China’s social media platforms are vastly different from the west. Strong censorship in the country blocks most large international social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, which forces China to create their own social media ecosystem shared with no other countries. Understanding the various social media platforms in China is crucial to engage with Chinese customers.
According to WeAreSocial report, as of January 2021, there are about 930.8 million social media users in China, which has increased by 110 million (+13%) from 2020. In China, people on average spend 5 hours and 50 minutes on the internet, which accounts for one-third of waking time in a day. Within the time sent on the internet, Chinese people spend an average of 2 hours and 12 minutes on social media platforms. Additionally, iiMedia research shows that more than 40% of Chinese use 3-4 social media applications per day.
Guide to China’s Social Media platforms
Here are some top trending social media platforms in China that brands should know about.
WeChat: The gateway to China
WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media, and mobile payment app developed by Tencent. According to Tencent Q3 2020 report, WeChat has 1.2 billion monthly active users (MAU) with YOY growth of 5.4%. It is the undoubtfully number one social media platform in China. WeChat is the gateway to China, as it is the main choice of contact in the country, even before texts and calls. Hence, it’s important for anyone hoping to do business in China to download WeChat to connect with Chinese partners and consumers.
Within WeChat, brands can create official accounts to share content, launch mini-programs for deeper engagement with consumers, share videos, and directly communicate with consumers through private traffic pools.
Source: Tencent corporate overview presentation November 2020, the introduction of WeChat / Weixin
WeChat Mini Programs
WeChat Mini Programs are light-weight apps within WeChat’s ecosystem. They are cheap and easy for brand’s to create, and have the potential for high engagement such as through mini games. Mini Programs have become so integrated in society that during COVID-19, Chinese used it for epidemic prevention. There is a WeChat Mini Program for health code for each province in China. It requires the Chinese to scan the QR code on WeChat every time they enter every public area, which further accelerates the WeChat Mini Program’s frequency usage.
In general, WeChat Mini Programs many more purposes. It can fit any personal need in daily life, including mobile shopping, mobile games, life services, travel bookings, etc. According to QuestMobile data, as of September 2020, the total monthly active users have reached 832 million.
WeChat Official Accounts
It is the 9th year since the launch of WeChat Official Accounts. Competition for traffic across the entire network is becoming increasingly fierce. According to QuestMobile data, more than 80% of WeChat users subscribe to some WeChat Official Accounts. 76% of users spend 10-60 minutes using WeChat Official Accounts. It has a great marketing value for companies because it provides a direct channel for customers to approach them. WeChat Official Accounts can send systematically articles to subscribers, similar to a newsletter. At the same time, Chinese also frequently use WeChat to search for information, so content from WeChat Official Accounts can also reach consumers through SEO.
There is also an increasing trend for companies to open a WeChat Official Account for hiring purposes.
WeChat Video Channel
WeChat Video Channel is newly launched last year to catch up with the short video trend in China. It allows users, influencers, and brands to post short content through a media feed. This time, WeChat is fully exerting its efforts on the video account. As a WeChat strategic product, the emergence of video accounts has penetrated the entire WeChat ecosystem and revitalized the entire WeChat traffic pool.
Douyin: The top short-video platform in China
Douyin, the Chinese version of Tik Tok, is the most downloaded social media platform in China in the short-video category. As of September 2020, Douyin has 524 million MAU, 40% of them are 19-24 years old. Douyin has also gradually developed into a mature social e-commerce platform; Users can now directly buy a product featured in Douyin with just three clicks.
Douyin aims at visual impact, and is increasingly becoming a marketing necessity brands. However, Douyin has strict rules when it comes to publishing videos. The algorithm notes interaction feedback and video completion rate for new videos. In this way, if users make great quality and content videos, they increase their fan base faster.
A majority of Douyin users have high purchasing power. The majority of Douyin users live in tier 1 and tier 2 cities. Therefore, the Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) on Douyin are more reputed than on other short video platforms like Kuaishou and Xigua, explaining why Douyin’s advertising revenue is the highest among all the Chinese social media platforms.
