For the international marketer, China represents one of the largest digital audiences in the world. With over 550m now online, 400m connecting via mobile, and over 300m on social media in China, the digital audience is growing fast. This article looks at six key social networks in China.
The world of social media in China is a complicated and rather fragmented web, with several platforms serving different social functions. But for marketers, being able to target the right user base with the right advertising format for their brand is crucial.
With this in mind, below are six key networks to keep an eye on:
250 million users
Often dubbed the ‘Chinese Facebook', RenRen is China’s leading real-name social network that intends to IPO soon. With 250 million registered users and 40 million active users per month, Renren is poised to take over as the social networking platform for the college-educated population in China, and is looking to expand beyond its predominantly student user base.
Used by more than 22% of the Chinese population, Sina Weibo is a microblogging service that threatens China’s social networks with a new model. Its features now far surpass those of Twitter, including threaded comments, pictures, videos, IM, and LBS. Just as American celebrities communicate with their fans via Twitter, Chinese celebrities depend on Weibo as a way to connect with their fans and drive popularity.
Similar to Micrsoft's Windows Live messenger, China’s 'largest social network' is built on the back of the active accounts for Tencent’s QQ Messenger, rather than a standard profile-based social network. In fact, Tencent’s social networking site Pengyou has lower numbers of active users than Weibo, and Renren. However, because of its multiple platforms, it maintains the biggest community in China in terms of sheer registered users. Tencent is also aggressively pushing its Weibo (microblog) service in order to compete with Sina. It claims over 100 million registered users, but again with Tencent there’s the concern of quality over quantity.
Douban has perhaps the strongest community of any social network in China. It’s never had explosive growth or a massive user base (in China terms), but it attracts young urban Chinese who together over movies, books, music, and events. A good network for hipsters and creatives.
Kaixin001 gained popularity amongst white-collar workers via its social games and post-forwarding features. But as the social games mania has died down and the appeal of its post-forwarding has been usurped by Sina Weibo, Kaixin001 is now struggling. Various insiders report that user numbers have declined precipitously.
There’s no question that the mobile space will be the next battleground in China for social networks, with more than 69% of the Chinese population accessing the internet through mobile devices. Wechat — formerly known as Weixin — is a mobile voice and text app with social features like “friend discovery.” Although not initially a typical social network, Wechat has continually added more social networking features to its product, including a photo-sharing platform and an LBS component. Several location-based services such as Jiepang (a FourSquare-like app) and Momo (a dating app) have gained popularity in the past year in their respective markets.