Social media has become an integral part of modern life, and nowhere is this more evident than in China. With a unique and thriving digital ecosystem, platforms like WeChat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu, Douyin, Kuaishou, and Bilibili shape the way people communicate, shop, and engage with entertainment.
Analyzing how different generations—Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z—use Chinese social media platforms offers valuable insights into cultural, technological, and generational shifts. In this article, we will explore the diverse ways in which these three generations interact with Chinese social media sites, so that you get more insights into crafting the best social media marketing strategy for your brand.
Chinese Social Media Landscape
As of 2023, there are more than 1 billion Internet users in China and a majority of them use Chinese social media apps on a daily basis. The biggest one, WeChat, registered a monthly active users’ base of 1.26 billion people, which is unseen anywhere else in the world.
Social media in China is not just a digital evolution; it’s a cultural phenomenon that has reshaped the way people live, work, and communicate. The growing importance of social media in the country can be attributed to rapid technological advancements, increasing smartphone penetration, and government initiatives to foster digital infrastructure.
Due to the ‘Great Firewall’ of the Chinese Internet, there are no social media from the Western world available, therefore, Chinese users spend their time on social media apps like WeChat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book), Douyin (Chinese TikTok), Kuaishou, Bilibili and more. Those platforms will be analyzed today, so if you’d like to learn more about their functions and purpose, check out our social media article.
A short introduction to the most popular platforms
To put it simply, let’s check what the main Chinese social media platforms have to offer:
- WeChat functions as an all-in-one super app, integrating everything from messaging to banking
- Weibo serves as a public forum for news and opinions
- Xiaohongshu focuses on lifestyle and shopping
- Douyin and Kuaishou are renowned for short-form videos, targeting different Internet users bases
- Bilibili attracts a younger audience with its anime and gaming content
Chinese Social Media Users
As you can see in the graph above, 99% of Chinese users send instant messages, which is the core function of all social media in the world. But what’s interesting is that a striking number of 94% of active users watch videos and 62% watch live-streaming. These numbers are a clear indicator of the popularity of short video and video streaming platforms in the Chinese market.
Now that you got insights into the Chinese social media landscape and Chinese internet users’ statistics, let’s dive into the generations’ insights.
How Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z Use Social Media in China?
Understanding how Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z engage with social media channels such as WeChat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu, Douyin, Kuaishou, and Bilibili provides crucial insights into the multifaceted digital landscape of China, revealing a rich tapestry of intergenerational behaviors and preferences.
Gen X – 65-80′ Generation
Chinese Gen X, typically those born between the mid-1960s to early 1980s, has witnessed the rise of digital communication and social media platforms in China, and their usage reflects a blend of traditional and modern values.
For WeChat, this generation often uses the platform as a primary means of communication with family and friends, valuing its ability to connect them across distances. They may also engage in financial transactions through WeChat Pay, which is often seen as a convenient and trusted method.
When it comes to Weibo, Gen X tends to consume content rather than create it, keeping up with news and current events, but generally refraining from active engagement in political or controversial discussions.
Other Chinese social media platforms
On platforms like Xiaohongshu, Douyin, Kuaishou, and Bilibili, their engagement is usually more passive. They may browse these platforms for entertainment or to follow specific interests, but they’re less likely to actively participate in trends or create content. The preferences of Gen X on these platforms often lean towards traditional content, nostalgia, and themes that resonate with their life experiences.
But, you might be surprised to see some older Chinese creating content on Douyin and RED, working as ‘influencers’ for older Internet users.
Furthermore, Gen X’s approach to privacy and data security often leads them to be more cautious and thoughtful about what they share online. They’re more likely to prioritize face-to-face communication and value the quality of connections over the quantity.
Chinese Millennials – 85-95′ Generation
Chinese Millennials have grown up alongside the digital revolution, leading to a more multifaceted and engaged approach to social media.
They are the biggest spenders in luxury, which results in the majority of foreign brands targeting this generation. Today, this group is also starting to become parents, investing a lot of money in the best quality of products and services for their children, becoming the most lucrative group for the baby products market in China.
With WeChat, they use it not just for communication but also for a wide array of daily tasks including shopping, payments, and entertainment. For many, it’s an essential part of their daily life, a hub that integrates numerous aspects of their digital existence.
When it comes to Weibo, Millennials tend to be more vocal, utilizing it as a platform to voice opinions, follow celebrities, engage with social issues, and keep tabs on the latest trends. They’re not merely consumers but active participants, sharing and creating content.
They check Weibo for beauty tips and lifestyle or tech content, often looking for tutorials and educational posts.
Xiaohongshu is particularly attractive for this generation due to its focus on lifestyle, fashion, and shopping. Many Millennials use this platform to discover new products, share personal experiences, and connect with others over shared interests.
Little Red Book also became the most favored platform for Millennial moms, that interact on baby topics, follow parent influencers and look for product recommendations or other women who can share their parenting experiences.
The rise of short-video platforms like Douyin and Kuaishou aligns perfectly with Millennials’ preference for fast-paced, interactive content. They engage with these platforms not just as viewers but often as creators, sharing snippets of their lives, participating in viral challenges, and expressing themselves creatively.
They are mostly interested in cooking content, or restaurant recommendations, as well as humor and everyday life content.
Bilibili has found a unique place among Millennials as well, especially those interested in subcultures such as anime and gaming. It’s not just a platform for consumption but a community where they can find like-minded individuals, collaborate, and even contribute to subtitling and other creative endeavors. They also check the platform for movie reviews and information.
Chinese Millennials’ interaction with social media platforms is dynamic and multifaceted, reflecting their wide-ranging interests and comfort with technology. They are not merely passive consumers but active participants and creators, using social media to express themselves, connect with others, stay informed, and even shape the digital culture.
