Social media in China: The networks that dominate
As at the start of 2022, official data from the China Internet Network Information Center shows China has just over one billion internet users, with internet penetration in the country reaching 73%.
The most dominant social media networks in China are:
- Sina Weibo
- Tencent QQ
In this Asia Markets guide, we provide an overview of each.
One of the most heavily trafficked sites in China is WeChat. Imagine if video calling, payment methods, food delivery, car order, and Facebook were all on one app. Well, it is on WeChat. Starting as a simple messaging app, it has grown into a multi-conglomerate platform.
Created by the China-grown tech giant Tencent, WeChat is number one in China for a reason. Users can essentially centralize any and all online activity into one app. Shop and buy directly through the app and share experiences, like on Facebook or Instagram.
This network extends beyond the everyday person. Businesses use this app to promote themselves and grow. The most unique WeChat feature for businesses is the HTML5 campaigns that generate consumer engagement. These campaigns create interactive advertisements that allow users to engage with content through puzzles and games.
WeChat maintains 1.2 billion monthly users. To put that in perspective, Instagram gets 700 million monthly users.
Also at the top of China’s platforms, cue Sina Weibo. Most similar to Twitter, this app allows users a finite number of characters to share thoughts and could best be described as a microblogging platform.
With millions of users per day and growing Sina Weibo shares the goal of most platforms: to share content and connect. Weibo has roughly double Twitter’s monthly users. Weibo sees activity through:
- Celebrity users
- Business profiles.
Weibo has users all over the world. While China yields the most users, users are also found throughout Europe and the States. Weibo offers a less personal experience and a more fluid network.
With those characteristics, it seems content goes viral more quickly than it would on WeChat.
Read on Asia Markets: What is Weibo?
Taking Tencent QQ into consideration, there seems to be a pattern with China’s leading platforms. Tencent QQ provides various uses, including:
- Online shopping
Also created through China’s Tech Giant, Tencent. QQ refers to a communication software that allows users to sign up. It can also be used through a desktop and provides various features. QQ is best described as an instant messaging platform, but like many others, it has grown beyond that.
QQ held the spot of the largest platform before being taken over by WeChat. Unconcerned, QQ kept up and increased user ability to video chat, text message, and of course, created space for business advertisement.
On-trend with its communication capabilities, QQ translates into several languages, so it’s used internationally.
Paving the way as the most unique Chinese social network, Douban provides users a platform to connect over entertainment topics. Users share their favorite interests, such as:
- Pop culture
Those on the site also create and share their work.
Some might compare it to Reddit, as registered and unregistered accounts can access the platform. For registered users, the site matches your account based on similar interests and makes recommendations based on content shared.
It’s common practice for authors and entertainers to be active on this platform, to connect with their audience and promote their works.
With up to 400 million users per month, you could describe Douban as the app for the influential. It typically includes users that are educated and earn a higher income.
Douyin is the Chinese version of TikTok, and both are owned by the same tech company: ByteDance. They differ in that Douyin is considered to be more dynamic than its counterpart.
Users of Douyin are enabled to use GPS and book hotels through the app. It becomes clear that these Chinese-based platforms include various capabilities and features that can all be accessed in a single app.
However, the main goal is for users to make and view short videos on any topic. It’s easy to identify based on a few markers: videos tend to be no longer than 3 minutes and almost always include music.
Users interact by:
- Creating viral challenges
- Live streams
This site also became a powerful tool for businesses to gain access to the consumer.
Social media sites blocked in China
While China’s social media platforms are exceptionally popular, China maintains a ban on many social media platforms that are popular in the United States and other western countries.
Social media networks currently banned in China include:
The primary reason for this ban is to connect Chinese users with Chinese-developed platforms. This method allows Chinese-developed platforms to gain more traction and grow more popular. It also manages advertisements and directs consumers to agencies participating on the Chinese networks.
Additionally, Chinese-based platforms and companies are more likely to comply with censorship. It’s easier for the government to oversee homegrown networks as opposed to international ones.
Censorship helps avoid content with poor opinions of the government and vulgar content. It also discourages malicious or misinformed information about the economy. The desire is that it will create content more aligned with governmental and cultural values.
Social Media in China: The influencers
In a seperate Asia Markets guide, we provide a regularly updated overview of the top Chinese social media influencers. Read it next here. These influencers are followed by millions, and they’re making millions too!