Marketing in China 101: The Top 10 Social Media Platforms in China
Like many things in China, social media is very, very different. As most of the apps, platforms and websites that are popular in the west are banned, China has developed its own ecosystems of apps and social media platforms. Initially, China’s social media landscape emerged from copies of popular apps, but now China is a market leader in app development, responsible for the most popular social media apps in the world, including the currently trending TikTok.
With Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and more blocked in China, developers took advantage of the gap in the market to create China-specific versions of the most popular apps out of Silicon Valley. China’s biggest tech success story is undoubtedly WeChat, which started as a copy of WhatsApp. With the most popular social media apps in the world unable to launch into the biggest market in the world, it’s been a dream for China’s tech developers who can pick and choose elements of the most successful tech companies in the world and replicate them in a market, knowing what has already been tried and tested. However, even copies of Western social media apps have been adapted and changed to meet the unique needs of the Chinese market. This means a whole different social media landscape with versions of western apps that are often quite different.
China’s top social media platforms
Because the Chinese market in general is so large and diverse, there are many popular Chinese social media apps with overlapping, or rather, competing features.
Here is our countdown of the most popular social media platforms in China, updated for 2020:
- Monthly Active Users (MAU): 108 Million (Aug 2018)
- Average Daily Active Users (DAU): 16.8 Million (Sep 2018)
- Market Penetration Rate: 5.5% (Sep 2018)
Momo is the Chinese answer to Tinder. While there are many more swipe based dating apps entering the market at a crazy pace, Momo is still the biggest one. With such a big population in China, Momo helps users connect based on interests and location too.
- Registered Users: 382.3 Million (Nov 2018)
- Number of Merchants: 5.5 Million (Jun 2018)
- Average Visit Duration: 2 Minutes 15 Seconds (Dec 2018)
Dianping translates loosely to ‘everyone’s comments’ which is why it’s known as the Chinese equivalent of Yelp. People share reviews and comments on their favourite restaurants, bars, salons, hotels, gyms and more. As well as ratings and reviews, Dianping also allows people to make bookings and buy offers – something Western review sites are only just beginning to integrate into their platforms.
- Registered Users: 160 Million (Jun 2018)
- Average Daily Active Users (DAU) 7.05 Million (Sep 2018)
- Average Visit Duration: 4 minutes 36 seconds (Dec 2018)
Zhihu is China’s answer to Quora, where users post questions and answers. Although not the biggest platform, it is one of the most engaged and some questions have thousands of users upvoting and downvoting hundreds of answers. More than just sharing opinions, many of the answers are very detailed, filled with charts, references and statistics to back up each point.
- Monthly Active Users (MAU): 300 million (2016*)
- Average Visit Duration: 4 minutes 28 seconds (Dec 2018)
Douban’s unique place in the market is its focus on lifestyle entertainment and culture. On Douban, users discuss books, movies, concerts and events. You can also buy tickets through the platform. So, I guess the best comparison is if Eventbrite was also a social networking site!
- Registered Users: 580 Million (Oct 2018)
- Average Daily Active Users (DAU): 39.6 Million (Sep 2018)
- Average Visit Duration: 4 minutes 7 seconds (Dec 2018)
Youku is the YouTube of China, hence the similar name. Youku used to be the #1 video sharing app but has in recent years begun to fall behind (and has been eclipsed by QQ). Youku is still the top platform for professional content, rather than user generated content.
- Monthly Active Users (MAU): 446 Million (Dec 2018)
- Average Daily Active Users (DAU): 116.7 million (Sep 2018)
- Average Visit Duration: 8 minutes 48 seconds (Dec 2018)
- Penetration Rate: 34.3% (Oct 2018)
Weibo is the Twitter of China, where users post public ‘microblogs’ or short messages and links. The second most popular app, like Twitter it is the place to go for real time trending content and to keep up with the national conversation.
4. Baidu Teiba
- Monthly Active Users (MAU): 665 million (Feb 2019)
- Average Daily Active Users (DAU) 148 Million (Aug 2018)
- Average visit duration: 6 minutes 52 seconds (Dec 2018)
- Market Penetration Rate: 4.8% (Sep 2018)
Baidu is actually a hybrid of a social media platform and search engine, from the makers of Baidu (China’s answer to Google). Baidu Teiba is a forum where users post discussion topics in niche forums, with a search box front and centre. The best comparison in the west is Reddit.
- Monthly Active Users (MAU): 803.2 million (Aug 2018)
- Average Daily Active Users (DAU): 267.7 million (Sep 2018)
- Penetration Rate: 69.3% (Oct 2018)
QQ is an instant messaging app, that also has a video hosting platform and email service, adding to its enduring popularity and stickiness with consumers. QQ also provides games, music, shopping, micro-blogging, movies, group chat, and voice chat.
QQ Video is China’s answer to YouTube. Users can create free accounts to upload videos, and it is very easy to get your content discovered. QQ is owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent, who also owns WeChat, which is why it’s the only video hosting service you’re allowed to use to embed videos in WeChat.
- Average Daily Active Users: 400 million
- Penetration: 67.9% of China’s mobile social network users and 59% of smartphone users
Douyin is the original TikTok – a platform made popular by teenagers doing dance videos. In China, the usage of Douyin is very different. The most popular content is knowledge based, according to a recently released Company report, and viral dance videos are mostly shared by those aged 60+.
The concept is simple – the app lets you create short videos, and easily edit, add music and stitch them together to create interesting, short form content.
Douyin is growing very fast and not as much data is released, but it is already above the daily active users of most other Chinese apps. Time will tell if the format and growth is just a trend, or here to stay.
- Monthly Active Users: 1.08 Billion (Q3 2018)
- Average Daily Active Users: 619.6 million (Sep 2018)
- DAU of WeChat Mini-Programs: 200 million (Nov 2018)
- WeChat Penetration Rate: 85.5% (Oct 2018)
WeChat is still the undisputed King of Chinese Social Media. With an astonishing market penetration rate of 85.5%, if you want to reach any target market in China, you need to be on WeChat.
WeChat originated as a copy of WhatsApp, but Tencent’s developers have had an incredibly smart strategy of building out a crazy amount of features, AND letting individual developers and companies create their own apps and websites that can be hosted in WeChat. That’s what gives it incredible stickiness in the market. WeChat allows people to call and chat to their friends, subscribe to articles and updates from their favourite companies, transfer money, pay for things in real life stores, view fast loading mobile websites from their companies and interact directly with them via direct messages. Then when you get into the apps people build within WeChat, the limits are endless – from ordering taxis and rideshares, booking Airbnb style accommodation and ordering food delivery – it’s almost like your whole iOS all rolled into one.
Get started with the social media experts
If you’re looking to enter the Chinese market and advertise to consumers in China, social platforms are the way to go. With the massive audiences already in these apps, and many of them with built in search and discovery functions, it’s far easier to be discovered than launching a website.
In fact, for many in China, a website merely functions as a tick in the box to show you are a real company, but a social platform is where they really want to dive in and learn about your brand.
Our specialty is helping Western businesses launch social strategies in China, especially in market-leading platform WeChat. If you’d like to know more about getting a WeChat account and launching a strategy, please get in touch.