10 Most Popular Social Media Sites in China (2018 Updated)
The key thing every company must know in order to do business in China is that Western social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and so on are banned in China. In fact, Weibo, WeChat, Youku and more are the main social media channels in China.
Chinese people spend a good portion of their daily lives on social media sites. Therefore, understanding which social media platforms are growing in China will help your businesses reach out to your target audience and deliver the right products or services. Let’s check out this list of top 10 social media sites in 2017 below.
Table of content (Click to read)
1. WeChat: All-in-on Social Media in China Read Now
2. Sina Weibo: Twitter of China Read Now
3. Tencent QQ: Popular Instant Messaging App Read Now
4. Toudou Youku: Youtube of China Read Now
5. Baidu Tieba: A Search Engine Forum Read Now
6. Douban: Lifestyle Discussion Platform Read Now
7. Zhihu: The Quora of China Read Now
8. Meituan – Dianping: The Chinese Versions of Yelp Read Now
9. Momo: Tinder of China Read Now
10. Meipai: Chinese Instagram for Video Read Now
Toutiao: The Hottest News & Information & Entertainment Platform Read Now
DouYin: Short-video Platform Trended at the Start of 2018 Read Now
KOL / influencers:
Industry-specific Social Media Platforms
1. Xueqiu: Equity & Finance Social Media Network Read Now
2. Keep: Health and Fitness Community Read Now
3. Mafengwo: Social Media for Travelling Read Now
4. Xiaohongshu: Cross Boarder E-commerce for Females Read Now
If you are interested in any China marketing services, you can talk to our social media experts directly!
1. WeChat: All-in-one Social Media in China
What is WeChat?
WeChat is an all-in-one messaging app developed by Tencent, which also provides games, online shopping, and financial services. Users can get almost everything they need from their smartphone, and never have to leave the app. Therefore, it’s risen to become the most popular social media platform in China.
WeChat is far more than any of the Western messaging app because it is a mix of Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, and Skype. It also contains ten million third-party apps.
There are different types of accounts on WeChat. Personal accounts are used by individuals, while businesses can create official accounts to stay in contact with their customers and post promotional information.
To know how WeChat can help grow your business, please contact us and get more information!
Why is WeChat so important to businesses?
Today, WeChat is the largest social network in China, with over 900 million users daily. Chinese users spend an average of over 70 minutes a day within the app.
Related article The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to WeChat for Business.
The Chinese use WeChat app for restaurant bookings, booking flights, making investments, shopping, paying bills, hailing taxis, transferring money, posting Moments on their walls, etc.
Not only that, WeChat allows companies and celebrities to create official accounts to generate content for promotional purposes.
Moreover, WeChat allows one-to-one personalized interaction between brands and the users.
Tencent used to have restrictions on advertising, but they now allow brands to advertise on WeChat with a banner ad, KOL advertisements, and Moments ads.
A Moments ad allows advertisers to advertise within the Moments section, as compared to Facebook’s news feed. Moments ad offers brands an easier and more affordable way to advertise on its app.
Related article The Best Guide to Chinese Consumer Behavior on WeChat (2017).
In addition, QR codes might be dying in the Western world, but they are still widely used in China. Mobile users often scan for promotion, passwords or to follow a brand. To gain more followers, QR codes are essential and provide a link from the online world to the physical world.
For more information about WeChat advertising, you can read our article WeChat Advertising 101: All You Need To Know.
2. Sina Weibo: Twitter of China
What is Weibo?
Sina Weibo, or Weibo, is a micro-blogging platform in China released in 2009. It is the most popular micro-blogging site in China and can be considered as a combination of Twitter and Facebook.
With Weibo, users can upload videos, images, and gifs. Also, they can follow an individual and read their posts, then like and share them, without being followed back.
Related article The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Weibo for Business
Why is Weibo important for your business?
According to China Internet Watch, Weibo has 340 million monthly active users. It is specifically popular among young white-collar workers and the urban online population with mobile phones. Weibo’s users make up a huge market that companies cannot just ignore.
Chinese people come to Weibo for information, sharing and to engage with other users.
Because Weibo is a blogging site, it contains a large source of informational and trending content. Companies, organizations, and celebrities in China have Weibo accounts to interact with their customers, fans, and followers.
Other than that, companies can create and manage a page for users to interact and debate on any subjects to increase the level of communication with their customers.
It also allows brands to generate a marketing strategy and even directly sell their products through the page.
3. Tencent QQ: An instant messaging app
What is QQ?
QQ is another instant messaging app developed by Tencent. Just like WeChat, it offers users multiple services like games, music, shopping, micro-blogging, movies, group chat, and voice chat.
QQ has a desktop version that is incredibly popular with white collar workers. Plus, QQ doesn’t require a phone number to register like WeChat. Users each have a unique numerical ID for their accounts.
While QQ is still often used for corporate communication and among white-collar workers the user base is younger than on other platforms.
Why is QQ important for your business?
According to FoxBusiness.com, QQ has more than 869 million users, another giant market for advertisers.
With QQ, you can publish Ads and Links to friends and discussion groups. Moreover, you can open an organization account, which is known as QZone.
