Understanding Social Media in China
Understanding Social Media in China
Imagine a country with over 600 million Internet users, 100 million outbound travelers, and no Google, Youtube, Facebook or Twitter; this is China.
A recent report by the Financial Times showed that 70% Chinese travelers preferred independent travel. Young independent Chinese travelers are well-known to be “tech savvy.” They rely on the online world to make choices, and share life experience. With extremely limited access to Western social networking sites, Chinese have created their own social media platforms. In fact, social media has a bigger impact in China than America. Even the United States, generally considered the biggest adopter of social media, is behind China in both penetration and use.
Understanding Chinese social media is the first step to engaging this blossoming market. What social media companies are most popular in China? Read below to find out.
Sina Weibo (usually referred to simply as “Weibo”) is a micro-blogging website, and currently the most popular social media platform in China. By the end of 2013, it had over 500 million registered users; a significant majority of the 618 million Internet users that China held at that time.
Weibo works as a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook. Users are limited to 140 characters for their posts, but this allows for more depth than Twitter because 140 characters in Chinese equals approximately 70 to 80 words in English. Additionally, Weibo users are allowed to view comments under each post, re-weibo others’ posts, search micro topics, etc. Some people feel it is slightly similar to Google Plus, however the user interface is more similar to Twitter or the Facebook news feed.
Celebrities and key opinion leaders with verified Weibo accounts can attract millions of Weibo followers, literally. Merchants and brands feel it is a great opportunity to market themselves through these popular accounts. More than 130,000 international brands are active on Weibo with their own accounts, such as Coca-Cola and LVMH. Creating content that is consistent and attractive on Weibo is currently the most effective way to market in China. See below how the Weibo interface (left) looks almost identical to Twitter. Similar, searching on Weibo (right) works nearly the same as searching on Twitter, and gives users current, real time information.
Weibo Web Interface & Weibo Search Engine
2. Wechat （微信）
Wechat, known as “Wexin” in China, is a mobile text and voice messaging communication service released in 2011 by China’s social media giant, Tencent. It reached 200 million users within eight months of launch without any promotion, and quickly spread to 30 countries. Now, Wechat becomes a “must-have” mobile app in China.
Available in many different languages, Wechat provides multimedia communication with text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, photo/video sharing, location sharing, and contact information exchange.
Compared with Weibo, a powerful tool to engage mass audiences, Wechat is more about keeping in touch with people, companies, and brands close to you through private messages. Wechat messages don’t have the same viral potential of Weibo posts, but messages can be much more targeted and are almost guaranteed to be read, which is very important. Today, many companies take advantage of this new opportunity to increase engagement and build customer loyalty. Companies with subscription accounts or service accounts on Wechat are allowed to send direct messages, including coupons, sales information, and product updates, to their subscribers.
Wechat Mobile Interface – Group Chat & Subscription Accounts
Renren has been called the “Facebook of China”. It is a leading real name registered social networking site in China, which copies the design and features of Facebook. Its Timeline feature, along with other major applications, closely resembles that of Facebook – look the below screenshots to see what we mean.
Ever since its launch in 2005, Renren has been popular mainly among college students, despite its efforts to widen its appeal. Formerly known as Xiaonei (“on campus”), it officially changed its name to Renren (“everybody”) in 2009, hoping to attract users across all demographics, which didn’t work too well.
Lots of college students stop using Renren, or become less active on it, after graduation. As the competition in the market intensifies, Renren is actually losing a chunk of its users and advertisers to Weibo. It currently generates more of its revenue from online games than social advertising.
Renren Personal Page & Renren Login/Register Page
Tencent QQ, popularly known simply as “QQ,” is the most widely used instant messaging software service in China with more than 800 million monthly active user accounts (including users outside of China). Starting out as something similar to the now-defunct MSN Messenger, QQ has grown into much more. Together with Qzone, the blogging space for QQ users, the QQ platform offers a variety of services, including online games, music, shopping, and micro-blogging.
QQ used to be the first choice when people wanted to chat online, either on laptop or mobile…. almost like AOL Instant Messenger’s rise to popularity Recently, however, the landscape is shifting as Wechat steadily overtakes QQ, although they are owned by the same company.
QQ User Interface & Emoticons
Youku, China’s equivalent to YouTube, is the leading Internet video portal in China. Officially launched in 2006, Youku initially emphasized User-Generated Content (UGC) but has since shifted its focus to professionally produced videos licensed from over 1,500 content partners, including television stations, distributors, and film and TV production companies in China. So besides UGC, Youku is also providing some legal copy of domestic TV programs and films.
On March 12, 2012, the two biggest online video companies in China, Youku and Tudou, announced their merger. The combined company is called Youku Tudou Inc. Tudou CEO Wang Wei once described the company as “YouTube + Hulu + HBO”. Videos on Youtube cannot be seen in China, so many brands localize English videos into Chinese and upload them to Youku.