Socializing Chinese-Style: A Beginner's Guide
By Alyssa Paris
of the world’s oldest civilizations is quickly evolving into an online paradise
for digital and social media marketers. China, the “land of the dragon”, is
home to the largest population of Internet users in the world. Socializing
online with the Chinese today means interacting with over 400 million
individuals. These “netizens” are young, educated game-lovers with an
unquenchable thirst for entertainment. And in spite of government-imposed
limitations on web content publication, tools for web socializing Chinese-style
are original and cutting edge.
are exciting times for international businesses looking to expand into the lucrative
Chinese market in a culturally appropriate fashion — through local media and in
the local languages of Mandarin, Cantonese, and other dialects. So if China is
already on your business radar, now’s a good time to:
- Get familiar with the major Chinese channels for communicating online
about your brand.
- Enlist the help of a skilled language partner who can translate your
social media content and monitor your engagement across languages.
can you get started? Read on for five great ways to get social in China.
between Facebook and Twitter, these micro-blogging sites, known in China as weibos (pronounced way-bohs), are gaining
popularity with each passing day. The two most important weibos are:
in 2009 (the year Twitter was banned by the Chinese government), Sina’s
translated as “Sina's micro-blogging”, currently boasts over 140 million users. Its
user base is projected to reach the 200 million mark by the end of the year,
potentially propelling it ahead of Twitter in the global micro-blog arena. With
a whopping 57% percent of Chinese market share, Sina’s Weibo is arguably the best
place to start your social media efforts. It offers the same general interface
as Twitter, with a timeline of weibos,
or tweets, and a list of top users and trending topics. Its advantages include small
group engagement and easy sharing of rich media.
of the greatest aspects of Sina’s Weibo remains to be mentioned: it's free! So
is Twitter, you may argue. Yes, but because brand pages on social sites in
China often come with a gigantic price tag, Weibo’s free business pages offer a
low barrier to entry for the apprentice social media marketer in China.
social media marketers recommend using Sina's Weibo in conjunction with Sina blog, Youku or Tudou for a richer and more diverse marketing campaign.
few fun facts about Sina's Weibo:
- Ad Age
estimates that around two-thirds of the active users are women.
- Actress Yan Chen has the most fans: 9.3
million as of last month.
- Starbucks, Adidas and Zara are among the
brands with the most active followers.
in early 2010, Tencent Weibo trails Sina's with around 80 million users.
Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Liu Xiang has the most followers — nearly 18
million. Most of Tencent’s users come from QQ, one of its other online networks
and the most popular instant messaging site in China. Read more about Tencent’s
sites in the next section.
2. Social Networking Sites (SNSs)
are too many Chinese SNSs to include in our succinct beginner's guide, but here
are a few you should keep an eye on and consider budgeting for, as they’re
or “Everyone”, was launched in 2005 as
a social networking site for students, the brainchild of a University of Delaware
graduate. Sound familiar? Renren is one of China’s Facebooks. “Everyone” finessed
its branding and target audience over the last six years to appeal to a broader
user base. According to Forbes, this popular SNS now counts 124+ million
users and their daily page views over the last six months largely surpassed
prides itself on being one of the “real name” networks (unlike Sina’s Weibo,
for example, where users can remain anonymous). Renren’s features include:
- Mood sharing (similar to Facebook’s status updates)
- Shopping for online deals
- Listening to music
- Voting on or sharing friends’ blogs
- Acquiring points through various activities
contribute to increasing a user’s level, which in turn grants them access to
bonus features like emoticons and profile skins. These rewards tend to be very
popular with young Chinese netizens. Since 2007, Renren has an open platform
and allows for third party integration with many of the same APIs as Facebook.
in 2008, Kaixin001, or "Happy Net", is one of the
older kids on the Chinese social media block. This site was the 13th most
popular in China last year, according to Alexa, and the first to clone Facebook applications for
the Chinese market. If Renren is the student network, Kaixin001 is its white-collar
equivalent. According to Venture
Kaixin's users are the most monetized and affluent of all Chinese social
networks; Kaixin attracts highly active users who'll spend twice as much time
sifting through the site as those on competing SNSs. Regulars spend an average
of 30+ minutes playing social games like Parking Wars and Happy Farm, and sharing
music, photos and ideas.
a fun fact: As of May this year, the top three brands on Kaixin001 were all car
manufacturers: VW, Mini and BMW.
the emergence of the super micro-blogs and Renren (whose owners were sued by
Kaixin001 for unfair competition), Kaixin's popularity began to suffer and
growth has since stagnated. Analysts say Kaixin will need to innovate or it'll
be left behind in the high-velocity race to provide Chinese netizens with the
best online entertainment, sharing and interface.
advantage to leveraging Tencent's vast internet ecosystem is that its conglomerate
of sites, which includes Weibo, QQ and Qzone, QQshow, QQgames and QQpet, serves a mind-blowing multitude of users. Tencent estimates that as of March 2011, there were well
over half a billion user accounts (though not necessarily active users) for
their IM service alone. Stats tell us that the Chinese do not stick to one
social medium — they typically get engaged across various channels — and the
Tencent network offers something for everyone.
for example, is a social networking site that targets young, rural Chinese. Its
user base of 480 million is composed largely of teenagers, who can keep an
online diary, share photos and blog.
3. Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs)
board systems are still very popular in China, because they are known to be
relatively “unfiltered”. Hundreds of millions of Chinese (possibly
more than for traditional SNSs) frequent these forum sites for the real scoop,
relying on them rather than on state-approved online newspapers and mainstream
media. They’re also on BBSs to get the latest news, politics, and celebrity
gossip updates, research topics of interest, follow discussion threads, play
games, enjoy multi-user chats, check email, and send messages. Because the
level of trust in BBSs is high, leveraging them will be an important element of
your social media campaigns in China. Mop and Tianya are two of the most-popular Chinese BBSs today.
4. Video Sharing
impressive stats from Resonance China sum it all up:
- Chinese online video users will likely
surpass 700 million by 2015.
- The average Chinese netizen spends four hours
a week watching online video.
Chinese are generally less concerned with privacy than Americans, and more open
to video marketing. These two statements alone should make you consider this
medium for entertaining the Chinese with your brand message. If you do it
right, it won't go unnoticed — two of the most-visited websites in China are Tudou
and Youku, both of which are video sharing sites.
course a pivotal part of effectively engaging in these channels with be localizing your current video repertory for that audience of 700 million video
5. Location-Based Services (LBSs)
a small percentage of Chinese use location-based services currently (around 7%,
according to a recent study by the DCCI) but experts say this will be the next category to
skyrocket. China’s leading location-based social app is Jiepang.
This relative newcomer to the social scene partnered with Nokia in August of 2011
to offer faster check-ins on smartphones.
locations is an activity that benefits local merchants. If you plan to open a
retail outlet in China, a reward-based program could encourage customers to
check in at your establishment. The top brand check-ins on Jiepang, according
to a recent infographic, were Starbuck's, McDonald's and Burger King,
that you know who the major Chinese social media players are, it’s time to
draft a plan for your social media marketing campaign in China. To do so,
you’ll want the help of a language partner who is well versed in localization for the Chinese market and multilingual social media monitoring. Contact Acclaro today to begin socializing with nearly half a billion Chinese online users and tap into one of the most exciting corners of the
international digital space.