China’s Social Media Landscape

As China’s online community is expected to reach 700 million by the end of this year, the opportunities for business to engage with these savvy online consumers is boundless, writes Jessica Haddad.

China has the largest population in the world, at 1.3 billion people, it is so big, that it is also currently the world’s second largest economy with a GDP of US$8.23 trillion – with that in mind – don’t forget to take into account that China also has more than 1 hundred billionaires, more than 1 million millionaires and it is the world’s single largest consumer market with a middle class of more than 630 million, ready and willing to spend. In addition to this, China has the largest online user-base of 513 million people and it is predicted that this figure is to rise to 718 million people this year!

That is more than triple the total of 245 million online users in the United States alone. China’s digital marketing and social media landscape is unique to China and extending your understanding of Chinese social media can provide you with the valuable insight needed to move your business forward. Social media platforms in China are developed with their own Chinese cultural values in mind; with different capabilities and different user-bases.

China’s online users spend more than 40 percent of their time online, more specifically on social media. In 2010, the number of users who accessed social media via mobile technologies increased to over 100 million users. China’s social media has a greater influence on purchasing decisions for Chinese consumers than in any other country. This is one of the most important cultural characteristics of social media usage in China. In 2012, this was demonstrated when Taobao (China’s equivalent to eBay) doubled its US$1.5 billion in sales during the Unites States’ Cyber Monday – the biggest day in the history of US e-commerce, with an estimated US$3.06 billion worth of sales on China’s Taobao site on Singles Day.

So how do you reach and influence Chinese consumers using popular social media platforms? Firstly, social media marketers need to acknowledge that Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Google+ and other Western platforms do not exist in China and that different social media strategies will need to be implemented.

So to access the 718 million online users you will need to be aware of, and understand China’s popular social media platforms such as QZone, Tencent Weibo, Sina Weibo, WeChat, Youku, Mogujie and many others. In Chinese, “Weibo” means micro-blog, so for those looking for the equivalent of Facebook, Twitter and Google+ you will need to determine whether you would use Sina, Tencent/QQ, or a different social media platform all together.

How do you decide, as an organisation, whether to use YouTube’s equivalent Youku, or to leverage the users of the Pintrest-like sites like Mogujie and Meilishou? When looking at entering into the Chinese market, businesses need to consider cultural Chinese values as these are embedded within the Chinese social media landscape. Online Chinese consumers are more likely to consider purchasing a product because of its positive representation on social media sites and when a friend or acquaintance recommends it on a social media network.

This works almost the same way as the older tradition of ‘Guanxi’ and signifies the embedded cultural significance of networks, relationships and trust that the Chinese value.

Weibo (micro-blogs), mobile social and video content shared on social platforms are generally relevant for all marketers but need to be assessed based on relevance to your industry.

Understand that different social media platforms attract different users; For example, consumers who favour Sina Weibo tend to be in higher income brackets and that fashion brands could focus on the use of Pinterest-type sites with a female demographic.

Taking into account that search is still by far the largest source of content, with 80 percent of users still employing that tool Finally, making sure you cater to social media platforms such as WeChat designed for smart phones and tablets, as this is a rapidly growing trend in China.

*The inaugural, ‘The China Digital Marketing and Social Media Summit 2013’ hosted by The China Gap will be held on October 24 in Sydney. To learn more on how to fast track your success, keep up-to-date and gain the know-how from educators and experts in Digital Marketing and Social Media from China and get involved in the summit, visit: www.thechinagap.com/

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