It’s 2021 and China’s population sits comfortably at 1.4 billion people and there are more than 1 billion Chinese social media users.
For a Western business, this poses a great opportunity to expand its user base to include a Chinese audience. So, let’s look at the 9 Chinese social media platforms you should know about in this China Gravy article.
Everything You Need to Know about Chinese Social Media Platforms
To begin with, you have probably heard that Google, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter are all blocked by China’s firewalls. That means that China has had to create its own alternatives to satisfy the need for online platforms and social networks.
In China, social apps are an even more integral part of everyday life than anywhere else in the world. But why is that so? The Chinese market is powerful! You may not be surprised to read that the Chinese tech giant Tencent with its products WeChat and QQ have almost the same revenue and monthly active users (MAU) as Facebook – the largest social network in the world, made 70.7 billion USD in 2019.
What is so special about these Chinese Social Media platforms?
Chinese social media users love being online and are very tech affine. They use their favorite apps like WeChat for everything – from connecting with friends to shopping and from payment to booking appointments, gaming, and more.
WeChat mini-programs have become a popular social media platform to access all these features without ever leaving WeChat. When it comes to shopping, Chinese consumers can’t get enough of China cross-border commerce platforms like Tmall Global, Kaola, and xiaohongshu to buy high-quality and prestigious imported goods.
What makes Chinese social platforms different from Western ones is the relevance of influencers, so-called Wangong, KOLs (key opinion leaders), and KOCs (key opinion consumers).
The more than 840 million online users in 2019 in the Chinese market (compared to 300 million mobile users in the US) trust their peers more than the regular advertisements. Everybody can create content, and that sells.
About Tier Cities in China
In this article, we mention Tiers. This is a system, which classifies cities in mainland China.
- Tier 1 are mega-cities like Beijing or Shanghai with a population of more than 20 million people
- New Tier 1 are larger cities like Wuhan with around 11 million inhabitants
- Tier 2 cities are for example Xiamen with around 2 million inhabitants
- Tier 3 are cities like Qingdao with a population of around 9 million.
Which Social Media do Chinese Use Most?
So, China has hundreds of social media, networking, and commerce platforms available on the internet and mobile platforms. Furthermore, the most recent statistics show that of all the mainland internet users, a whopping 98% are mobile users.
In fact, this data suggests two things. The first is that Chinese users seek applications and sites that ease the convenience of daily life. The second is that businesses (both Chinese and foreign) have a lot of potential for success if they establish themselves on the right platform. So without further ado…
Top China social media platforms you should know about
- Tencent WeChat
- Sina Weibo
- Tencent QQ
- Baidu Tieba
- Xiao Hong Shu
Let’s get started!
Chinese Social Media: Battle of the Giants: Tencent vs. WeChat vs. Weibo
The two biggest social media platforms, by numbers alone, are overwhelmingly WeChat and Weibo. They have more than 1 billion (WeChat) and more than 500 million (Weibo) monthly active users.
WeChat is a closed-circuit voice and text messaging service, similar to WhatsApp, but with additional features like games, shopping, and financial services.
It is a platform not only for individuals but also for businesses and celebrities who have official accounts for promotion purposes. This is a closed network but has become more open through WeChat Official Accounts that have taken up blog writing and implemented Channels.
In today’s China, people use WeChat for literally everything – from socializing to shopping, from mobile payments to tickets, and much more. We have compiled several articles in more detail about WeChat advertising and WeChat marketing in China.
2. Sina Weibo
Weibo is a micro-blogging site and app. It is a combination of Twitter and Instagram. Compared to WeChat, it is most used by a younger, more urban population. Plus, it contains much more informational and trending content. This is an open platform that utilizes hashtags.
A big draw for businesses is that Weibo allows businesses to set up official, verified accounts to interact with users. Find out more about Sina Weibo in this fresh blog article.
TikTok/Douyin is a video-sharing social network by ByteDance, launched in 2017. TikTok and Douyin are similar but they run on separate servers to comply with Chinese censorship restrictions. The app lets users create short music and lip-sync videos of 3 to 15 seconds as well as short looping videos of 3 to 60 seconds.
It is very popular in Asia, the United States, and other parts of the world. And in October 2018, TikTok was the most downloaded app in the USA. Today, it is available in more than 150 countries and 75 languages. Find out more about TikTok here. Read more about Douyin here.
