It would be pretty impossible not to have noticed how popular social media has become around the world, but what might not be so well known is that the boom is being led by China.

Research by the McKinsey Global Institute has found that 95% of people living in the big cities in China are registered with at least one social platform, and they are more active users than people in a number of other countries, including the US.

The study also shows that people in China are more likely to purchase products and services if they see them featured on social media, or a friend or trusted figure recommends them on social media.

Why is social media so popular in China?

One explanation could be that the Chinese population tends to be mistrusting of formal institutions and authorities.

If consumers want to find out about a product or service, the preference is towards peer reviews and word-of-mouth (WOM) recommendations from friends or key opinion leaders (KOLs).

The implications for Australian businesses

With the influential nature of social media in China, it’s important that Australian businesses are familiar with popular platforms, types of users, and patterns of use if they want to compete successfully.

Here’s a quick guide.

Popular networks

  • Qzone – social site owned by Tencent with some similarities to MySpace.
  • Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo – microblogging platforms similar to Twitter.
  • Tencent QQ – very popular instant messaging platform.
  • Renren – site used for socialising with some similarities to Facebook. It is popular with younger adults and teens.
  • Kaixin – Facebook-like site preferred by professionals / white-collar workers.
  • WeChat – site mostly similar to WhatsApp but with other added features.
  • Youku – video site much like YouTube in the west.

Types of users

The McKinsey Institute has grouped social network users into a number of different categories. These include:

  • Social enthusiasts – people who use social media a lot for friendships and socialising. This group spends more time on social networks than other user types.
  • Re-senders – these users are similar to what we might call ‘sharers’ of information and posts.
  • Readers – people who read posts but rarely participate in conversations.
  • Opinionated users – these are social media users with strong views and opinions.

Some patterns of use

  • During 2014, social sharing increased by 65% compared to the previous year.
  • According to some sources, the most popular sites in 2014 were Tencent QQ, Qzone, Sina Weibo, and WeChat.
  • According to China Internet Watch, social sites such as WeChat Moments are particularly popular with the ‘post-90s’ generation for obtaining entertainment information, especially in comparison to more traditional media sources.

Tips for making the most of the social media boom

  • Determine what you want to achieve through social media and develop a Chinese digital marketing strategy accordingly.
  • Build a presence designed to reach your target audiences.
  • Make sure to adapt content specifically for Chinese users.
  • Recognise the differences between the networks and design different approaches for each one.
  • Engage with your audience rather than taking a ‘monologue’ approach.

At Digital Crew, we have detailed knowledge of marketing trends in China. If you need assistance in building a social media presence in China, contact us.

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