Social media platforms in China are vastly different from the West. While Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter continue to dominate the Western world, China has seen the emergence of many innovative new social platforms.
In China, people on average spend 5 hours and 50 minutes on the internet, which accounts for one-third of waking time in a day. Within the time spent on the internet, Chinese people spend an average of 2 hours and 12 minutes on social media platforms. Additionally, iiMedia research shows that more than 40% of Chinese use 3-4 social media applications per day.
According to Statista, the Chinese internet population was around 971 million in 2020 and would surge up to 1.29 billion by 2026. As the world’s largest online community continues to grow, Chinese social media sites have become popular tools to reach Chinese customers. With the diversification of China's social media ecosystem, various social media applications have brought a deeper impact to customers' lives. More and more brands have also been using social media as a major marketing tool for brand promotion and other activities.
According to the latest report data from Weiboyi, from the perspective of the traffic scale of mainstream social media platforms, WeChat, Douyin, and Weibo are the TOP 3 traffic platforms. The traffic of LittleRedBook, Bilibili and Zhihu grew rapidly.
For brands, understanding the various social media platforms in China is crucial to engaging with Chinese customers.
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WeChat is the must-have social commerce platform in China, with over 1.31 billion monthly active users. Chinese users spend an average of over 82 minutes a day within the app. All this amazing data makes WeChat become one of the most popular choices for brands to get started with social media marketing in China.
WeChat allows for one-to-one personalized interaction between brands and users. In WeChat, brands can create official accounts to share content to improve brand image, launch Mini-Programs for deeper engagement with customers, share videos in WeChat Channel, and directly communicate with customers through private traffic pools to enhance customer loyalty.
WeChat ecosystem is still the platform with the closest relationship with users and the highest monetization value.
Mini Program will continue to play a greater business value. In April 2021, WeChat Mini Program cooperated with JD.com. A direct search for LOUIS VUITTON on the JD.com app will bring users to the relevant page, and clicking on any product will redirect users to the WeChat mini-program. Using a cross-platform way, brands can import the public traffic of all e-commerce platforms into the WeChat mini-program with a private domain. In the future, mini-programs will still be one of the channels that brands cannot ignore for developing online business.
The average daily active users of WeChat Mini Programs topped 600 million in 2022 and people used Mini Programs 50% more often each day. In 2022, the number of active mini-programs soared by 30% compared to 2021. Transactions generated in the catering, tourism, and retail industries, sectors hit hard by the pandemic, managed to jump by more than 100% year-on-year. ALDZS Institute estimates that WeChat's e-commerce GMV will approach $3 trillion RMB in 2021 and is expected to exceed $10 trillion RMB overall in the next three years.
WeChat Channel is a potential platform to reach users. Compared with Douyin, the recommendation mechanism of WeChat Channels can fully tap the value of the user's acquaintance relationship chain and network resources to help brands expand private traffic and influence. DTC brands can use WeChat Channels as a platform to attract and retain customers. WeChat Channel videos can be shared through chat windows, WeChat article posts, or WeChat Moments. Short video usage is on the rise, and WeChat Channel videos are easily shared from peer to peer. WeChat Channels can be linked with Official Accounts and Mini Programs to increase the rate of content seeding to buying.
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Weibo is one of the most popular sites in China and is often considered to be Chinese Twitter.
Like WeChat, Weibo is another platform brands commonly used for social media marketing in China. As of March 2023, Weibo has had over 593 million monthly active users and 255 million daily active users. Weibo is a suitable platform for content to go viral and for KOLs to build their online communities.
Weibo has abundant KOL and celebrity resources. Brands can use Weibo for IP marketing & content marketing to help enhance brand influence, such as Tom Ford's crossover marketing in the program "Sisters Who Make Waves". Combined with the popularity of the show, Tom Ford created the same makeup as sisters and launched a new lipstick, which triggered social heat and accurately reached the target fans.
