Top 4 Social Media Apps In China (2019)

The digital landscape in China changes fast like a roller coaster!


Platforms emerge and submerge in a matter of a few years. This article will update you on the most popular social media, currently, in China.



Wechat is the most powerful APP in China. I have repeatedly confirmed this in my previous articles on this website. Personally living in China for a while, I can’t pass a day without using this App. Not only me but Chinese people in general use Wechat everyday for different purposes.

Woman blowing a kiss to a WeChat icon

Wechat’s astonishing usage numbers re-affirm my personal observation. Monthly active users till Q3, 2018 of Wechat is 1.08 billion users.

WeChat monthly active users, million

Data source: Statista

It means WeChat’s market penetration is close to complete in China when the WeChat monthly active user count is only 300 million less than the entire population of China. Tencent announced in early 2019 that daily active users of the app had climbed to over one billion. Only Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger can claim a greater share of global usage.

What is Wechat?

Wechat was born as a messaging app just like Whatsapp. Then, Wechat Moment appeared as a news-feed social media. Wechat Pay is the mobile payment that you use to pay for basically everything in China. Besides, Wechat also provide news, games, and videos for users to consume. Wechat also connects to other apps so that via Wechat, you can open other apps without downloading them; and in case you need to pay for a product/ service in those apps, you can pay immediately with a click into Wechat Pay; all happen within Wechat ecosystem. That’s why I told you Wechat is exactly the SUPER App, the ALL-IN-ONE App.

Source: CAICT WeChat Economic and Social Impact Report 2017

Key marketing tactics on Wechat

Those diverse functions make users stick to Wechat all day, everyday. A person averagely spends 66 mins on Wechat daily.

However, as a brand, the strategy on Wechat is to focus.

1. Open an official account

First thing first, open an official account on Wechat. Just like a Facebook fanpage, Wechat Official Account is your home. There are 3 types of accounts. Among them, Service account is the most common for brands with various functions and analytics available.

Read our guide on how to open an official account on Wechat.

Your posts appear in followers’ inbox as a friend message

Remember I told you earlier that Wechat was a messaging app as well as a newsfeed social media?

When you upload your content, let say an article or a video via your official account, it will appear to your followers as a message in their inbox. It doesn’t appear on Wechat Moment – the newsfeed. Only personal accounts’ updates will appear on Wechat Moment.

This is good news. Followers will be notified of your contents as messages, thus they tend to read them more rather than getting on the newsfeed and scrolling down to see your posts like on Facebook.

The bad news is that users will be stricter regarding which account to follow on Wechat since they don’t want to receive junky messages. They also more easily unfollow an account than usual social media if they perceive it to be not useful. Indeed, of the 14 million official accounts that were active as of late 2017, only 7% could lay claim to any posts that attracted over 1,000 views. And only 0.01% achieved more than 100,000 views for any single post.

2. Content marketing

When creating WeChat content, the goal is to make sure people want to read and engage with it.

First, define your target audience as with any marketing tactics

  • Understand their demographic (Gender, Education, Location, Age, Income)
  • Understand their motivation

– Why do they want to learn about you and your products/ services?

– How important is your products/ services to them, i.e. is it a hobby or part of their job?

– What common questions do they have about you and your niche?

– How knowledgeable are they about your field?

  • Get to know their reading habits.

– What format do they prefer (e.g. text, image, video)?

– How often do they read?

– What length of content do they prefer?

Then, build content your audience wants.

When brainstorming content for your audience, check if your content provides these values below:

  • Practical value: your content provide useful tips or practical advice for readers
  • Emotional value: your content resonates with readers and touches them emotionally
  • Social value: your content provides something readers will share with their social circles

A piece of content, which meets all three values, will be shared widely on Wechat. Will you read an article that your friend sends to you?

Source: ChinaChannel

Format: visual or text?

  • Focus your Official Account on only one type of content first. If you choose text and image (the most common type of format), practice until you become very confident with it
  • Be flexible with other content types when the context fits. For example, throw in a single voice message, short video, GIF or infograhphics once a while to excite readers.

