Guide of China’s Major Social Media Networks
All the platforms below are available on both mobile and desktop unless stated.It’s also worth remembering that the most popular social media networks in the western world are blocked in China. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and YouTube are inaccessible to many Chinese netizens. This has lead to an explosion of similar services competing for the people who might otherwise use these platforms.
Categories of social media networks
Different people have different ways of categorizing these platforms according to their main use. Because the social media market is very fleeting therefore what is true today maybe outdated tomorrow. With that in mind below is a list of the main players in each category
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Instant messaging (IM)
Instant messaging is difficult to single out because most of them have other functions. To have a clear idea about what is an instant messaging you can think Twitter as a western equivalent.
This is THE Chinese Instant messaging service. Simple to use and great to stay in touch with friends it was firstly developed as a desktop application by Tencent. They later created a mobile version
Tencent QQ now offers a variety of services to users including online games (QQ coins), QQ music, shopping, microblogging, and group and voice chat. You have to share your details to interact with people. People are unable to read your posts unless you expressly give permission.
Tencent QQ now offers a wide range of servives, like microblogging, shopping among others.
Reports suggested that as of January 2013 Tencent QQ had over 200 million monthly active users for a grand total of 623.3 registered users.
Aliwangwang, a service provided from Taobao is an instant messaging service that put vendors and buyers in touch. Chinese like to interact in order to bargain, something that Aliwang wang can do easily.
Mobile only networks
There are an ever increasing number of mobile-only messaging apps in the same shape than WhatsApp. This phenomenon is not a surprise. There are about 500 million mobile internet users in China, a whopping 81% of the total amount of Internet users.
Wechat is Tencent rising star when it comes to mobile social media platform. It has currently about 355 million monthly active users.100 million of them are not in China.
Wechat is a lot of things. First it is part social network system, part e-commerce platform and finally marketing tool. It is nowadays the most used social network with a lot of very appealing features.
WeChat is Tencent’s fast growing mobile social platform. It’s been reported that it has 355 million monthly active users and that 100 million registered users are based outside of China.
China mobile and Chinese internet company, NetEase have collaborated to make a mobile-only messenger to compete with WeChat. What makes Yixin different from its competitors is that users of the app can send free text and voice messages to any mobile phone users, whether they have the app or not.
This digital service is the result of cooperation between China mobile and the Chinese company NetEase. This mixed heritage allows Yixin’s subscribers to send free text and voice messages to any mobile phone users.
Videos and music
Online video and music platforms are massively popular in China. Platforms similar to YouTube are widely used and are also a great source of advertising revenue for the companies that own them.
Unlike trying to stream video from foreign sites, such as YouTube, the Chinese video sharing sites work perfectly. You can find people streaming videos on desktop and on mobile all over the place, from a coffee shop to the metro.
Online video and music platforms enjoy a very good reputation in China. Youtube-like are commonly used. These services are a very cost efficient method for companies to raise their brand awareness. The Chinese versions work much better than their western counterparts. People are streaming everywhere, from desktop to mobile, from a park to a train station.
These are the two Chinese leaders when it comes to video hosting services. Youku bought its rival in 2012 making Youku the biggest video hosting group in China. It is very much like Youtube in design and functionalities.
These video hosting services are the most popular in China. In 2012 Youku bought rival Tudou to become the biggest video hosting group in China. The platform is very much in the style of YouTube.
Even though China has banned peer-to-peer has been banned by the Chinese government there are Chinese video streaming software that uses this protocol. It has everything, from Chinese Tv shows to the latest American blockbuster
However, just as with Youku there is a censorship applied that forbid some tv shows and movies to enter the Middle Kingdom.
The blog-publishing service, Blogger, owned by Google has many copies in China. These platforms are popular forms of expression and let people connect in a different way to the immediate interaction of IM services.
The service that was once solely featured by Google has now many copies in China. They are a very famous way of expression and let people connect using other means than IM or micro blogging. Here are a few of them
When it comes to Microblogging in western countries you think Twitter. In China it is Sina Weibo and its 100 million microblog every day. The microblog allows Chinese to share opinion and thoughts in a very small amount of characters.
As stated before Sina Weibo has a very strong base of users with 100 million microblog posts on a daily basis.
Even though many think that for Sina Weibo the end is nigh because of the rise of Wechat, you must keep in mind that most Chinese have a Weibo account.
On a marketing point of view Sina Weibo is a powerful tool when you want to reach your Chinese target
Tencent Weibo is part of Tencent’s social media empire but doesn’t come even close to Sina Weibo in term of popularity.
Other firms trying to strive in that market are Sohu Weiboand NetEase Weibo with similar features.
Social Networking Services (SNS)
If you want a clear picture of what are Social Netwoking Services in the western world think “Facebool”. In China the SNS emperor has no place. He is therefore replaced by their local equivalents
This platform is one the features of what one could call the Tencent service package: if you have the QQIM you’re bound to have QQ Space. Users can share a wide variety of content with their friends and enjoy Qzone service for a price.
Renren with its facebook-like interface was originally popular amongst students, just like facebook once was. It mains target is still student from high school to university. It is 194 million users strong with 30% of its traffic coming from mobile.
Pengyou is another SNS from Tencent focusing more on making true friendships. Recently companies have started using this SNS in order to stay close to their followers and potential customers.
Forum and bulletin board are still a must have in China. It has way more subscribers than in western countries. It is quite common for famous search engines to have a BBS built in.
