China's Answer to Social Networking


Sophie Doran | December 22, 2011

A go-to guide for social media platforms in China, with some compelling statistics as to why brands should embrace Chinese netizens on homegrown networks

A go-to guide for social media platforms in China, with some compelling statistics as to why brands should embrace Chinese netizens on homegrown networks

Almost 500 million Chinese citizens are online and a quarter of all social network users in the world are Chinese. However, because government policies in the country block many western social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, a vibrant domestic ecosystem of similar online platforms has emerged. Here, G+ takes a look at different players in the space and what makes China’s digital communications landscape particularly unique.

The Great Firewall of China

In 2003, China’s Ministry of Public Security began “The Golden Shield Project,” an attempt to put controls over Internet use in place and prevent the sharing of information that could threaten national security, disclose state secrets, or damage the government’s reputation.

In 2010, about 1 million articles were censored each day in China. Additionally, 2010 saw 41 percent fewer websites in the country than the previous year.

Copycat Platforms

Due to the blocking of popular Western social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube, China has developed domestic sites that display similar functionality to their foreign counterparts.

Launched: 2005, Famous equivalent: Facebook
Like Facebook, started as a social networking platform available exclusively to college students and – although now open to the general public – it still remains most popular with those attending university. In April 2011, the company announced it had reached 31 million active monthly users and filed to raise $584 million in a U.S. IPO.

Kaixin 001
Launched: 2008, Famous equivalent: Facebook
Kaixin001 allows users to upload photos, write blogs, and download Farmville-esque apps such as Happy Farm and Friends for Sale. More so than Renren, it appeals to a broader member base of young urban professionals.

Sina Weibo
Launched: 2008, Famous equivalent: Twitter
Since its launch, Sina Weibo has emerged as the most popular microblogging service in China, claiming nearly 60 percent of the microblogging market and reeling in 250 million registered users as of October 2011. Each day, 25 million messages are sent on the platform. By comparison, Twitter has more than 200 million users and 50 million messages sent per day.

Launched: 2006, Famous equivalent: YouTube
Youku not only allows users to upload videos of any length, it also offers a video library of popular films, TV shows and clips. Because copyright laws in China are only loosely enforced, the site can display unlicensed content that YouTube may not be able to.

Launched: 2010, Famous equivalent: Foursquare
Jiepang offers a location-based social mobile app for the Chinese Internet population. Like its American equivelent, Foursquare, users can “check-in” at various locations throughout the country and earn rewards and discounts.

Why Social Media is Important to the Republic

Currently China has almost 500 million social media users. 50% have more than one social network profile online, whilst 30% log onto a social network at least once a day.

What’s Driving the Rapid Adoption of Social Media in China?

Separation of families due to migration from rural to urban areas

Affordable broadband internet

An internet generation of children without siblings, resulting from China’s late ’70s one-child policy

Underlying mistrust of government controlled media

Digital Consumption

For many Chinese digital consumers, the Internet is becoming a fixture in their lives. What’s more, they are enthusiastically embracing social applications and prefer instant messaging, over email. Below are the top online activities by percentage of digital consumers in each country (2009), using data gathered from the Boston Consulting Group report: China’s Digital Generations 2.0.

The Commercialisation of Social Networks

“The internet is a lot more influential in China, in comparison to the United States and other countries. Social media is an important channel – Chinese consumers trust a brand more if it is blogged about” – Jens Thraenhart, President of Dragon Tail, a China-based marketing company

China | Social Media