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Fast facts about Chinese social media

Ever wanted to know more about China’s unique social media landscape? Here’s a quick guide.

China and Chinese consumers present huge opportunities for international trade and tourism. China is already Australia’s biggest and most profitable source of foreign visitors and our largest source of international students. It’s also opening up to foreign companies, with the second annual China International Import Expo to be held in Shanghai in November 2019.

The social media landscape in mainland China is different from the rest of the world. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram are banned. Chinese corporations have developed their own apps and worked with the Chinese government to comply with their restrictions.

Engaging on local social media is necessary for organisations that want to succeed in China or gain Chinese customers. Here are some key facts about this huge and exciting topic.

Some major apps in the social media landscape

The Chinese social media landscape is enormous, with new apps being created all the time. Here’s a list of 10 apps you should know about and what they do. To give you an idea of the size of the market, we’ve included the number of registered users for each app.

Baidu Search engine like Google. Although not a social media platform, it’s important to know about with over 100 million daily active users.

Douyin  What we know in English as TikTok, a short video app. Douyin has over 500 million monthly users.

Maimai The Chinese equivalent of LinkedIn (although LinkedIn is not banned in China). Over 30 million users.

QQ Instant messaging service with 800 million users.

Taobao China’s biggest shopping site – 617 monthly active users.

Tencent Beating ‘China’s Youtube’, Youku, Tencent also offers subscription options to over-the-top (OTT) content.

WeChat Pay A mobile payments app with 800 million users.

Weibo An advanced version of Twitter with 462 million users.

Weixin (WeChat in English) Functions similar to Facebook and WhatsApp with 980 million users.

Zhihu Q and A platform like Quora, also similar to LinkedIn because professionals use it to showcase their knowledge. A total of 160+ million users.

Some trends to note

China is well ahead the rest of the world when it comes to mobile payment. WeChat Pay is the most popular but there are a plethora of other payment apps, including AliPay.
Paying by card is a thing of the past in large Chinese cities like Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.
Chinese tourists, students and expats use these payment apps when they come to Australia too, and local businesses are taking notice.
According to the ABC, over 10 thousand Australian businesses already use the WeChat Pay system.
Chinese consumers, like the rest of the world, love video content. Youku Tudou, iQiyi and Tencent Video allow users to upload their own content. They are also investing in OTT content, similar to Netflix.
Some apps seem to attract specific demographics. Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book in English – not related to Mao Zedong’s book of quotations) is another online shopping site. It’s over 200 million users are mostly women under 40 years old.

Key players

The Australian Financial Review has a comprehensive article about investing in internet stocks, which lists Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba as the three biggest players from China:
  • Tencent created WeChat, QQ and Weibo and is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

  • Baidu is China’s biggest search engine and is listed on Nasdaq. They are also moving into mapping, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles.

  • Alibaba’s three main sites are shopping site Taoboa, Tmail and Alibaba.com. They also created WeChat pay’s biggest competitor, AliPay. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

How to make the most of Chinese social media

Once you’ve decided what apps or channels to use, you’ll need to translate your content. Also make sure your materials are suitable for hand-held devices, as Chinese internet consumers are heavily mobile-based. They’re also known for doing thorough research about a product before they invest. You can use local influencers to market your product or service:

Do your research, plan your strategy, translate your content and go forth into the stratosphere of Chinese social media.


Written by Sophia Dickinson, LEXIGO: Sophia is a writer and communications consultant with 10 years’ experience in the public service and not-for-profit sectors. She has also taught English in France and spent a year working at a local NGO in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. She is passionate about writing, intercultural communication and languages (she speaks French, Indonesian and is learning Spanish). Read more about her experiences here.