Social Media in China. What’s Out There?

Print Today, online social media (OSM) platforms play an important role in our daily lives, and consumers and businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on the Internet. Mainland China, with over 620 million OSM users, has developed a highly dynamic digital marketing environment. Although most popular western websites, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, are banned from the PRC, their Chinese counterparts expand and prosper. Newcomers to the China market, who need to use OSM to promote their business online, still find it challenging to enter the regional social network market. To start with, it’s helpful to be able to speak Chinese, or otherwise, use help from local experts. It’s also crucial to define the target audience and to familiarize yourself with the OSM choices at hand. Besides the obvious RenRen and Sina Weibo, China has other platforms that can work well for your business.

What are the alternatives to Facebook in China

RenRen, previously called Xiaonei, is perceived as the “Facebook of China”. It has more than 150 million registered users, most of whom are university students. Statistics show that there are over 30 million active users per month. One of its major competitors, QZone, is the first and the largest social networking platform in China, and is mainly used by teenagers and young professionals. Furthermore, PengYou provides another “Facebook-like” platform. Though it has fewer active users than RenRen, PengYou actually offers the largest number of registered users online.

What’s the Chinese alternative for Twitter?

Sina Weibo, or the “Chinese Twitter”, was officially launched in 2009, and since then, has managed to attract twice as many users as Twitter. An increasing number of celebrities, both local and Western, are using the platform to connect with their fans. Similar to Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, another macromedia online platform, allows people to share photos and videos. Nevertheless, it looks more like Facebook rather than Twitter, as it aims to unite groups of people. Over 250 million people in China are currently using it.

Are you on Youtube?

Satisfying the demand of a different section of OSM platforms, Youtube’s local counterpart, Youku, has emerged as the world’s second largest video sharing website. It partners with television stations, distributors, and film production companies to ensure content is fresh and relevant. Back in 2012, Youku merged with its biggest competitor, Tudou, which is now in decline.

What else is out there?

Another platform worth mentioning is Douban. It tends to resemble MySpace and mainly targets students and specific interest groups, including literature critics, movie bloggers, and fashion lovers. It has more around 80 million active users per month. Following the concept of Whatsapp, Wechat has become one of the most popular mobile applications in China. Its 100 million users can send images or chat via text and voice messages. A company can set two types of corporate Wechat accounts to communicate directly with their audience. The Service Account is typically used by service-oriented businesses and allows the sending of monthly group messages to their followers. It also allows them to respond to various questions or queries. In contrast, the Subscription Account resembles a mobile newsletter, where companies are allowed to share corporate news and to inform their subscribers about new product launches. China also has own Q&A platforms, namely Zhihu, the direct equivalent of Quora, as well as Baidu Zhidao and Tianya Wenda, which are more like Yahoo Answers. There are also many local-life information platforms, among them Dianping, a restaurant review website, which is perhaps the most powerful in the country. As we see, social media has changed the way in which business is promoted in China. In order to guarantee their success in the local markets, companies need to be active online. However, not all platforms are worth exploring, as building and maintaining a successful OSM account requires a strong commitment and takes time to deliver results. Still, as an old Chinese saying suggests, “if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”.


alarice About the author Ashley Galina Dudarenok studied business and economics in Russia, England and New Zealand and Mainland China.After 5 years in China as a PR manager for an international marketing firm, Ashley moved to Hong Kong in 2010 and started Alarice International ( www.alarice.com.hk) , a China market-entry consultancy. Contact the author at galina@alarice.com.hk