Chinese Gen Z – Post 95′ Generation
Chinese Gen Z is a truly digital-first generation, with the internet having been a constant presence throughout their lives. Their social media usage is thus highly sophisticated, varied, and constantly evolving.
WeChat, while used by Gen Z for messaging and social connections, often takes a backseat to newer and more interactive platforms. However, its integrated services like WeChat Pay still play an essential role in their daily lives.
Weibo is used by some Gen Z users, but its popularity is waning among this demographic. They may follow celebrities or specific interests but tend to perceive it as a platform more suited to older generations.
The attraction towards Xiaohongshu Chinese social media platform for Gen Z lies in its lifestyle orientation. They use it to explore fashion trends, beauty products, and travel experiences, often influenced by KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) and influencers.
Chinese Gen Z’s interaction with Douyin (TikTok in China) and Kuaishou extends beyond entertainment; these platforms serve as hubs for creativity, connection, and commerce. They are spaces where Gen Z can express their individuality through dance challenges, lip-syncing, and sharing personal stories.
E-commerce features are seamlessly integrated, allowing users to shop directly from videos, influenced by influencers and Key Opinion Leaders.
Live-streaming on these platforms has become popular, offering real-time interaction with hosts, exclusive shopping discounts, and a sense of community engagement.
Education and localized content further enrich Gen Z’s experience, making Douyin and Kuaishou multifaceted tools that cater to their diverse interests and needs, blending entertainment, shopping, and social connections in a way that resonates strongly with this digital-native generation.
Video streaming platforms
Bilibili holds a unique appeal for Gen Z, especially those engaged with anime, comics, gaming, and other subcultures. The platform’s community-driven content, including bullet comments and user-generated subtitles, fosters a strong sense of belonging and engagement.
Live-streaming platforms, often linked to shopping experiences like Taobao Live, have found particular resonance with Gen Z. They engage with live streams for entertainment, social connections, and increasingly, shopping influenced by real-time interactions with hosts and other viewers.
Environmental and social awareness also plays a part in how Gen Z engages with social media. They often support and engage with brands and content that align with their values regarding sustainability, social justice, and ethical practices.
Lastly, Gen Z’s comfort with digital technology leads them to explore new and emerging platforms and trends continually. Their tastes can be highly fluid, moving quickly from one trend to the next, reflecting a broader cultural desire for novelty and innovation. You also need to remember that this generation are mostly mobile users and they check Chinese social media apps merely on their phones.
The distinct generations in China exhibit unique behaviors and preferences across social media platforms. Gen X, primarily focused on information and connectivity, leans towards traditional platforms like WeChat and Weibo. Millennials are engaged across a broader range of platforms, embracing e-commerce, short videos, and niche interests. Gen Z, the digital-native generation, gravitates towards interactive and multifaceted platforms like Douyin and Kuaishou.
|Generation||Platforms||Content Interests||User Behaviors||Influencing Factors||Preferred Shopping Platforms|
|Gen X||WeChat, Weibo||News, Family Connections, Traditional Entertainment||Communication, Information Sharing, Occasional Online Shopping||Stability, Tradition||WeChat, Taobao|
|Millennials||WeChat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu, Douyin, Kuaishou, Bilibili||Lifestyle, Fashion, Travel, Music, Gaming||Content Creation, Social Engagement, E-commerce, Trend Following, Loyalty Programs||Tech-savviness, Social Influence||Xiaohongshu, Taobao, JD.com|
|Gen Z||Douyin, Kuaishou, Bilibili, Xiaohongshu||Creativity, Live-streaming, Subcultures, Short Videos, Personalized Content||Interactive Engagement, Live-stream Shopping, Content Localization, Mobile Payments||Digital Native, Values Alignment, Peer Influence||Douyin, Kuaishou, Pinduoduo|
By tailoring strategies to these distinct generational profiles, foreign brands can create more targeted and effective campaigns.
- Gen X, valuing stability and tradition, gravitates towards platforms that offer news and connections with family and friends. Brands targeting this generation must emphasize trust, quality, and values that resonate with their lifestyle.
- Millennials are tech-savvy and socially influenced, engaging in content creation and e-commerce across various platforms. For foreign brands, leveraging influencers, offering loyalty programs, and creating engaging multimedia content can be key strategies to capture this audience.
- Gen Z, the digital natives, interact with platforms that offer creativity, live-streaming, and personalized experiences. Foreign brands seeking to engage Gen Z must be innovative, aligned with their values, and adaptable to the latest trends and technologies.
Whether it’s building trust with Gen X, engaging Millennials through influencer partnerships, or connecting with Gen Z’s creativity and values, recognizing the nuanced preferences of each generation is pivotal in crafting successful marketing and brand positioning within China’s multifaceted digital landscape.
We Can Help You Target Chinese Consumers on Social Media Platforms
Are you a foreign brand aiming to tap into China’s vast and diverse consumer landscape? Understanding the distinct preferences and behaviors across generations can be a complex task, but Gentlemen Marketing Agency is here to simplify it for you.
With our expertise in digital marketing strategies tailored specifically for the Chinese market, we leverage deep insights into Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z to create campaigns that resonate.
Whether it’s through WeChat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu, Douyin, Kuaishou, or Bilibili, our team crafts innovative solutions to connect you with the right audience. From traditional content that builds trust with Gen X, to influencer partnerships that engage Millennials, to creative multimedia experiences that capture Gen Z, we ensure your brand’s unique voice reaches its intended market.
Contact Gentlemen Marketing Agency today, and let us guide your brand to success in the world’s largest consumer market.