It is no mystery, China is a hyper-digitized country and social media plays a crucial role in the branding and positioning strategy of companies (foreign and non-foreign). Chinese social media are completely different from Western ones; therefore, it is not always easy to know which one to choose and why.
Here is a list of the main Chinese social media, how they work, target audiences, pros and cons.
WeChat (微 信) with its one billion users holds a unique place in the Chinese social media landscape, but has actually become much more than just social media. WeChat was born as an instant messaging app, it is often compared to Facebook, for its dominance, and WhatsApp for its focused aspect on the chat, but the confrontation stops there.
It is actually an entire ecosystem where it is possible to:
- Send messages
- Make audio and video calls
- Create stories on WeChat Channel
- Pay both in physical and online stores (Wechat Pay)
- Create and share text, image and video content in Moments
- Shopping online in WeChat Stores
- Ordering food or deliveries
And so on…
As we have seen, everyone in China is on WeChat and this is not a saying. If a company has an interest in entering the Chinese market, it must be there. Not being on WeChat gives the same image of a company that does not have a website in the West (strange!) And in fact WeChat is used as a search engine by potential business partners and consumers to see if and how you are present. Unfortunately, the very famous APP is not a brand awareness platform: the comparison with the website is spot on, WeChat doesn’t shows content to users spontaneously or in association with followers (as happens on Facebook or Instagram) so to acquire followers you must actually let them know that you are present or bring them into the account. How? Through advertising, influencers, by placing the QR code of your official account in visible points (we talk about it here ).
Promoting the WeChat account id is actually very expensive, so our advice is to work on brand awareness in other platforms and then build loyalty on WeChat. In fact, if WeChat isn’t a great app for brand awareness, it’s great for communicating directly with your customers and keeping them loyal to the brand. On the app you can create games, sweepstakes, newsletters and more to keep your customers active and connected.
- 1 billion users
- Works as a website in china
- Great for building customer loyalty
- Not suitable for brand awareness
- Expensive promotion
Weibo (微 博) has long been called the “Chinese Twitter”, but in 2022 it is fair to say that it has grown far beyond its Western counterpart. It is one of the “oldest” social media in China, born in 2009, and in fact a microblogging platform. It is more open than WeChat, here people not only post, share and interact, but also get updated on trends and news. This is where content goes viral and KOLs can create their own online communities.
Here, too, it is possible to create company accounts and promote, in a slightly more open way than on WeChat. Weibo also has its own live streaming platform, called Yizhibo, which has quickly become popular thanks to live streams organized by KOLs. In addition, brands can link their Taobao pages to Weibo and thus facilitate the sale of products online.
Finally, the Weibo algorithm worked a in a similar way to that of Facebook and Instagram, showing users potentially interesting content for them. Adv’s system is also better than WeChat’s and allows you to reach various market niches at a reasonable price.
That said, the app is also infamous for its fake profiles; therefore, choose your communication partners carefully here.
- 500 million users
- Open platform with algorithm showing useful content to users
- Reasonably priced promotion
- A little dated for the new generations
- Many fake accounts
Xiaohongshu （小红 书） is also called the Little Red Book, or sometimes just “RED” for short. It’s an Instagram-like app, mainly used by young Chinese people to share photos and videos of the clothes they wear, the food they eat and of the places they are visiting.
80% of the community on RED is female; hence, it is a great platform to promote your products among Chinese women. Another important fact: over 70% of users are Millennials, so it’s the app to be in if you want to promote your brand among the thirty-year-olds from China.
It is arguably the best non-video content brand awareness platform in China at the moment. Just like Instagram it gives great visibility to photographic content that lasts over time within the app and that becomes viral the more people interact with it. Furthermore, the platform is extremely committed to fighting fake accounts and buying followers, so it guarantees a certain level of authenticity, especially when talks about KOL and KOC.
Finally, you can open a shop directly on XioHongShu and sell your products. The App is not particularly popular for e-commerce purchases but it is an excellent support for market tests or launches of new products.
- 300 million users
- Most users are millennial women
- Great for brand awareness
- Great for product launches and market tests
- Smaller than other social media
- E-commerce not particularly developed
Douyin （抖 音） is a short video social platform where you can create and share short videos with special effects. The app is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, which first released Douyin in September 2016 for iOS and Android in China .
In the West it’s called TikTok and is available in over 150 markets and 75 languages, securing its place as the world’s # 1 micro-video platform. 57% of Douyin / TikTok users worldwide are located in China, where it has around 800 million active users. The number of users has increased by 200% in just 2 years and the app is particularly popular with Millennials and Gen Z.
