No Facebook. No YouTube. No Twitter. It would be safe to say that without these three social media giants the Western world would not be the same as it is today. Currently, China has over 600 million online citizens (or netizens) out of these 600 million around 370 million of them are actively online, collectively that is a greater number than the combined populations of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.
Internet access has allowed for millions of Chinese citizens to, at the click of a button, access a wealth of information from around the world which, up until 10 years ago, was heavily monitored and pre-filtered by The Party. Even though the giants of social media such as Facebook don’t have access to the Chinese people, this has allowed for the emergence of home-grown yet state approved social websites. For example The West has Twitter and China has Weibo, The West has YouTube and China has Youku.
Chinese netizens are spending on average 26 hours per week online, this figure far outstrips other developing countries and is more closely linked to that of developed countries such as Japan and the USA.
This heightening engagement on social media is largely due to rural–to-urban migration, distrust in the information being provided by the central government, additionally loneliness may be a further factor stemming from China’s one child policy.
Social media is very much at the core of the younger generations mind set, in the terms of constantly wanting to be notified about world events and connect with other users. As a result of this huge phenomenon, tapping into this market could potentially be extremely lucrative. Nevertheless the mentalities of netizens vary greatly from East to West and therefore businesses have had to develop a China-specific social strategy model in order to penetrate the market effectively.
One to watch, Weixin (or WeChat in English) is the wonder child of the Chinese app world. WeChat has over 350 million active users and is one of the few Chinese created social media apps which is available in English. In China, using WeChat you can perform an assortment of tasks from ordering an Uber to paying the bill at a restaurant, whilst video calling your friend at the same time.
The complexity and sophistication of social media apps in China are leaving the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook in the dark.
Author: Dan - American - Freelance Reporter