For a country with 1.4 billion people, you’d think social media is big in China. And it is, but it is not just social media like elsewhere in the world, it’s social media ‘with Chinese characteristics’. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are inaccessible (or officially: ‘running slow’) in China, mostly due to censorship reasons. The Great Firewall of China keeps control over the openly accessible information flows between China and the rest of the world. The fact that the large global social media networks are not publicly accessible in China led to a whole separate world of social media networks – especially for mainland China.
Here is a brief (and by far not exhaustive) and general overview on how and where to stay connected n China:
- Pengyou means friend in Chinese and is similar to Facebook in that users can connect as friends and and follow each other. Companies are investing more and more into site so that users can become fans and follow company news.
- RenRen is mostly used by college students and is the closest imitation of Facebook among the Chinese social platforms.
- Kaixin 001 is also somewhat like Facebook and is mostly used by white collars workers. USers upload photos, write blogs and play games.
- Sina Weibo is China’s biggest microblogging site, it was originally close to the functionality of Twitter and has meanwhile added many additional features and has become the most popular social network used in China.
- Tencent Weibo is Sina Weibo’s biggest competitor, it is connected to the messaging service QQ (comparaple to Skype) and generally attracts users from second and third tier cities.
- YouKu / Sohu TV / Tudou / Iqiyi are similar to YouTube with the difference that a gigantic choice of material which is copyrighted in the rest of the world (such as current TV series or movies), is available to view for free. These streaming sites are one of the reasons why TV exposure is becoming less and less among urban young Chinese netizens.
- Baidu is China’s version of Google, which is ‘running slow’ in China as well. It is China’s largest search engine, with many additional features such as forums or discussion walls. Baidu result listings are less organic and more based on paid placements.
- QZone is similar to MySpace, letting users blog, keep diaries, listen to music and share photos.
- Douban is another Chinese social network resembling MySpace with a user base of well educated younger users, many of which follow pop culture and art. People with similar interests can be connected to one another.
- Diandian is similar to tumblr and serves as a picture blogging network.
- WeChat is similar to WhatsApp (which is not actually blocked in China) but comes with many additional features. Almost every mobile user in China uses this app and people even start to prefer exchanging Wechat IDs rather than phone numbers. WeChat ofers a combination of features from Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Instagram and location based services.
- Taobao is China’s answer to online shopping and resembles sites like Ebay and Amazon, but on a gigantic scale. From clothing, books, and household tools over food, furniture and pets to translation services and Exam prep courses there is barely something one can’t find on Taobao. Favorable tax regulations led to an unseen boom of private people and businesses opening Taobao stores over the last years.
All of these social media networks may not be the exact replicas of what you are accustomed to from their global counterparts. They each have their own characteristics and target users (in terms of professional and social status, city tiers etc) and need to be well chosen when putting together a China online marketing strategy.