From a marketing point of view, brands can take advantage of this large user base and very high engagement to promote, however, the content must have the right tone for the platform, must be published consistently and must not be intrusive. It’s not always possible for brands to produce large amounts of micro-videos and use the playful and informal tone popular on DouYin. TikTok is truly great for creating challenges and for allowing users to engage and demonstrate their creativity. This tactic encourages mass participation and results in a social buzz that can lead many users to a specific brand.
- World’s largest microvideo app
- Aimed at Millennials and GenZ
- Requires constant video production
- Request content in line with the tone of the app
Kuaishou （快手） is Douyin’s main competitor in China, it first spread to lower tier Chinese cities and is now starting to close the gap in larger cities. The app allows users to share short clips of 15 seconds. While not very popular outside of China, Kuaishou has a strong user base within the country, second only to TikTok in terms of monthly active users (500 million). In addition to this, the platform is really well integrated with the main Chinese e-commerce, which makes it great for online sales.
As a social media, video and live streaming platform, Kuaishou offers many tools that both brands and influencers can leverage to increase their visibility in the Chinese market and more specifically in 3rd and 4th tier cities.
- 500 million users
- Very common in 3rd and 4th level cities
- Great e-commerce integration
- Requires constant video content
- Less used than DouYin
Youku （优 酷） isn’t the first site you’ll think of when it comes to Chinese social media platforms, but the video sharing site has its niche in this market. Like YouTube, it is a video hosting service. With its 500 million users, YouKu is the most popular long video platform in China.
Despite the rise of short videos and live streaming platforms, long videos still exist and are used, especially when it comes to training and “how-to” videos. On the platform it is possible to publish content but also advertising in the form of videos or banners, the publication system is very similar to that of YouTube .
- Largest long video platform in China
- Good visibility for advertising
- Long videos are becoming less and less popular, we don’t know how much more will be in vogue
Bilibili （哔 哩 哔 哩） is the largest pop culture and entertainment community for the younger generation, with 72 million daily active users (of which 86% are under 35). In other words, one in two people in China is on Bilibili.
Last year, 3,000 sponsored videos published on Bilibili entered the list of the most sought after content in China, covering as many as 1,000 brands from 27 different countries. The scope of Bilibili is such as to influence the performance of listed securities. For example, a 40-second video about Bilibili increased a company’s market value by RMB 550 million ($ 86.3 million).
The strong point of BiliBili is advertising: Bilibili is trying – successfully – to change the perception of advertising in China. On this platform, advertisements are often so creative that they become something viewers look forward to. This shift in perception is the driving force behind Bilibili’s ad success, with consumers willing to listen rather than ignore, allowing the advertising market to expand at an incredible pace.
The success of these promotional techniques is so high that the platform has been called a “bank for brands”, meaning it acts as a bank that generates long-term interest for companies. What do you mean? The top 100 sponsored advertising videos last year continue to grow in views and the search volume to the brands that posted them has tripled.
- Great if the target is Gen Z
- Great system for advertising
- Very influential
- Requires very creative video content
Zhihu （知 乎） the Chinese version of Quora, is a popular online social and Q&A platform in China. Zhihu has attracted social elites from the very beginning such as lawyers, independent consultants, IT professionals and entrepreneurs who want to share their expertise with others and gain information in return.
Zhihu’s 220 million users are promising consumers as people with high income, high consumption and good education. According to statistics 30% of Zhihu users earn more than 10,000 RMB per month.
The app is highly visible in search engines, such as Baidu; therefore, it offers itself as a kind of free SEM platform. In addition to publishing useful, long-lasting content, ZhiHu allows collaboration with the platform’s KOLs, who are essentially the most popular here.
- 220 million users
- Users with high power spending
- It is necessary to produce useful content for the community
Toutiao （头条） is a news and information content platform, founded by Zhang Yiming in 2012. It is one of the most popular apps in China, with over 120 million active users every day.
Toutiao aggregates news and videos from a wide range of sources, including traditional media, online publications, blogs, and leading Chinese social media sites like Weibo and WeChat. It has been praised for its sophisticated algorithms that personalize content for each user. In 2017, Toutiao was acquired by Bytedance for $ 2 billion.
Toutiao’s most significant strength is its “intelligent news feed” in which through artificial intelligence, the algorithm customizes and selects content for each user. The same goes for advertising: it is extremely targeted and targeted at the right audience.
- Great blogging platform
- Very high audience targeting
- Targeted advertising
- Requires high quality and interesting content
- Requires creation of usable news-style content
Do any of these platforms seem suitable for your needs?
Contact us to find out which strategy is best for your brand!