The West is increasingly beginning to focus on the Chinese digital sphere and its various actors. If we tend to think immediately of WeChat, China is gradually unveiling the rising stars of its digital ecosystem.
So who are the main players in the Chinese digital sphere? How do they differ from the platforms we know in the West?
We will first talk about the pillars of the environment, then about the more recent innovative platforms that have emerged in recent years.
WeChat is no longer to be presented. WeChat was part of the first social media platform created in China. Created by the Chinese giant Tencent in 2011 and initially designed as a messaging application, WeChat has become a real platform for managing the lives of its users. A few years later, WeChat launched its own payment function integrated into the WeChat application, thus competing with the giant Alipay (of the Alibaba group). Book flights or train tickets, order dinner, top up your phone plan, and many other services are now available directly from WeChat, payment is made using WeChat Pay. Beyond all its practical features, WeChat has also developed the “Moments” a feed similar to the Facebook feed. It allows you to publish photos, videos, articles, and friends to enjoy, comment and share the post.
Better known internationally as Little Red Book or Red Book, Xiaohongshu is booming, because its business model is based on the phenomenon of social commerce. Social commerce combines the power of social networks with the ease of use of e-commerce platforms. Originally, Xiaohongshu was a platform for exchanging good advice on buying luxury products abroad. Since then it has become the preferred platform for fashion and beauty KOLs who can add a link directly on their photo to allow their community to buy their favorite product directly from the Xiaohongshu application. Xiaohongshu is now one of the platforms with the highest level of trust from users, a real asset for companies wishing to operate on the platform.
Example of Xiaohongshu post with the integration of product links in the picture
Zhihu is one of these platforms regularly assimilated to their Western counterparts. Zhihu is originally a Q&A site (like the giant Quora). However, these features are much more developed than the American version. Zhihu brings together an educated and informed user community in search of information and knowledge. They are a very different base from communities from other Chinese social networks that are generally looking for fun and entertaining content. Zhihu, therefore, offers not only question-and-answer services, publication of articles, conferences on various live topics, and the organization of online debates. Unique features developed only on Zhihu.
Better known internationally as Tiktok, Douyin is the Chinese application of mini entertainment videos. Created in 2016, the application already has more than 500 million users and has also started to develop e-commerce functionalities to take advantage of the evolution of social commerce in China. The large KOL community and their army of followers are a major factor in attracting businesses that want to set up campaigns on the Chinese platform.
Douyin, KOLs’ favorite platform
#5 Jinri Toutiao
With nearly 110 million users active daily, Jinri Toutiao (literally Title of the Day) is one of China’s most popular information and content platforms. Like Douyin, she is part of the ByteDance group. The strength of Toutiao? The use of artificial intelligence via complex algorithms to organize content in a relevant way for each user. Thanks to this system, Toutiao is a major asset for businesses wishing to promote their business on the platform. Indeed, Toutiao has much more powerful targeting tools than competing platforms, allowing companies to optimize their campaigns.
WeChat, Weibo and Baidu are indeed major digital players in China. However, their competitors operating in various industries have unique and specific characteristics to the Chinese market, offering multiple opportunities to foreign businesses. These platforms, often mistakenly assimilated as bad copies of their Western counterparts are in fact more developed and much more advanced in terms of technology. Perhaps this dynamic will push American platforms to surpass themselves in order to catch up with the considerable lead that China is taking.
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