continues to rise.

Often referred to as ‘the Chinese Reddit’, Douban can be considered a combination of IMDB, Goodreads, Pinterest, Twitter, and Spotify, all presented as one channel. With Douban, users can rate and recommend all kinds of media.

Douban also allows direct advertising to users, meaning global brands can target ads to niche users of the platform.

#8: Zhihu

Commonly dubbed ‘the quora of China’, Zhihu is a popular question and answer site, boasting over 160 millions registered users (June 2018).

Like Quora, Zhihu has a dedicated user base, with many users drafting detailed and impassioned responses to specific questions posed by other users.

What’s more, Zhihu also features a bunch of innovative features, like users having the ability to “tip” providers of information and answer questions with sound recordings.

The popularity of this platform led Zhihu to raise $270 million USD in series E funding, cementing its status as a “unicorn” in China – a company with a valuation of over $1 billion USD.

Like Quora, Zhihu represents great advertising potential for brands, particularly within user timelines.

Users come to Zhihu for answers to niche questions, creating the opportunity for targeted advertisements. What’s more, Zhihu’s users are mostly those from Tier 1 cities, and tend to be well-educated and with a higher income.

#9: Xiaohongshu

Xiaohongshu, or the ‘Little Red Book’, is a mixed-use platform combining Pinterest-style photo sharing and ecommerce functionality. It boasts over 100 million active users.

Geared primarily towards women between the ages of 18 and 35, the Little Red Book allows users to post product reviews, start discussions, and upload their own content.

This platform focuses almost exclusively on offering trusted product reviews and experiences, and is a rich source of tips for a lot of young consumers. The content on Xiaohongshu has resonated strongly with users struggling to find realistic and in-depth information and reviews.

The Little Red Book can also be incredibly lucrative for Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) looking to influence sales for brands through their content.

We’re going to take a closer look at Xiaohongshu in a future post, so be sure to keep an eye out.

So, that’s a quick look at some of the most important Chinese social media platforms in 2019.

Joei ChanGlobal Head of Content, Linkfluence

Four Interesting Facts About Social Media Use In China


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