Social Media in China: 7 main differences with western countries

China has the world’s largest population with over 1.4 billion people and the second-largest economy. But when it comes to social media, things look a bit different than in the western world. Here are 7 main differences between social media in China and western countries.

Social networks have become vital to any marketing campaign conducted in China

Using social networks for marketing purposes became a powerful and effective way to connect with consumers. However, there is an important difference between using these social networks with western countries and more especially in using these social networks in marketing strategy.

The Chinese social media landscape is the most dynamic, unique, and influential in the world. In fact, in this country-western social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube don’t have their place here, they are even censored. In China, they have exploded, especially with the rise of Weibo (China’s answer to Twitter) and WeChat.


Social media has become a real key target in marketing with the highest penetration rate (45%) in the world. Internet users are more and more with more than 620 million consumers in 2015, and they are increasing year by year.

So social media has become important and vital for companies in China, contrary in western countries where they are also used by a large part of the population, but not in the same way, as they are not at all a part of companies’ digital marketing strategy, and population target isn’t so important. In China, companies have learned to be adaptable and flexible. (more information here)

There is a larger, more active user base in China

In China, the number of people using social networks is significantly more than in western countries with 300 million Chinese users, which is the equivalent to the total population of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK combined. The difference is really important. (more information here).

The Chinese population is really active on these networks and uses all of them, as they spend about 40% of their 25 hours/week online on social networks.

That means more exposure to content and more interactions. So the social networking landscape is evolving and changing quickly, so companies have to be more reactive, not like in western countries where the conception of social media is different.


The Chinese consumer often engages with social media « on the move »

The majority of the population using social media in China does it on their mobile phones rather than via PC or laptop like in France. We explain it by the fact that it facilitates online interactions as users scan their daily activities and still engage with their social network anyway.

It shows again the different visions and conceptions of social media in China and in France. For example in WeChat, people can always express themselves and update their social media to reflect their life moment by moment, as in France, people often update their status, in China with WeChat, users post these « moments ».

The huge popularity of social networking reflects a lack of trust in traditional media sources

In China, censorship is current practice, and there are many « sensitive » topics that are not supposed to be discussed, so people use social networks to find this type of information and to talk about it with their friends and family.

They are more influenced by their environment than by TV, press, or radio, like in western countries, and word of mouth has become the most powerful marketing tool in China. An intelligent, comprehensive digital campaign to facilitate the spread of this key.

The importance of key leaders (Kol’s) in Chinese social media :


These are in China influential opinion leaders, and people see them as experts on different subjects they give their views and opinion, so they are especially popular in China.

The benefit of that is that these « KOL » can be recruited by companies and become a marketing instrument to share a positive message about a brand, so companies can directly touch a large community and reach thousands or even millions of potential consumers in this way.

So, the digital solution has become extremely effective in China, more than in western countries, where celebrities exist, they are followed by thousands of people too, but don’t have the same marketing influence.

For brands to market themselves in China they must engage with Social Media

— Max. Social Business (@MSocialBusiness)

E-Commerce reviews and consumer opinions are vital

With the growth of e-commerce in China, product reviews on the net have increased incredibly too, and become more and more precise and important for the population, more than in western countries where there is not total trust of the public.

The Chinese consumer will always look to reviews and is especially influenced by the views and opinions of those within their social circle, and all that is shared thanks to social networks.

So, it has become vital to manage and improve its e-reputation for a company, and tracking this type of user content is important for a brand as a source of consumer intelligence as well as an influential media source.

It is vital that you understand how to adapt your digital marketing strategy in China to succeed

With more than 300 million users of social networks in China, customer retention has become a challenge, as people respect more and more the opinions of their social circles, so companies have to adapt and create intelligent strategies and new advertising models. It’s now the only way for a brand to create and manage a strong image and avoid negative reviews.

However, it’s a little difficult to analyze precisely the impact of these new strategies, especially with the size of the communities involved.

So, companies need a staff who can precisely measure the results of a digital campaign and know the new Chinese market intimately.

We are experts in Chinese social medial strategies and can help you design your digital marketing strategy in China.

If you have a serious project in mind, feel free to contact us.

1 comment

Leave your comment