China’s unprecedented economic rise is well documented. The nation not only boasts the world’s fastest growing economy but also the world’s largest online population with over 649m users. This is the equivalent to double the entire population of the US.

The Chinese social media market has developed under different political, economic and social conditions than in the West. Here are five ways the Chinese social media market differs.

Social Media in China has gone ‘mobile’

In the past few years, China has adopted the internet nationwide with mobile playing an important role in encouraging more people to get online.

In China today more people than ever access the internet from a mobile device, of the 649m population online, 557m of those users (80%) are accessing the internet via their mobile phones as well their PC’s.

This affects how the Chinese engage with social media, often ‘on the go’ and at any place or time. This leads to a very engaged user producing an increasing number of interactions.

smart phone

The growth of WeChat

Alongside the growth of mobile engagement has been the inevitable rise of instant messaging. Wechat is the largest messaging platform in China with over 500 million users. It differs significantly from the Facebook owned ‘Whatsapp’ as it is also a social network and now a transactional payment service. Users can even order taxi’s via their Wechat account.

WeChat have capitalized on the increasing popularity of ‘integration’ whereby the users life is increasingly centred around their mobile device.


Different Channels

Social media developed in a unique way with many domestic brands thriving due to state censorship and regulation. China has thus developed a unique social ecosystem online.

The business insider reports that; “Many of China’s social networks are bigger than the sites most westerners are familiar with”.

– Weibo is China’s answer to Twitter and has double the number of users.

– Renren once thought as the equivalent to ‘Facebook’ is a social network and gaming platform, it has however been declining in recent years.

– Youku is China’s answer to Youtube and has been a huge digital success reporting a 57% increase in revenue from the previous year in their latest financial report.

There are also millions of active users on channels such as QQ, Qzone, Tianya and many more. Social media is starting to replace traditional news media for many users. Trust in traditional sources has eroded so people increasingly turn to social media outlets.

Without a presence on these networks you are invisible in China!


Video channels work very differently in China than they do in the west.

Youku is distinct from YouTube, the websiteis known for longer, more in-depth videos. This caters for the Chinese market as the 40 million weekly users spend, on average, over an hour a day on the site. The amount of time people spend on YouTube in comparison, around 25 minutes, is significantly less.

YouTube is finally starting to embrace original content. Youku is way ahead in this sense. In March it announced that it was doubling its original content budget to $98m whilst more brands than ever are advertising via and engaging with customers on the site.

As social networking goes mobile so does e-commerce.

Online shopping conducted on smartphones, tablets, and other such mobile devices will reach US $334 billion in 2015, mobile shopping will therefore account for an unprecedented 49.7 percent of ecommerce expenditure in China. Mobile commerce on this scale is unique with ‘E marketer’ suggesting sales in China will be 450 percent of those in the US by the end of 2015.


Understanding the Chinese social media market is important and adapting your strategy to cater for the unique user in China is of paramount importance if you want to capture the hearts and minds of the Chinese consumer.


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