Using Weibo for IP marketing is an important and effective solution for brands. It can not only help brands break down, but also increase brand influence and user engagement at a lower marketing cost. According to incomplete statistics, in 2019-2020, more than 10 brands cooperated with Weibo for IP marketing.
E-commerce of Weibo will continue. Brands can link Taobao stores and products in their Official Account posts. With many users already having Alipay linked to their Weibo accounts, they can purchase featured products with just one click. Therefore, Weibo can be very effective in driving online sales.
Livestreaming Capability. Yizhibo Live, Weibo's own live-streaming platform, gained popularity shortly after its launch. KOLs and celebrities have been drawn to it to promote products and campaigns. In recent years, due to the pandemic, many brands have been forced to regroup and make up new strategies for their marketing, and luxury brands are no exception. In 2020, Gucci started 12-hour live streaming on Weibo. Chanel also livestreamed its 2020/21 ready-to-wear collection live on its official Weibo account for the first time, attracting 3.85 million online viewers.
Founded in 2013, Little Red Book (Red) was built to be a platform primarily focused on User Generated Content, where users could share reviews and their experiences to help others with their purchasing decisions.
Red is a community-based e-commerce platform with 450 million registered users mainly residing in first-tier cities. According to the information publicized by Red, the platform has over 100 million monthly active users, 450,000 new posts generated daily, and exposure to over 10 billion pieces of content daily. It is prevalent among Generation Z users born in the internet era who rely on social media as their primary source of information. According to the beauty user insight report released by Red, 87.3% of beauty users use Red as the main channel to learn about new beauty brands and products. 65% of Red beauty users have a monthly disposable income of more than RMB 2,000, which has a very strong consumption potential.
Livestreaming: A new traffic entrance. Red's current live streaming is divided into interactive live streaming and e-commerce live streaming, the proportion of interactive live stream is 90%. For brands, live streaming on Red is more about exposure and promotion. Because Red's users have a strong purchasing power and willingness to spend, Red Live can be seen as a new engine for the brand's growth. Recently, Little Red Book announced it would block external links to Alibaba-owned Taobao in August 2020. The ban only applies to Taobao links in Little Red Book’s text-based posts, while those embedded in the Red’s live streaming feature will be still available.
The ideal platform to improve brand awareness. Compared to “traditional” advertisements, content on RED appears more trustworthy for Chinese millennials. It is an ideal place to create word of mouth and increase brand awareness, especially for smaller or less well-known brands. Brands can use Red as a part of a marketing plan, instead of just leveraging it as a cross-border e-commerce platform, for example, to detect the latest interests from young consumers in China.
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As of May 2023, Douyin's daily active users exceeded 700 million, and the average number of daily video searches exceeded 400 million. Douyin marketing in China can offer wide opportunities for brands on the market. Users of Douyin may produce and distribute original, fashionable short-form videos. Contrary to long-form videos, short videos are the best for viewer engagement and virality.
As of October 2021, Douyin no longer support links from 3rd parties in live streams, only allowing links from the Douyin store. In January 2021 Douyin officially launched its payment service-Douyin Pay. As a social giant that has captured younger generations, it may be an interesting test ground for overseas brands to develop their cross-border e-commerce businesses.
Douyin customized marketing campaigns connect brands and users. For example, brands use specific topics as an interactive way to attract users to create videos. Estee Lauder's latest topic called "Eye Marathon" has been played 107,000 times and introduced the new eye cream in the form of a short video. This can not only reach a wider range of ordinary users but also help the brand to make a wide range of communication and exposure when new products are launched or when creating a hero product.
Interest e-commerce: The product sales model for “interest e-commerce” is "Products looking for people." According to the algorithm developed by Douyin, the app is far more effective at understanding customer demand and provides users with tailored content that is relevant to their interests and preferences. For consumers, Douyin e-commerce can take "interests" as a clue to help consumers find potential products to satisfy their needs. For merchants, interest in e-commerce can help them reach consumers more accurately and efficiently.
