Chinese Social Media 101 ~ A Glimpse Beyond the Great Wall

Chinese Social Media 101

Did you hear the great news? On October 8, HootSuite launched a bunch of new stuff for Chinese users! In addition to translating the HootSuite into Traditional Chinese (with Simplified Chinese on the way), we also added Sina Weibo integration. This may have left a few people wondering, what is this Weibo thing anyways?

We have decided to put together the following primer on Chinese social media for those of you who are interested in getting to know it a bit better.

The State of Social Media in China

Chinese internet users can’t all be lumped together; their culture is diverse in history, location and language. Aside from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, there are large Chinese speaking populations around the world. There’s tons of social networks for Chinese speakers, but we’re  focusing on the largest and most popular.

Many people in the West know that China filters the internet. As such, social media sites we use heavily like Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube, are blocked. What’s surprising though is the usage of social media among Chinese internet users.

There are 514 million internet users in China and an estimated 54% use social media. This means that China leads the world in total amount of social media users – these users are spending their time on a few massive sites.

Chinese Social Media Giants

1. QQ and Qzone

Starting out as something similar to MSN Messenger, QQ has grown into much more. QQ and Qzone offer instant messaging, social profiles and posting, as well as a host of other services that have garnered them over 700 million users as of September 2011.

2. Sina Weibo

Weibo, which means micro-blogging, exploded in popularity over the last several years. Leading the Weibo charge is popular site Sina Weibo. With over 300 million users in 2011, it is one of the largest social networks in the world. 

Many people think of Sina Weibo as the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, but in use, it is actually more like the Chinese lovechild of Twitter and Facebook. Like Twitter, you can send out short messages (and with Chinese, a 140 character limit lets you say a LOT), use replies and mentions. Like Facebook, you can comment on posts, like them and add lots of media-rich content.

3. Renren

Popular amongst the college crowd, Renren looks, feels and functions much like Facebook. In their pre-IPO release, Renren estimated 31 million active users. As these tend to be among the more educated and wealthy of China, many view the network as significant despite the lower numbers relative to networks like QQ and Sina Weibo.

4. Tencent Weibo

The second largest Weibo service, Tencent Weibo is operated by QQ. Tencent tends to feel much more like Twitter than Sina, with a cleaner layout and a larger focus on user experience.

Though presently smaller than Sina, both in users and traffic, many people are waiting to see which service wins out in the long run as Tencent can tap into the massive QQ user base.

Dipping Your Feet in the Ocean


The growth, engagement and total number of users in Chinese social networks make it a compelling place to be. As in the Western world, people in China are finding themselves juggling multiple social networks. Consumer brands and businesses are also using these platforms to connect with users.

HootSuite plans on continuing to expand our support for Chinese social networks, allowing users who straddle Western and Chinese networks to easily use them all.  

What’s your experience with Chinese social media?

We’re working on what we think you’ll like, but we want to know what you would like. How can HootSuite help you? Want a particular app or feature added? Let us know.

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Author: Jacob Schroeder

Jacob Schroeder has written 3 posts for the HootSource blog..

11 comments
Crystal Jiang
Crystal Jiang

Thanks Ken for your insights. Tencent and Sina Weibo are both two popular Chinese micro-blogging sites that were frequently requested by Chinese internet users to be integrated into our dashboard. We are really glad to be able to help bridge different cultures.

WeChat is powerful in terms of its functionality and its potential to become a platform for maketing campaigns.

Please keep your insights coming and share with us.

- Crystal

Ken Gordon
Ken Gordon

Excellent article and today's announcement of the integration of Tencent Weibo. Following my first visit to China last year, I have been using Tencent Weibo and relying on Google chrome to translate pages. I signed up for QQ and also Weixo (now renamed WeChat).

Following the same rules as for twitter (and given the translation is not 100% correct) I am getting a fascinating into Chinese culture and the basic things people worry about. I get the same buzz from Tencent that I used to get from twitter when i first started using it. There are a few bells and whistles that make it compelling and engaging. I am sure they will be copied by western social media sooner or later. I have a bunch of followers (or listeners) some of which regularly communicate with me. It's a fantastic window onto a different culture for the curious.

Charlie
Charlie

@Jacob, Hi mate, We are a marketing Company based in Cairns, Australia. A very popular Chinese destination especially this time of the year. We are currently looking at ways to engage the social media space for clients to expose their tourism business to potential holiday makers prior to departing. I use HootSuite but i am very new atm to it all.

I look forward to your feedback.

Connor Meakin
Connor Meakin

Hi Charlie. We can definitely help your efforts. The key is finding where your audiences is online. Beyond Twitter and Facebook, you need to research and figure out what other social networks your prospective clients hangs out on. After that, start 'listening' in to relevant conversations regarding your industry.

Geo-located Twitter searches within HootSuite are a great way to do this. Start by setting up search streams for key words based around your your industry (namely tourism based). Also, Facebook's new 'Open Graph Search' is something to experiment with as well.

Let me know if I can assist with anything else.

-Connor

feiya
feiya

It's really good to see hootsuite finally working on chinese social networks.

Margot唐
Margot唐

@Jacob I might not be good enough at maths but I do not understand how Tencent can claim 700 millions users while it is commonly admitted than"only" more than 500 millions Chinese users are reported in 2012 .

Jacob S
Jacob S

Great question, and one that I wondered about myself.

One explanation might be that some people have more than one account. That seems like a a stretch to account for 200 million users though.

What may be most likely is the huge amount of Chinese speaking people who live outside of Mainland China. People in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and in the massive Chinese expat community around the world also frequently use QQ.

The 514 million users number 2011, so it is a little bit old already, though it is the freshest number I've seen.

Jeff
Jeff

Do you think once they build up some cash the Chinese social media companies will start to expand into other countries?

Jacob S
Jacob S

They are definitely looking at it. Several networks mentioned are starting to tinker with English versions. These are meant to be friendly to the international crowd. How good of a job they do expanding beyond the 'Sinosphere' will remain to be seen!

Anton Grantham
Anton Grantham

Thank you for the update. This is huge. I am assumming I can intergrate some of these social networks into hootsuite. We all have great products, but great products is no good without customer reach. Hootsuite has broken the social network barrier.Now I see my upgrade was well worth it.