4. Tencent QQ (869 million users)
QQ is another instant messaging app, similar to WeChat. Its services include games, shopping, music, and micro-blogging.
One of the key differences from WeChat, however, is that a user on QQ doesn’t need a phone number for registration. Additionally, QQ has a desktop application making it popular with business professionals working in offices.
5. Douban (154 million users)
Douban is a social networking platform that focuses on lifestyle expression and social commentary. It is a large platform where users can discuss media, brands, and events. It also prioritizes community building and allows its users to connect and form groups based on similar tastes and interests.
This makes it very appealing for businesses because companies are able to create brand pages where they can share their brand’s history and vision.
6. Baidu Tieba (660 million users)
Did you know that Baidu Tieba is the largest communication platform created by China’s number one search engine, Baidu? It is essentially a large discussion forum where users can search for topics using keywords. It is something of a mix between Quora and Reddit in the West.
Check back on our blog as we will soon publish more detailed articles about Baidu SEO, how to register a Baidu account, how to index pages on Baidu, and much more.
7. Xiaohongshu (150 million users)
RED or xiaohongshu or The Little RedBook is a Chinese social media and e-commerce platform that allows its users to review luxury and foreign products, leave travel suggestions, and shop. Loosely comparable to a mix of Instagram and Pinterest.
It differs from the aforementioned by allowing users to purchase products and services directly from merchants. The app has many official partnerships with international brands and is seen as trustworthy in the eyes of Chinese consumers. Click here for more info about Xiaohongshu and China’s famous influencer and social marketing.
8. Youku (580 million users)
Now, Youku is a video sharing platform, comparable to YouTube. Youku’s main difference from YouTube is that it contains far more professionally created content than self-created content by its users. It’s often used as a site to download and stream TV shows and movies.
9. DianPing (290 million users)
Finally, Dianping is China’s review and feedback site for restaurants, similar to Yelp. However, as it’s developed and added more features, it now allows users to review hotels, beauty salons, gyms, and companies providing services.
Dianping allows businesses to post promotional offers and interact with customers. It is mainly used by white-collar, urban populations with disposable income.
How do I get Started with using Chinese Social Media for my Business?
There are a few things you need to keep in mind if you want to enter the Chinese market through Chinese social media apps. The first of which is choosing the right platform for your needs. Since there isn’t always an exact Western equivalent to a Chinese platform, doing thorough research is more important than just following the numbers.
1. Knowing your Audience
Chinese consumers are different from Western consumers in many ways. Most notably, even though they love brands, they are less brand-loyal and are always looking for the best price. The average annual salary in China is around 11,500 US dollars, but when you compare incomes around the country, Western cities are considerably less wealthy than the Eastern ones.
2. Scaling it Down
This may lead you to conclude that focusing on the major Eastern metropolitans is the way to go but cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin are oversaturated with business marketing through popular Chinese social media sites and commerce platforms.
Smaller cities such as Chengdu and Guangzhou, on the other hand, are good opportunities for Western businesses because they will have less competition but still provide a large consumer base. An expert or a China marketing agency may refer to this as Xiachen, sinking into the lower Tier markets in China.
3. What about the content? How do I adapt to the Chinese style?
In our previous blog articles, we’ve talked about how important a smart content marketing strategy is for your business’s social media channel. So does that mean that you can just extend the strategy onto a Chinese platform? Yes and no.
Whatever product or service you offer, you will have to localize it to your new audience. For example, a Chinese audience prefers “cute” cartoon-style content far more than a Western audience. But changing too much can take away from the appeal of a foreign product, which is often perceived to be better in quality than a Chinese one.
Social media marketing in China and using strategic Chinese social media management principles can be very fruitful for companies that are ready to gain exposure overseas. Doing market research, choosing the right Chinese social media platform, and localizing for the Chinese market are the first steps businesses need to take if they want a chance at success.
3 Chinese Social Media Trends
Now we have laid the foundation for the Chinese social media environment. Next, let’s dive into the top social media trends in China in 2021.
1. Live Streaming
After short videos, live streaming is the next big thing in the Chinese social media world. Live streaming can be anything from daily life to tutorials, playing games online, singing, dancing and other forms of entertainment.