Other notices

  • If you have a Mini-Program, make sure to promote it in your OA menu, articles and template messages
  • Link related articles to read at the bottom
  • Always include a QR code at the bottom. People may want to follow you after reading your content
  • Use the comment function to get closer to your followers. Many OA operators chat with their followers in the comment section, it’s a great way to keep your followers interested

3. Mini programs (on the wawe)

Mini programs are one of the key channels through which brands can reach prospective customers through WeChat. According to the annual CAICT (China Academy of Information and Communications Technology) WeChat report, around two thirds of users believe mini programs are more convenient than traditional apps; with a similar percentage believing they could take their place.



Mini Programs are “mini applications” built within WeChat platform, turning WeChat into an app store.

Inherent proprieties of mini-programs:

  • mobile
  • instant – no download needed
  • light to offer a smooth user experience
  • integration within WeChat Ecosystem
  • enabling users to have access to a large range of applications/services (e-commerce, games, productivity, reading content, etc…) without leaving WeChat
  • enhancing the user experience with WeChat features and APIs

I like to think of mini-programs as landing pages which are very light, easy to create but even more interactive. You can create a mini-program for a marketing campaign, or to sell a limited-edition collection, or to perform a specific function. Remember that each mini program will serve one specific purpose. That’s why a brand can have multiple mini-programs.

McDonalds and KFC have both released mini programs to provide discount coupons. This is the kind of mini program that is discoverable not only through search but also by scanning a QR code in-store or on a brand flyer.

WeChat is also a prominent channel for luxury brands to reach out to the Chinese population by creating online campaigns.

During Chinese Valentine’s Day, over twenty brands, including names like Dior, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and Gucci launched their mini programs for limited-time and special-edition sales. Dior offered a special Qixi edition of Dioramour handbag on its official WeChat account. It then offered a limited number of Lady Dior handbags through its mini. The campaign gained popularity among Dior fans with the handbags sold out.

Other brands use WeChat mini-programs to let customers customize their own products.


Sergio Rossi’s mini-program lets you customize your own high heels, and Longchamp allows you to personalize your own handbag. Chow Tai Fook, one of Hong Kong’s most popular jewelry chains, has a mini-program that lets you customize your own diamond necklaces.



Are you a Douyin/ Tiktok user? If not, you should try once. It’s fun!

Douyin is its Chinese name while Tiktok is its international name. Since we are talking about social media in China, I would use the name Douyin.

Douyin is basically a short-video platform which allows users to create, share, and view 15 second videos based around lip syncing, dancing, comedy skits, and other physical activities. The Chinese mini-music-video social network combine funny and interesting short clips, an immersive full-screen interface and powerful AI for its sticky magic.

How big is Douyin?

In China, Douyin reported 400 million monthly active users, 50% of which were active daily. Douyin commands market penetration of 30% in China (June 2018). Douyin users open the app four or five times a day, using it for around half an hour daily.

Douyin vs. other short video apps in China, daily active users

Douyin users are very young, with 50% of them below 24 years old. Nearly 40% of all users live in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. They are well-educated, trendy and wealthy Gen Z in China who favor creativity, freedom and luxury. That’s why Douyin is the place to go for brands who want to connect with the new emerging generation of buyers.

Key marketing tactics on Douyin

Douyin’s popularity is in part thanks to its simple concept – short videos and its ease of use.

Marketing on Douyin should be the same; it’s more about the ideas of your videos and how you make your videos truly catching to your audience rather than caring too much about which functions/ programs the platform can offer for marketing.

Therefore, the most ordinary people can become famous on Douyin as long as their videos provide something valuable to the right audience.

1. Make videos to grow organically

This is obvious, right? Think of your brand as a future-to-be KOL on Douyin. A KOL on Douyin needs to offer interesting videos frequently to attract and retain fans.

There are some rules to follow if you want to increase your chance to be viral on Douyin:

  • be as interactive as possible.
  • be funny, creative and trendy
  • be beautiful
  • be authentic
  • be surprising
  • be emotional
  • Verify the account. Chinese business license is required to verify an account and purchase ads

A few minutes of self-exploring on the platform would give you a hint about what your audience may like to watch.

2. Run official campaigns

For companies with bigger budgets, the best option is to work directly with Douyin to create branded campaigns.

