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Social Media Fast Facts: China
Posted on February 27th 2014
Welcome to part three of my fast facts series, where I examine social networks, local influencers and popular brands around the world. Part one looked at social media in Western Europe. In part two I looked at Eastern Europe and Russia. This month, I look at the social media scene in China.
Social networks: What’s Popular in China?
57% of Chinese social media users are male, 70% under 35. 91% of the online population of China has a social media account, compared to 67% of people in the US. When given the choice, just 38% of users reveal their real names on social networking sites.
It’s reported that 91% of Chinese internet users have a social media account, compared to 67 per cent of the online population of the United States. Chinese internet users spend an average of 46 minutes on social networks every day. They are more likely to buy items recommended by other social media users.
However, the Chinese government exerts significant control over social networks, blocking global networks like Facebook and Twitter, and censoring home-grown networks like Sina Weibo and RenRen. The Government insist on a real name policy, and allow censors to delete posts as they see fit. It has also passed a law stating that people who post “inaccurate” statements that have more than 500 shares, could be sent to prison.
Facebook and its local language competitors
Facebook is blocked by the “great firewall of China”, although people can still access it via Virtual Private Networks. Facebook has reported that its market share in China is “almost zero.”
Owned by Tencent, it means friend in Chinese. Pengyou has more than 259 million users. A Facebook like social network, users can friend people and follow brands. The site has less active users than RenRen and the Weibos (microblogs), but as part of the Tencent QQ network (which has more than 784 million active accounts) it has a much bigger user base.
RenRen, originally called Xiaonei (which means campus), was set up in 2005 and tends to be used by students and teens. It had around 178 million users in 2012, when monthly unique logins were growing by 47% a month.
More of a Facebook-like social network, RenRen was starting to lose out to more mobile-friendly social networks, as it lacked a suitable mobile version. In late 2013, RenRen launched a new mobile app targeting people born in the 90s. It has increased its registered users to 194 million and reached 54 million monthly active users.
Kaixin is a Facebook-like social network with 113 million users. Unlike RenRen, Kaixin’s target market tends towards the older generations, and white-collar workers.
Twitter and its local language competitors
Microblogs, or Weibos, are a very popular communication format in China. People tend to place more trust in the information they find there. They also use Weibos to write Wei Xiao Shuo – micro novels.
Twitter is one of the social networks that is blocked in China, but it says that it has around 50,000 users in China (who access via VPNs).
Sina Weibo is the most popular social network in China, with around 280 million active users and 500 million registered users. Its multimedia functions - displaying video and photos in timelines, predated Twitter’s rollout of these services.
Sina Weibo’s main competitor is Tencent Weibo, which is the third most popular social network in China with more than 230 million active users. It has a user base of 507 million users, thanks to Tencent’s instant messaging service, QQ, and its users are generally from smaller cities.
YouTube and its local language competitors
YouTube is one of the sites blocked by China, but there are several local versions. The most popular Chinese video site is YouKu, which had 100 million visitor views in January 2013, rising to 400 million by August. It racked up 1.3 billion minutes of viewing in June 2013 alone.
Baidu, China’s most popular search engine, owns a rival video service (iqiyi) and was looking at purchasing another online video service, PPS.tv, which would have made it the largest video service provider in China.
The Chinese Government is currently trying to enforce a real name policy on its domestic online video sites.
LinkedIn has just announced the launch of a version of the platform in Simplified Chinese. Even before the launch, the site had around four million users. Many of these users were educated in the west. It’s competing against a home-grown business network called Jingwei.com.
China blocks Google Plus, but the growing social platform still has 121,000 users.
Other local social networks
QZone is the Chinese version of MySpace, letting users blog, keep diaries, listen to music and share photos. It’s owned by Tencent, and so benefits from the link to the QQ network.
Douban is another MySpace-like Chinese social network. It has more than 100 million users, the most active of which tend to be intellectuals and people who follow pop culture.
Douban allows users to find, and chat with, people who share similar interests, although it has been heavily censored.
Diandian is a Tumblr clone which numbers around five million users.
WeChat is a popular Chinese mobile app with around 300 million users, 100 million of whom are outside China. Although it’s similar to WhatsApp, it allows users to do more, combining features from Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Instagram and geo-location apps. It’s less of a social network, and more of an instant messenger app, but brands have official accounts on the network.
At London Fashion Week, Burberry joined forces with Wechat to produce an exclusive show of key runway looks. Users of the app were able to unlock Wechat-only audio content featuring Burberry's latest womenswear collection, and follow VIP guests.
Influencers: Brands, Celebrities & Sports Stars
The average Chinese internet user follows eight brands, and 38% of internet users make shopping choices based on recommendations they read on social networks. The Data Centre of China Internet reports that more than 80% of Sina Weibo users aged 19 and over have followed a brand on the service.
The Chinese Government has targeted popular social network users, such as Sina Weibo user Charles Xue, a venture capitalist with more than 12 million followers, who it arrested last year. However, despite the censorship, western brands are using Chinese social media sites to engage consumers.