It is a very reputable forum that has even been used by politician to discuss important local issues or gather potential voters.
Part of Baidu it has a community that shares information in a public forum. Should there be no forum about a word Baidu will create a new one.
Social life reviews
Chinese consumers are very active when it comes to leaving reviews, whether places they have visited or service they have encountered online. Below I look at the most popular review platforms and I also look at other social networks that fit into this category.
Chinese are very much eager to share thoughts and opinions about a given topic or a place. Eventually there are social media answering that need.
This service is all about finding the right place and avoiding the right ones too with the help of an active users community that leaves comments and reviews of places they have already been to.
It is without the shade of a doubt the most popular review platform in China
When Douban began it was only a review sharing platform for books and movie. Later it grew to be what it is now: a very popular review platform. Its main targets are well educated people, students and white collar workers.
According to Douban, In 2013 they registered 72 million users with monthly visitors of 200 million.
It’s very distinctive competitive advantage is the fact that you don’t have to be registered to use the website.
Douban branched out to movies with Douban movies.
Online shopping is massive in China. There are an estimated 302 million e-shoppers out of a total of 618 million internet users. Alibaba is by far the biggest e-commerce company in China, but other platforms make this a competitive market.
Online shopping is a key sector with a very big turnover. It is thought that an estimated 302 million e-shoppers out of the 618 million Internet users
This e-shopping plateform is a C2C marketplace and is the most popular online market place in China. It is owned by the biggest e-commerce group Alibaba.
JD.com whose former name was 360buy is another very popular e-commerce platform in China. It is a gigantic B2C marketplace renowned for its top-notch delivery service
Aspiring at a better life Chinese go more and more abroad. They’ve been doing so for quite a while now. The Chinese tourists’ behavior is evolving as they become more demanding. In fact they are slowly rejecting big groups to go and experience the outside world on their own. To meet that new demand a number of online-based companies are there to advise and cater these new Chinese tourists. In western countries you would think Trip advisor.
At first a simple community for Chinese outbound travelers it has become a tourism oriented tool that provides services such as booking tickets and reviews from the community
Qunar helps users in their choices by helping to compare the different travel services
The unifying feature is that they are all used to find and meet new people. The best comparison in the west is Match.com, but others may be considered closer to IM services rather than ‘real’ dating networks.
They have all pretty much the same purpose: helping people to either find long lasting love or for others just one night stands. Here are a few names.
When you think of business platforms in the western countries you think Linkedn. Such networks are slowly on the rise in China because of cultural difference in how business relations differ.
This network helps students and professionals to get in touch in order to find job opportunities and like-minded people in the business world.
Steming from Renren, Jingwei provides a mobile platform to improve the visibility of your professional experience in a community very much alike LinkedIn
These platforms are halfway between ‘proper blogging’ and microblogging. Mostly used by scholar and artistic youth, they can be seen as tools that youngsters use to exchange opinions and ideas with their peers
Qing is part of Sina’s vast social media empire including the Sina web portal, Sina Weibo or Aiwen
Part of Renren’social networking presence, it is targeting white-collar professionals
Photo sharing sites in China are pretty much the same as their western equivalents such as Instagram. Some of the platforms cross into the light blogging space, but because of the focus on pictures I have included them in this section.
In China, in Western countries, picture sharing sites are very much alike. Think Instagram to give you a western version. Some display features of light blogging but only as a side tool to help improve the picture sharing main part
The picture sharing platform is definitely the leading man in the crowded market of image sharing tool. Its watchword is “save and share the stuff you love online”
Chinese Tumblr, Diandian main use is photo-sharing. The community can take-part in real time sharing of personal interest and publishing pictures. It is very much like a light blog.
Video sharing is not about online video platforms. The video shared are made within the community. Think Vine for a western equivalent.
Tencent’s Weishi allows users to upload eight second video clip and share it with their own community.
Wikipedia has improved a lot these past few years in term of reliability and amount of information. The same is true for its Chinese counterparts. Actually, the Chinese versions are deemed more trustworthy than Wikipedia.
Top of the Encyclopaedia networks in China, it is one of Baidu’s main features and is called Baidu Know. It’s the users that are pooling their knowledge together to form an extensive database.
Specialising in natural science and engineering, this platform is popular amongst college students. Users can compose a topic, find questions and answers and take part in discussion groups.
The “Do you know” is designed to allow Chinese to ask the tough questions, those that would potentially be blocked by the Chinese government. Then the answers are rated by users in order to quickly know which one is trustworthy and which one is not.
By the end of 2013 Zhihu was 10 million monthly active users strong.
These platforms are a cross between e-commerce and reviews sites; community based e-commerce, or social e-commerce, if you like. They are places where people can discuss products and explore different opinions before, eventually, purchasing their desired choice.
These platforms are hybrids of e-commerce, review sites, community based e-commerce and social e-commerce. These are platforms where people can review together the products they intend to buy.
Highly sought buy the rising Chinese middle class women, these social buying networks help potential customers find clothes and cosmetic suited to them. The products come from other e-commerce stores such as Taobao. Should they decide to purchase they are directed to one of these shops.
They are more than just the middle man between customers and shops; they guide customers with their strong helping communities of similar interest in order to discuss the latest hot trends and then helping to decide what to buy and where they could get them at the best prices. Meanwhile, these social media make money each time they redirect client to third parties websites or from advertisement.