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Chinese Social Media Landscape

· China Trends

China, a very different country, with a sophisticated landscape of social media. How different and how complicated is it?

In this article, I am sharing 10 types of social media apps/platforms that are popular in China. Each category would have a distinctive positioning and thus interact with different audiences. If you are looking at going to the Chinese market, this is a must-read blog.

1.All-in-one: WeChat 

WeChat is an all-in-one communication platform that integrates comprehensive functions into one app to bring convenience for users in daily life. Instant messaging, online shopping, online payment, ordering taxi service and even buying movie tickets, WeChat enables users to do everything within the app. Instead of positioning WeChat as just a social media platform, it is better to view it as a daily service provider.

2.Other instant messaging apps: QQ 

Tencent QQ is an instant messaging app. Users can access QQ wallet and experience innovative mobile payment including mobile top-up, online shopping and bank transfer. Before the advent of WeChat, QQ dominated the instant messaging appsamong youngsters and Qzone was the most popular platform for them to share feelings and connect with friends. Similar to WeChat (obviously, they are both under Tencent), QQ has QQ Wallet like WeChat Pay, a mobile payment product incorporating multiple payment methods such as QR payment, bank card payment, NFC payment. 

3.News aggregation platform:  今日头条(Toutiao)、一点资讯等

Toutiao is a trending news and information provider based on complex algorithms, which attract young audiences through eye-catching content and more interactive format of content, such as short videos. The recommended contents shown on your homepage within the app are selected based on each user’s browser history, locations, internet habits, etc. In other words, articles and videos are ‘customised’ for each user. This is similar to Yidian Zixun, which provides ‘personalised’ content to users with the support of AI technology, bringing changes to the media landscape.

4.Short video apps: Short video apps: Tiktok, Kuaishou, Meipai 

The trending apps in China are mainly short video apps, such as Tiktok, Kuaishou, Meipai, etc. This type of video apps mainly popularises themselves through ‘viral’ genes, in which users can easily create and share entertaining content to get views and followers. Especially, popular dance moves, funny performance and even beautiful girls and good-looking boys recording themselves could gain millions of views per clip. According to the description in App Store, Tik Tok is ‘powered by music’ and ‘allows users to quickly and easily create unique short videos to share with friends and the world’, which aims to become ‘the new cultural benchmark for young creators’. When you open the app, it’s easy to be attracted by the 15-second format of short videos including dance, free-styles, lip sync and other entertaining performances.

5.Live video apps: 花椒、斗鱼、映客

Live streaming has been one of the most popular trends for youngsters to have fun on social media channels and even make fortunes. Broadcasting their lives and getting thousands and millions of views attract Generation Z to become the mainstream of these types of apps. Thebroadcasters live-stream their make-up tutorials, performances (singing or dancing), or just chat with viewers. There is always a niche at which can be targeted to get attention. 

6.Forums/Micro-blog: Weibo, Zhihu, DouBan

Zhihu, a Chinese question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organised by the community of users (equivalent to Quora). A place where users can raise up questions and spark up discussions. is a Chinese social networking service website, allowing registered users to record information and create content related to film, books, music and events in different cities. Weibo is regarded as the Chinese version of Twitter. Users can directly add comments, pictures, and videos under in the comment section. Now, Sina Weibo is regarded as a ‘source pool’ for netizens to acquire, share and comment on latest news and public events. Trending topics on Weibo (热搜the most searched topics) reflect what the majority in China is focusing on to some extent.

7.Video sharing websites: YouKu, iqiyi 

Three major video streaming sites in China are iQiyi (supported by Baidu’s AI systems), Tencent Video (backed by Tencent), Youku Tudou (acquired by Alibaba) and an outstanding player that specifically satisfies niche markets, Bilibili. These video sites are gradually following Netflix’s subscription models, with more emphasis on producing their original programmes and attaining exclusive rights to stream good pieces of work from domestic and foreign studios. 

8.Fitness apps: Keep 

In recent years of promoting healthy lifestyles on the internet, fitness apps emerge and prosper among Chinese users, providing them with a great variety of training courses and tips. One of the typical examples is Keep, which is not only a platform to provide fitness-related contents but also a user community to share and record their personal work-out process. The social ‘gene’, through integration with other social media channels, such as WeChat, QQ, etc., enables users to seamlessly ‘slide’ into different social media platforms.

9.Dating apps: Momo, Tantan 

Tantan is a Chinese equivalent dating app to Tinder, where users can manually fill in their profile description and interests and will be presented with a person’s photos and profile and swipe left or right to select or neglect them. Momo was the first dating app in China, which used to have a bad reputation for‘booty-calling’. It has tried to change its position and has new add-on features such as live user-generated content, short videos and so on. 

10.Lifestyle sharing apps: 小红书

New social e-commerce platforms emerge in recent years to integrate the e-commerce platform with social networking features. XiaoHongShu is one of the unicorns in this field where users can post and tag what they wear, where they go and how they feel, etc. The most distinguished part of this app is that celebrities such as Fan Bingbing are invited to share and tag their daily used products. XiaoHongShu is like a combination of Instagram and Amazon that integrates photos and videos sharing into e-commerce platforms. 

The rapidly evolving social media landscape in China open new channels and opportunities for domestic and foreign brands to reach out to their targeted Chinese customers. Relatively low costs and effective outcomes attract more and more marketers to dive into these trendy platforms to get tractions. However, competition is fierce in terms of social media marketing, the essential way to gain Chinese customers is through understanding how to make a good fit between products and the platforms as well as understating user behaviours of a particular social media app.

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Contents researched by Jennifer Li

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