Advertising Age published an article this morning, "The State of Chinese Social Media in 2015: What You Need to Know," that offers fascinating snapshot of social media in China, and covers how brands are attempting to leverage various platforms to connect with a market of 1.35 billion people. AdAge has been following social media in China since 2008, so they know what they're talking about.
The most dominant social media platform in China is currently WeChat. Its success isn't surprising, considering the utilitarian value of the app. AdAge describes it as a "Whatsapp-type" messaging service, but it is so much more than that. WeChat has a popular Facebook News Feed-like feature called 'Moments,' and is also capable of, among other things, being used as a Google Wallet-esque payment system, arranging transportation, making restaurant reservations, managing your finances, and more.
This "social media Swiss army knife" has become the go-to app for a lot of Chinese social users as a tool to basically manage and organize their lives. While some social networks are attempting to integrate new options into their platforms, such as Pinterest and Facebook letting you make purchases directly in-platform, I can't think of any app in the United States that has the kind of versatility that WeChat does. In fact, it may be inadequate to call WeChat just a 'social network,' or 'app,' considering its capabilities.
But change in China's social media sphere comes fast. Similar to what is occuring in the U.S. with younger social media users abandoning the old guard of networks such as Facebook in favor of burgeoning new social spaces like Snapchat, so the youth of China have begun to ignore WeChat and adopt new services for themselves. Options for younger demographics include Instagram- and Vine-like platforms, but the fragmentation of the youth market means that brands don't have a single leading platform to latch onto, so their marketing efforts can only be rudimentary at best.
Also interesting is that a vestige of the early internet days, the Bulletin Board System or BBS, is not only still alive and well in China, but also innovating. A number of popular boards have developed their own apps that feature a board's same intense subject-focus, from luxury travel to motherhood, only in a convenient mobile-friendly form.
Social media in China seems to share quite a few things in common with the United States, from branding to growing specialization to fast-paced change. It's just wildly scaled-up. As stated, there's a market of 1.35 billion. It seems only natural that everyone, from social networks to brands to users, would want to get in on that.