A typical Douyin campaign could include banners, a promoted hashtag challenge, and maybe a custom video filter. The good news is, Douyin’s audience is very open to commercial content. More than 70% of users would accept commercial content if it’s interesting, and over 40% of female users don’t mind product placement when watching a tutorial video.

Michael Kors, Adidas NEO and Audi were some of the first brands to partner with the app. Now, many more brands have joined the platform, including Airbnb and Pizza Hut.

Michael Kors campaign on Douyin

3. Work with KOLs

Working with influencers is effective on Douyin. They already have a huge following who are eager for their videos. Influencers are also content creating experts on Douyin – they know how to make good videos and they understand their followers.

How to work with KOLs?

  • you can prepare your own content for the influencers to share on their account
  • you can ask KOLs to create videos themselves featuring your products
  • you can organize hashtag challenge and have KOLs make demo videos as well as encourage their fans to join

One of the perks of working with influencers is that they usually post on many platforms and may drive traffic from other places beside Douyin.

Adidas Neo – Authentic content crafted specifically for the platform

Douyin allows brands to visually present their personality through videos.

Adidas Neo has been successfully promoting its active, stylish lifestyle kind of brand spirit by generating original content specifically for the platform with local celebrities that embody their target buyer persona. Compared to more mature platforms such as Weibo and WeChat, Douyin’s short-video formats allow more room for playful creativity to condense a brand’s essence.

4. Hashtag challenge

Hashtag challenge is like a calling for fans to create videos about a certain topic. The challenge should be fun, easy to follow and has an attractive prize. This is an amazing way to engage your fans and expand brand awareness.

Haidilao Hot Pot Challenge

At a Haidilao restaurant, users can request a DIY Douyin recipe, and the staff would know to let you “style” your hot pot yourselves, allowing users to show off their individual dining “expertise”.

About 15,000 Douyin users participated and about 2,000 short videos have been posted, with some 50 million video views. As more users come in to request their Douyin recipe, the campaign turns online engagements into offline customers.



Weibo is another dominant social media in China. It’s like a big brother, was born earlier and now has become an indispensable part of Chinese online life.

Weibo’s monthly active users reached 486 million in June 2019, a net addition of approximately 55 million users year-over-year. Mobile MAUs represented approximately 94% of MAUs. Weibo average daily active users were 211 million in June 2019, a net addition of about 21 million users year-over-year according to Weibo’s official finance results.

weibo commercial marketing for chnia


Weibo’s audience is mainly composed of young users, as of 2017 Q3, more than 80% of its users were less than 30 years old.

What is Weibo?

Weibo has evolved into an entertainment platform that encompasses the features of Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, reddit and YouTube rolled into one. Weibo offers text-based content as well as more visually rich formats such as videos, live streams, photos and even Weibo Stories (similar to Instagram stories). Its partnerships with local TV networks, foreign sports leagues, celebrities and online influencers have allowed it to create a rich library of engaging content that caters to a variety of interests.

Weibo is mostly used for spotting the latest trends and entertainment, updating on famous celebrities or influencers as well as discussing social issues. Users can open their own accounts and post multimedia content. Weibo also integrate e-commerce into its platform.

Marketing on Weibo is still HOT

There have been numerous sources covering marketing on Weibo. Here I only mention the least-mentioned functions which I found interesting and useful of Weibo.

1. Okay, this is not “the least mentioned” but, anyway…: Open an official account

In order to start marketing on Weibo, you need to register an official account for your business.

Once your account is approved, a blue “V” will be displayed next to your account, similar to the verified badge on Twitter.  Verified accounts can enjoy benefits like campaign management, advanced page customization and analytics about your brand.

2. Social search on Weibo is increasing 


In China, search is social, social is search


Weibo is one of the few social media platforms in China that currently offers search engine optimization.

Weibo has a discover page that can be used as an internal search engine. It allows users to perform advanced searches by typing in keywords to filter though related posts, pages and accounts. Weibo also allows brands to “purchase” keywords that are then recommended to the user in the search bar.

This offers a very effective way to boost brand visibility for new users. Your posts should be optimized with keywords in order to receive the highest ranking possible when users search for them.

This is also a smart tool to do market research: what people are discussing about your niche, their concerns, or activities of competitors… for your marketing strategies.

