It’s 2019 and China’s population sits comfortably at 1.4 billion people. Another interesting fact that makes digital marketers salivate: there are over 1 billion users of social media in China. For a Western business, it’s a great opportunity to expand its user base to include a Chinese audience. But the fact of the matter is, that penetrating the Chinese social media landscape is no easy feat.
Everything you need to know about Chinese Online Platforms
By now 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.
Which platforms are used in China?
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. 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…
Here are the Chinese Social Media Platforms You Should Know About:
1. Tencent Wechat
2. Sina Weibo
3. Tencent QQ
5. Baidu Tieba
6. Xiao Hong Shu
The Two Behemoths: Tencent WeChat and Weibo
The two main social media platforms, by numbers alone, are overwhelmingly WeChat and Weibo with 1 billion and 431 million users, respectively.
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.
Weibo, on the other hand, is a microblogging site and application that can be thought of as something between Twitter and Facebook. Unlike WeChat, it is most used by a younger, more urban population and contains much more informational and trending content. A big draw for businesses is that Weibo allows businesses to set up official, verified accounts to interact with users.
Tencent QQ (869 million users)
QQ is another instant messaging app, similar to WeChat. Its services include games, shopping, music, and microblogging. 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.
DouBan (154 million users)
Baidu Tieba (660 million users)
Baidu Tieba is the largest communication platform created by the 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.
Xiao Hong Shu (150 million users)
Xiao Hong Shu is a 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.
Youku (580 million users)
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.
DianPing (290 million users)
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?
There are a few things you need to keep in mind if you want to enter the Chinese market. 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.
Knowing your Audience
Chinese consumers are different than Western consumers in many ways. Most notably, they are less brand-loyal and are always looking for the best price. The median annual salary in China is slightly less than 9000 US dollars, but when you compare incomes around the country, Western cities are considerably less wealthy than the Eastern ones.
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 businesses marketing through social media 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.
What about the content? How do I adapt for Chinese style?
In our previous blog articles, we’ve talked about how important 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.
Localizing Your Content
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.
This is just the start…
Social media marketing in China can be very fruitful for companies that are ready to gain exposure overseas. Doing market research, choosing the right platforms, and localizing for the Chinese market are the first steps businesses need to take if they want a chance at success. This article is the first in our series on social media marketing in China. Check back in in the future to learn more about choosing the right platform and creating a marketing plan for your business.