With a hefty estimate of about 641 million Internet users, China is rising up the ranks of social media usage. It is said that China has the worlds largest market for social media users, along with being the most populated. But the state of social online web in China is a little different from the rest of the world.
It is no secret that the Chinese have a knack of flipping the usual coin for the better. China’s Government has imposed a number of restrictions on the Internet usage in the country. As a result, many of the social media websites that form an integral part of modern day, in the rest of the world, are banned in China. But that does not stop them from making their own, (in the philosophy of Daft Punk) ‘Harder Better Faster Stronger’ version of it.
Guarded away by the Great Firewall Of China are the universal favorites – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Google +, Gmail and YouTube among the others. But despite these challenges, there are about 641 million Internet users in China, and the Internet penetration is an approximate of 46.03%. This has given rise to a number of Domestic Chinese Internet companies to fill in the blanks for all the social media lovers in the country.
It is also said that social media users are not concentrated on only a couple of popular social networks like in the other parts of the world. There are actually a lot of networks that exceed a 100 million active users. The social media market in the country shows extreme interest and is largely categorized by the main usage modes. Here’s a look at some of the major Chinese versions of modern day social media networking.
Known for its striking similarity to Google, Baidu is the Chinese search engine that says it all. It reflects a home page and ad revenue model just like the search engine giant. It is also introducing a discussion forum Post Bar (Teiba.Baidu.com) and a Q&A website – Baidu Knows.
Baidu’s popularity rose when Google put a halt on china based searches due to a little rough housing with the Chinese government over censorship.
As a platform that is quite similar to Skype, QQ offers a number of functions to Chinese users such as Instant Messaging, TM, video chat, voice chat etc. You can also transfer files, on and offline, which makes it a comprehensive substitute for much of their online social activities. It’s really hard to find an individual in China that does not have a QQ account.
Tencent first released QQ in China in the year 1999. It has expanded to include number of other services such as, music, microblogging, online shopping and social games. Like any other online service, having been an older player in the game QQ had to take up some updates in order to stay relevant. Some of which included even releasing an instant messaging app called Mobile QQ. They’ve also joined the mobile space by introducing the QQ wallet, which in turn offers you deals on restaurants, shopping and even a health monitoring feature.
Another Tencent presentation, WeChat has become a force to reckon with in the online Chinese space. The Chinese equivalent of WhatsApp – they have a host of intriguing features such as – group chat, video call, walkie talkie, and more. In 2014, WeChat recorded an estimated 438 million active monthly users.
Competing with its rival (WhatsApp) WeChat includes the ability to gift your loved ones a red pocket during the Chinese New Year, upgrade while gaming, buy shoes and even book a taxi.
Pleasing the brands has always been a plus with WeChat. Brands have a number of ways now to engage with their users, using this app. They can set up a WeChat service account, which lets them interact with their target audience. This also helps them send across marketing material to the users.
Often called China’s “Twitter Clone”, Weibo has been booming off the charts. Although much like Twitter, Weibo is believed to be more fun than its American counterpart by some users. It’s a great way for users and brands to interact and has a number of features that let you post videos, live broadcasts, etc.
Popularized in the younger market, Weibo has a huge amount of Asian celebrities, business tycoons, brands and even media figures as a part of its user base.
It was initially launched as Sina Weibo, but eventually shed its prefix and became “Weibo” last year. In September 2014, Weibo had a beastly, 167 million monthly active users, and its third quarter revenues grew 58% year over year. It is no doubt that whenever you hear something trending in Chinese news it somehow got started predominantly on Weibo. Let’s also not forget the “Brother Orange” episode that brought together a man from China and a BuzzFeed employee to the Ellen show.
If you do happen to take a trip to China, you should definitely explore the difference in their reactions to Facebook. There’s one question that most people will surely ask you – “What is Facebook?” This is because the country has platforms that mimic this social giant and make perfect substitutes.
Much like Facebook, RenRen sports features like creating a profile, a friend list, fan pages and even instant messaging. The cherry on it all would be how it even mimics Facebook’s layout, colors and their features to some extent. But this doesn’t take away from its popularity and utility.
Although having a number of creative social features, RenRen did make some mistakes in its stepping into the future. With mobile apps taking over at a growing rate it failed to keep up with the mobile revolution. This has caused its user base to decline and follow the likes of MySpace according to online social networking aficionados. Foreign brands still use RenRen as a way to communicate with their users in China and it is said they are eventually to take over the college educated population in china in a big way!
Alibaba is China’s biggest retailer. Founded in 1999 by Jack Ma, it connects Chinese users to pretty much any product of their liking. Imagine a concoction of Google, Amazon and ebay, with a tiny amount of “Chemical X Factor” – Yep! That’s Alibaba.
Alibaba’s consumer-to-consumer portal Taobao, similar to eBay.com, features nearly a billion products and is one of the 20 most-visited websites globally. The Group’s websites accounted for over 60% of the parcels delivered in China by March 2013, and 80% of the nation’s online sales by September 2014. Alipay, an online payment escrow service, accounts for roughly half of all online payment transactions within China.
YouTube has a number of doppelgangers, but its Chinese twin Youku is probably the most popular. After having YouTube blocked in China, it became a need of the day to have a similar platform provide the same exact services.
Youku is pretty much a copycat of YouTube, from the uploading of videos, sharing and comment sections below, it will provide you with all you need to conquer the vlogging world of China.
Taking a $50 Million investment from Providence Equity Partners, (also a Hulu investor) Iqiyi was launched by Baidu in 2010. Baidu’s search data helps in identifying what Chinese Internet users want to watch and helps put Iqiyi as a major player in online video.
Qiyi still plays a major role in watching videos online and has been on a steady rise.
Trudging along the footsteps of Expedia, cTrip is one of the biggest online travel websites in China. Its annual revenues are estimated to be well over $500 million. Much like Expedia, they sell, domestic as well as international air tickets, holiday travel packages, and even hotel bookings.
There are some upgrades to cTrip that are well known. Unlike a number of other websites, cTrip also helps accommodate its users that aren’t well equipped with online payments and credit cards. In such cases they will actually send a courier to collect cash. There is a downside to everything, and cTrip does have to face certain legal restrictions and visa complications etc.
Nothing says fun like a little judgment session. Right on top with other online social trends is our need to talk about food and other services. Trying out a new place now has more to do with posting our views about it, rather than enjoying the actual experience. But this of course has a plus point when it comes to social media.
Dianping’s launch predates Yelp, which was founded in 2004. Dianping is China’s biggest consumer reviews website. It started off like every other food review platform and concentrated mainly on restaurant experiences. But they have now expanded to covering other services and stores as well. Dianping had more than 190 million monthly active users and more than 60 million reviews of restaurants and other local businesses. Its service covers more than 12 million local businesses in about 2,300 cities across China
These platforms are just a small fraction of what the Chinese social network actually encompasses, but needless to say, they’ve found their very own way around things. With impressive substitutes, and sometimes even better features than the original idea, China accounts for a brilliant social media platform experience.