China houses the most number of people in the world, with a population of 1.3 billion to boot. This ranks it as a highly influential country with loads of potential for businesses and marketers alike. It is also a country that has a wide range of local social media platforms, some of them similar to Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, but many of them comprises of unique user features like integrated banking and health monitoring.
Out of its 1.3 billion people, 649 million are internet users, which is almost double of the entire US population! 81% of chinese netizens access the internet on a mobile device, and now messaging services like QQ and WeChat are now the most used social networks, not Weibo (something like Facebook). In fact, Weibo’s popularity is declining with each passing year, as more teenagers and 20- something adults prefer using messaging services to ensure greater privacy and ease of use.
The top online activities in China are: Instant messaging, online news, search engine and online music. 70% of social media users are under the age of 35, with 30% in the age bracket of 26-30 years old. The reason why QQ and WeChat is so popular nowadays is because China has banned famous social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any of Google’s sites since 2009, and so the only other easy alternative is one of China’s homegrown platforms.
The top 3 social media platforms in China in 2015 are: Ten Cent QQ, Q Zone and Weibo, with 830, 755 and 600 million users respectively. Ten Cent QQ is an instant messaging service that also offers social games, music, shopping, microblogging and group and voice chat. Q Zone is a social networking website which users can write blogs, share photos, music and videos. Weibo is a microblogging website and is similar to Twitter and Facebook.
Although the penetration of homegrown social media is high in China, there are key differences between them and the global platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter. For example, there has been many comparisons in the online world between WeChat and Whatsapp. However, what I believe is that as different software and apps each have their own weaknesses and strengths, it is not fair to compare them side by side as they have different uses and their target user demographic is different too.
Both WeChat and Whatsapp are instant messaging software designed for mobile users. You can send pictures, videos, music to the recipient, and also add them in chat groups to make collaboration and discussion easier. WeChat is optimised for Chinese consumers, so there are some features that Whatsapp does not have. An example is the Hold To Talk feature, that works when you are just lazy to type in what you want to say. As the Chinese language is significantly different from the English language, it is more difficult and time consuming to type than to talk.
WeChat is also a social network, in the form of WeChat Moments. However, the difference between Facebook and WeChat is that only the people in your contact list can see your posts and your interactions in the feed. This makes for a higher sense of privacy and security as strangers around the world cannot see your activity. China’s social media landscape is vast, varied and has many major technology players. The trend of more people using social media is not slowing down yet, and it is exciting to see rapid changes and developments in this area as the online population of China continues to grow.