Weibo is a microblogging application launched by Sina Corporation. It functions like Twitter as a social media platform to share, disseminate and get information. According to the Q3 report published by Sina, MAU reached 511 million, with YOY increased only by 2%. Although Weibo was the second-largest social media platform in China, Weibo is facing serious competition with Douyin, WeChat, and other platforms. In terms of content, Weibo, as an all-media platform, comprehensively covers text, pictures, videos, live streams, etc., to fully satisfy users’ diversified needs. Creating official accounts for digital marketing on Weibo has always been a must-have of digital strategy for many local and international brands to keep consumers updated on company news, product launches, and campaigns.
Kuaishou is a direct competitor of Douyin, and was recently listed in Hong Kong. As a leading content community and one of the most well-known social media platforms in China, there were 305 million average DAUs and 769 million average MAUs, including Kuaishou’s apps and mini-program.
Unlike Douyin, Kuaishou is dedicated to offering an authentic user experience through a massive and diverse feed of live streaming and short video content. 61% of Kuaishou users are from tier 3 cities and blow. Also, Kuaishou attracts middle-aged users while Douyin attracts relatively young users.
Source: Post Hearing Information Pack of Kuaishou Technology February 2021, Kuaishou basic statistics
Lifestyle sharing platform: Xiaohongshu
Xiaohongshu is one of the most popular social media platforms in China that includes a wide range of consumer experiences and lifestyles. To understand Xiaohongshu, it is like a blend of instagram and pinterest but with commerce features.
As of November 2020, the number of MAUs was 12.3 million, down 0.32% from the previous month. Xiaohongshu has an irreplaceable place in the hearts of young women in China. More than 53% of users are between 20-29 years old.
Most of the users view beauty, fashion, and delicacy on Xiaohongshu. Most of the users are located in tier 1 and tier 2 cities, indicating high purchase power. Leveraging social media platform function, Xiaohongshu integrated to a hybrid of China’s social media and e-commerce platform.
Pan-entertainment market platform: Douban
Douban has a much longer history than WeChat and Weibo. Founded in 2005, Douban is a hybrid of interest-based social media platforms in China that attracts users who are mostly scholars, academics, and writers at the beginning. Later on, it has become China’s cultural hub, which combines the function of IMDB, Pinterest, Twitter, Spotify, Goodreads, Craigslist, Meetup, and Reddit altogether. Douban is a hipster social media platform; users in Douban mostly post high-quality content on films and books or engaged their active communities. Douban is usually the origin where a lot of big news stories are found.
Source: Douban Film platform, website page
One of its most successful features is Douban Film, as “Chinese IMDB.” Some of the film production teams regard Douban Film review as part of their KPIs. Most of the audience would check the review of films or TV series on Douban before watching them.
Question and Answer platform: Zhihu
Zhihu is a Chinese question and answer website where all kinds of questions are created, answered, edited, and organized by its users’ community. People use Zhihu as a Chinese social media platform to find insights and expert knowledge on interesting topics. Thanks to its significant customer base, Zhihu has been viewed as one of China’s favorite social media platforms for marketing.
Video platform: Bilibili
Bilibili is one of the most popular social media platforms in China for video sharing. This platform has covered a multicultural community with more than 7,000 interest circles. As of 2020 Q4, Bilibili’s MAUs reached 202 million, representing an increase of 55% YOY. Initially, Bilibili has unique content focusing on ACG (anime, comics, and games). Thus, Bilibili is also regarded as Gen Z’s favorite platform. Currently, 86% of Bilibili users are below 35 years old.
Source: Bilibili investor presentation Feb 2021, Bilibili basic statistics
Bilibili is also known for its video commenting feature, Danmu. Users can make a quick comment at a particular moment during the video; those comments will shoot across the video from the side of the screen when the comment was made.
What brands need to know about China’s social media platforms
- China’s social media ecosystem is a lot more integrated than that of the west. Meaning that each platform has many capabilities, most importantly being e-commerce. More and more, Chinese social media platforms are becoming sales channels and not just promotion channels.
- Most Chinese social media platforms have added short video features to catch up with the short video trend in China.
- KOL marketing is important on all China’s social media channels.
- The revenue from live streaming in China has doubled every year in the past few years, and is a top sales method during shopping festivals like double 11.
- Different platforms have different user demographics. There is fierce competition between newly emerging social media platforms such as Douyin and Kuaishou and old school social media platforms such as Weibo and Douban. However, while these platforms are competing, they still cater to different user bases in terms of age and tier-city distribution. WeChat is nonetheless an unshakeable social media platform in Chinese daily life, a cornerstone for all demographics.
Author: Tong Zhu