3. Super topics

Super-topics is an online community built around a popular topic and discussion on Weibo.

Each super-topic has its own landing page. When you share a post tagging a super-topic, your post will be displayed in the feed of that super topic. You can also see all the related super-topic posts and interact with community members.

You can also search and follow popular super-topics to get to know and interact with audience of similar interests. Further, brands can create their own super-topics to promote brand messages and engagement with their fans.

4. Weibo Window

Early 2015, Weibo corporates with two mainstream e-commerce platforms, Taobao and Jumei to launch Weibo Window. This move aims to facilitate sales on this social media.

Weibo Window refers to product images added along a post that have blue bag icons in their lower right corners. When customers click these images, they can add the product to their cart or buy it on a separate purchase page on Taobao’s or Jumei’s mobile app. Customers can also look through product reviews from other buyers or enter the online shop through this purchase page. In a word, Weibo Window helps merchants to sell on Weibo effectively.

Weibo window enables you to monetize directly any content or marketing campaign on Weibo. This is an example of social commerce, which is gaining wide popularity in China. Social media is not only about awareness and engagement. In China, social media marketing would generate sales straight and directly!



Xiaohongshu is a very famous content-driven social media focusing on lifestyle, fashion, and beauty niches.

It started as a place to offer shopping-related information for mainland Chinese consumers from those who traveled or lived abroad. Chinese consumers have always been interested in foreign brands and products. Therefore, Xiaohongshu plays the role of helping them discover, learn, “window shopping”, get inspired as well as update on new products and trends especially about overseas brands.

After obtaining all the knowledge about foreign brands and products from all over the world, Xiaohongshu users are eager to purchase the goods they have learned about. Late 2014, Xiaohongshu e-commerce was established. Therefore, xiaohongshu is now not only a social platform but has also turned into a robust e-commerce platform.

How popular is Xiaohongshu?

Xiaohongshu reached over 200 million registered users in Jan 2019.

According to its co-founder, Qu, the number of monthly active users (MAU) doubled between the end of 2017 and the middle of 2018, reaching 30 million.

Xiaohongshu users are predominately young and female; a significant part of them are living in China’s first and second-tier cities. They are getting even younger, “70% of new registered users were born after 1995.” Said Qu in an interview in 2017, “and in addition, the user base is also slowly stretching into the lower tier cities.” 70 to 80% of Little Red Book’s users are women.

Key marketing tactics on Xiaohongshu

1. Official account + Stores

As with Wechat, Weibo and Douyin, your official account is your home.

On the brand homepage:

  • Little Red Book users can browse the “notes” the brand posted. Notes are more like deep content, educating users about products and services; inspiring them with new trends, creative mix-match… Notes should feature beautiful pictures to raise interest from readers.
  • It also shows the posts from other users when they mentioned (@) the brand in their own notes. This feature is very useful in building brand credibility since it collects what other consumers think about the brands. Here provides more authentic and objective views on the brand offerings.
  • On “Products”, users can view the list of goods from the brand and buy them immediately without leaving Xiaohongshu.

Setting up a store on Xiaohongshu requires lower startup costs and a less complicated procedure compared to Taobao or The disadvantages are the smaller range of consumer reach compared to bigger Chinese e-commerce platforms and the high commission charged on brands.

2. KOLs marketing

Working with KOLs is crucial in China since Chinese consumers assume that online influencers are more trustworthy than “official” ads. Moreover, Xiaohongshu’s utmost value is that it provides useful information and knowledge about anything related to lifestyle, beauty and fashion. Users love discovering things on Xiaohongshu. Before making a purchase, they also go to Xiaohongshu to check out what people talk about that products/brands/services.

GMA-Xiaohongshu-social media marketing china


Therefore, KOLs marketing is critical in influencing such buying behaviours. It is an ideal place to create word of mouth and increase brand awareness, especially for smaller or less well-known brands.

Xiaohongshu favors valuable contents over how popular the writer is. It means a note from even ordinary users, as long as it is very informative, may gain more likes, shares and comments than the one from a big KOL. Therefore, don’t be impressed only by the surface numbers of KOLs. You should check carefully how dedicated KOLs are to producing contents as well as interacting with their fans.




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