Three most relevant social media platforms in China

The Chinese social media landscape is much more diversified than the western market. This makes it a very hard to rank the various platforms in order of importance. Still, there are certain networks every western company operating in China should know.

Here’s an overview about the three most important social media platforms in China at the moment. It provides a quick description of each platform and their special features.


1.     WeChat – WhatsApp combined with E-Commerce, payment functionalities and user feeds

Tencent’s WeChat has surpassed the simple functions of an ordinary communication platform, with users booking taxis, tables and flights, transferring money, making investments, shopping and much more. Basically, you can organize your whole life without leaving the app once.

Over 8 billion “red envelopes” were sent over WeChat during Chinese New Year 2016. Through “red envelops” you can send money to a friend through the chat. It will be transferred directly to the bank account the receiver has linked to WeChat. The app accommodated more online transactions over the Chinese New Year period than Paypal had throughout the entirety of 2015 (McEleny, 2016).

The magic sauce

  • Instant messaging combined with e-Commerce
  • The WeChat audience is composed of users that relish in engagement and are open to getting involved in app-based activity, such as shopping via an app, rather than on the web

Brands using it

Both local and international brands from all sectors.

Manchester United for example covered and promoted their China Tour 2016 via WeChat. In their official channel they covered all player appearances and meet and greet sessions, giving away a limited number of tickets to these unique experiences.

How brands use it for marketing

  • Brands can set up of HTML5 mini sites specifically designed for easy access via WeChat (games, shops, news, promotions, etc.)
  • Companies can integrate a Loyalty Card, a CRM tool within WeChat that gives users the opportunity to find nearby locations of retail stores, receive discounts, promotions, points, and rewards. International companies like Starbucks or Costa Coffee provide this to their customers.
  • Influencer marketing

I will get into more detailes in my next article, which will be exclusively about WeChat and it’s features.


2.     SINA WEIBO – the Twitter of China

Sina Weibo attracts the largest number of companies, organisations, public figures and celebrities, each desiring direct communication with consumers.

The magic sauce

  • Weibo has created a new space for discourse and debate for the Chinese community. Official divisions, including the police and local governments have created Weibo accounts to communicate with the public and to receive feedback.
  • Sina Weibo goes far beyond Twitter’s functionalities. It is a microblogging

platform that also offers the option of long-form Weibo – a long form post can be up to 10,000 characters and offers customisation features such as font style and size. It is possible to share multiple images and videos at one time, compose polls and file share (inclusive of PDF, MP3 & DMG)

Brands using it

All global brands with a social media strategy have a Sina Weibo account.

The most followed accounts on Weibo are celebrity accounts. British football superstar David Beckham, boasts almost 6 million followers. Wayne Rooney is followed by 3M (September 2016).

German players include for example Robert Lewandowsky followed by 764K users, Özil by 317K, Philipp Lahm by 205K, Thomas Müller by 150K, Bastian Schweinsteiger by 118K, Manuel Neuer 91K, and Holger Badstuber by 25K users.

Mostly, they copy content from their Facebook or Instagram accounts and add a text in Chinese. Some content is tailored for China. For this year’s mid-autumn festival Thomas Müller even recorded a video speaking Chinese and Götze put up a picture eating a traditional moon cake. FC Barcelona showed a quick video on how to prepare a moon cake (but deleted it afterwards).

Picture of Mario Goetze eating a traditional moon cake (Sina Weibo, 15. Sept 2016)


How brands use it for marketing

  • Interaction and engagement: Weibo is a must-have social platform for both Chinese and global brands to connect with Chinese consumers – Weibo claims a 76% year-on-year increase in interactivity (Custer, 2016)
  • A pool of insights for this increasingly important market (Radarly can provide Weibo insights)
  • Influencer marketing


3.     Tencent QQ – Instant messaging combined with gaming for younger target group

QQ has the largest user base, with almost 1 billion active monthly users. It holds the world record for simultaneous connection to its platform with 210 million users connected at the same time on 3rd of July 2014 at 12:52pm.

The magic sauce

  • The platform synchronises Instant Messaging software (QQ) with other online services and features such as, blogs, microblogs, games, email and online payment
  • It is a desktop and mobile messaging service
  • Great to reach a young target group

Brands using it

Both local and international brands from all sectors use QQ. In July 2014, Xiaomi, the “Chinese Apple” launched an exclusive sale of its Hongmi Smartphone (Linkfluence, 2016).

How brands use it for marketing

  • Email marketing via QQ Mail
  • provides additional data points like current address, education level, industry code
  • Sharing information amongst interest groups

Other really popular networks include:

4.     Baidu Tieba – the Chinese Google including discussion forums based on keywords (the topic FC Bayern München has 860K followers and already 40 Mio. posts)

5.     Zhihu – Q&A website, knowledge community

6.     Momo – the Chinese version of the dating app Tinder

7.     Douban – primary review based social network site in China, focus on books, films and music but expanding their topics at the moment

and so on…

Stay tuned for an article about my favorite platform, WeChat and the phenomena of the red envelops.

Sources / further information:

China’s Tencent Weibo & Tencent QQ Added to Social Login





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