China’s live-streaming industry is booming with revenues of around 5 billion USD per year and growing. Among the 150 live streaming platforms in China, almost all of them focus on entertainment shows. Nearly half of the 840 million internet users in China are using live streaming apps.
Live streaming offers a high level of interaction and engagement. That’s why it is so important, for brands and individuals. No other channel or marketing strategy provides the same depth of interaction. Live streaming also has the highest engagement rate among all content types. Chinese consumers love influencers and seeing them live. Live streaming and shopping are a heavenly match.
Live-streaming is even more popular in lower-Tier cities compared to other parts of China. These more remote rural areas have limited entertainment options for young people to enjoy. As a result, the internet becomes the one and sometimes only fun and cheap place to hang out and engage with peers.
China’s tech heavyweights Tencent (WeChat, QQ), Alibaba, and Baidu (China’s top search engine) in particular invest in this technology with the hope to boost their e commerce, social networking, and gaming business. Taobao has also implemented live-streaming and combined e commerce with social media marketing in China.
2. Artificial Intelligence
AI (machines imitating human intelligence) recently entered our online world in the form of personalized recommendations, data-driven in-store experiences, image and speech recognition, as well as chatbots.
The global AI market in social media is expected to exceed 3,7 billion USD by 2025. And it may not surprise you to read that the biggest growth rate is expected in the tech affine Asia Pacific area (China, Japan, India) with a large number of social media users. In fact, China is planning to become the world leader in AI by 2030. The future with facial recognition, delivery drones, self-driving vehicles, smart cities, fintech, and online medical diagnoses has already started.
In addition, the rising adoption of machine learning and deep learning technology is gaining importance in social media platforms. Furthermore, increasing demand for virtual assistants coupled with the adoption of cloud-based applications expectedly will drive revenue growth in this market.
3. Xiachen Marketing
First, Xiachen is Chinese for “to sink” or “to submerge”. These days, sinking into the lower Tier markets with marketing activities is becoming more and more popular. These Tier 3 and lower areas are suburbs and “smaller” cities in China, which are still in many cases large cities with millions of inhabitants.
Why is that so? Well, Chinese consumers in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities receive tons of content, messages, calls to action, and so on. This has become a highly competitive environment for brands and influencers. Therefore, there is still a larger potential for the growth of e-commerce and services in the more “rural areas”.
For example, a 2019 survey among Chinese female shoppers found that consumers in Tier 3 cities and below spent more than consumers in Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas during the 2019 Alibaba Shopping Festival.
Tier 3 Characteristics
The characteristics of Tier 3 areas are a lower cost of living at an equivalent income of higher Tier cities. This means that consumers are able to spend more on shopping, lifestyle, and entertainment.
Inhabitants of lower Tier areas also have a less stressful work schedule, but also fewer entertainment options. As a result, they turn to online shopping, gaming, entertainment, and socialization.
However, consumers in Tier 3 and below prefer more relatable content than the higher Tier online audience. They have a different taste, imagery, and messaging, which reflect more their actual lifestyle, rather than a luxury lifestyle that higher Tier consumers aspire to. Yet, as incomes and status in Tier 3 and lower areas increase, consumers will ask for higher-quality goods.
To summarize, if you are looking for marketing advice for China, incorporating one or several of these 2021 Chinese social media trends is surely a great approach.
Chinese Social Media – The Takeaway
Social media platforms in China are a great place for digital marketing your business and entering the Chinese market. Over the last months, a super-app for everything, influencers, and cross-border has conquered the Chinese market.
The top 3 Chinese social media trends observed in 2020 and continue for 2021 are live streaming, artificial intelligence (AI), and Xiachen (selling to lower Tier markets). What is your favorite trend in the social media environment in China this year? Let us know!
What can we do for you?
Do you want to know more about marketing in China for your business? Does this sound overwhelming? China Gravy, your trusted Chinese digital marketing agency, is here to help you develop the best strategy to harness the potential of the Chinese market and to promote your business on Chinese social media. Contact us for more information.
China Gravy is your experienced partner and China marketing agency. We are excited to connect you with a user base of more than 1.5 million Chinese around the world.
Whether through promoting your products with Baidu SEO, smart WeChat marketing, or boosting your business with the assistance of local KOCs (Chinese influencer marketing) – we get the job done for you! These Key Opinion Consumers are the bridge to connect the Xiachen world and Tier 1 cities in China.