Short video + live streaming combination model. Douyin live streaming is currently growing rapidly. Short video is its main driver of traffic and algorithm-powered curation makes sure the right viewers are watching. Douyin’s traffic approach creates tremendous potential for virality and high user loyalty. Different from other platforms, Douyin's advantage lies in the content ecology, and its unique short video + live streaming combination model has also become the marketing strategy of many businesses. Short videos are responsible for seeding and can attract traffic for live streaming, effectively stimulating user demand and conversion efficiency.
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Kuaishou is currently the second-largest short video platform in China, with more than 360 million DAU. It is rapidly becoming popular in cities below the second tier in China.
While most social media is dominated by celebrities and influencers, Kuaishou amplifies the voice of ordinary people and their lives. Kuaishou users are mainly young people who come from second and third-tier cities, but also from villages and rural areas of China.
Brand official account. Kuaishou has an official account option for companies, organizations, and influencers. Brand authenticity can increase your brand’s credibility, and business accounts can access the traffic resources like discounts on headline promotions.
Zhihu, the Chinese version of Quora, is a popular online Q&A and social platform in China. As of 2020, Zhihu has 420 million registered users, 56% of whom are male (but the proportion of female users continues to grow). Users are located all over China (mainly in first and second-tier cities).
Zhihu users are better educated, have higher incomes, and have stronger purchasing power, therefore they are the kind of audience that many brands are striving to attract.
Zhihu platform is a good opportunity for brands because it is a powerful tool for soft-selling and influencing long-term buying decisions, as many users come to the platform for in-depth reviews and analysis when they need to make a purchase decision.
A powerful platform to do product seeding. Brands can reach out to other Zhihu users through community interactions like asking questions or posting answers, this helps to establish a relationship with users. Brands can also collaborate with KOLs to promote product, using professional ways to introduce the formulas, materials and ingredients to deliver a reliable brand image and attract potential consumers' attention.
The long-term choice for the brand. Zhihu’s voting mechanism enables good content to last. Many brands say even today they can get upvote on the posts/answers that were published in the early years. Long-term branding will work very well on this platform.
Bilibili is one of the most popular social media platforms in China for video sharing. This platform has covered a multicultural community with more than 7,000 interest circles. It focuses on anime-related content and video game culture, the unique “Bullet culture” makes it easier for users to have a strong sense of social interaction with others.
Bilibili has 128 million Gen Z users, accounting for 82% of the total users. The youthful community atmosphere creates high-stick user relationships. Compared with other platforms, Bilibili bloggers pay more attention to the emotional connection with fans, and their relationship with fans is closer.
The Q1 2023 financial results show that Bilibili's average monthly number of active creators has reached 93.7 million, with average daily video views of 4.1 billion and a 37% year-over-year increase in net profit.
Cooperate with KOLs. The original video marketing form of creators has become an effective way for many brand owners to capture young users. Through the real-time communication and interaction of Bullet in the video, users can even convey their preferences for the brand, product and content. For example, many beauty brands find suitable KOLs to launch videos of product evaluation and makeup tutorials to promote their products and prepare some high-quality bullet screen comments to release at the right time in the videos.
Because of Bilibili's unique content ecology and user habits, more and more brands are starting to pay attention to it. Especially for young brands, using Bilibili to build brand image and cultivate brand awareness in the early stage among young groups can create long-term and sustainable value for the brand in the future.
More and more companies and institutions are also beginning to realize Bilibili's traffic and dividends and settle on the platform. And the industry covers a wide range of industries, including food, mom and baby, automobiles, etc.
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Douban is a social networking platform that focuses on expressing oneself and one’s lifestyle. Users often post on Douban to discuss books, movies, music, and events, and can also connect with each other based on similar tastes and interests.
It generates income from advertising, interactive marketing, and channel fees from book e-commerce.
Another core features of Douban are its group communities called “小组” on which people can share their experiences and join groups to talk about specific subjects with people sharing the same interests. For example, Lancôme took advantage of Douban to attract a wider audience and diversify its marketing channels. Lancôme has created a "We Like Lancôme" group, which currently has 3,372 members, where users discuss Lancôme products and recommend good products.
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