Furthermore, Tencent offers paid marketing programs. With these programs, you can pay Tencent, and have them create your content, then publish it in QZone games, pop-up windows, and so on.
4. Youku Tudou: YouTube of China
What is Youku Tudou?
Youku is the top video sharing app in China, which is a Chinese video sharing platform equivalent to Youtube.
Youku contains more professional content than individual user-generated content. Users can even stream or download movies and TV shows directly on Youku.
Why is Youku important for your business?
Youku has 580 million active users, according to DMR Stats. For that reason, it is an effective way for your business to reach its target audience.
Youku offers an online viewing analytics tool, which enables brands to identify their audience by providing users’ information such as demographics, location, browsing technology and language.
Youku offers many types of the ad such as banner ads including static and animated, text links, buttons, in-stream advertisements, branded viral videos, and pause ads.
5. Baidu Tieba: A Search Engine Forum
What is Baidu Tieba?
Baidu Tieba is the largest communication platform in China provided by the search engine company, Baidu. Basically, Baidu Tieba is a keyword-based discussion forum where users can search for information on a through a search bar. This forum covers hosts discussion on nearly every topic imaginable. If you had to compare it to something in the West it would likely be most comparable to open forum platforms like Reddit.
Why is Baidu Tieba important for your business?
Baidu has 660 million monthly active users, according to DMR Stats.
Users, especially businesses, can also create their own content and target specific niche groups through the platform. Businesses can post on a range of topics and utilize the platform to engage with other users.
Using this platform correctly can help develop an organic presence in China without resorting to paid advertising. This platform can be very useful for businesses that have good brand awareness in China, yet little presence on Chinese social media platforms.
6. Douban: Lifestyle and social discussion platform
What is Douban?
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. The landscape on Douban is constantly shifting and trends emerge and die off relatively quickly on the platform.
Douban makes it easy for users to book tickets for movies and concerts, download e-books and even listen to their own radio station, douban.fm, through their interface.
Users can also connect with each other based on similar tastes and interests.
Demographically speaking, the platform is used mostly by citizens of Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. Douban has a relatively low user base compared to other platforms, primarily because it does not require users to sign-up and create an account to access content.
Why is Douban important for your business?
SimilarWeb shows that Douban has 153.49 million monthly total visits, another promising number for advertisers.
Douban offers very little in terms of advertising, as they only offer banner ads (with a relatively high CPM of 15-20 RMB). However, Douban also allows brands to create a “brand station,” a separate page, where they can post about their brand story, history, logo, etc.
Due to the nature of the platform, utilizing word of mouth marketing on the platform can be very effective. The primary reason users come to Douban is for reviews, ratings, and discussions. Brands can seize opportunities to change and improve opinions of their brands or products on the platform, but they must also be careful not to aggravate the community as this could have negative consequences.
Brands can create events that are able to get people with the same interests together as a discussion group so that you and the consumers can have authentic interaction both on your own brand pages and on discussion pages.
7. Zhihu: The Quora of China
What is Zhihu?
Zhihu is a question and answer site just like the English equivalent, Quora. Zhihu raised 100 million USD in its series D, leading to it becoming one of China’s many “unicorns,” companies with over a 1 billion USD valuation. Zhihu started in a similar fashion to Quora, but it has become much more in recent years. Zhihu users are highly engaged, with many posts accruing tens of thousands of upvotes/downvotes and hundreds of comments.
While posts on Quora can be quite lengthy, it is common for posts on Zhihu to be over 5k words and cover incredibly specific questions. Users often include charts, graphics, and other media to further demonstrate their point and improve the quality of their answers. Zhihu has also introduced several new features which Quora has yet to emulate, for example:
Zhihu New Features
- Popular Zhihu answerers can open their own “column” and write essays, without having to answer any specific question
- Zhihu readers can voluntarily “tip” the authors of essays they like. This function utilizes the WeChat wallet and instantly transfers money into the author’s account. Most people tip 2 RMB (about 30 cents), but some tip more. This is entirely voluntary, yet people utilize it. It’s a way to reward authors for good content and to provide incentive writers to contribute better quality content.
- Zhihu has a new feature called 值乎, which when romanized also reads as “Zhihu”, but is actually a different character. In this feature, Zhihuers respond to questions with a 1–2 minute sound recording answering the question, and people can purchase the recordings for a price set by the recorder.
- Zhihu Live is the biggest new feature on Zhihu. Top Zhihuers are invited to prepare TED talk style lectures, with about 30 minutes of content and 30 minutes for Q&A. The lectures are live broadcast (sound only) and follow a set schedule. Listeners have to sign up ahead of time to participate. Cost for one lecture seems to range from 20 — 100 RMB (3 to 16 dollars).
Thanks to Matt Hartzell for noting these differences.
In terms of demographics, Zhihu users are highly educated, wealthier than average, and concentrated in tier 1 and tier 2 cities. With over 100 million monthly active users, Zhihu’s users base should seem very attractive to brands throughout the world.
Why is Zhihu important for business?
One important fact to note about both Quora and Zhihu, is that they both have tremendous trust rankings on search engines. If you’re a Google user, I’m sure you’ve noticed how often Quora posts appear in your search results, and the same is true for Zhihu on Baidu in China. Creating the discussion on these platforms regarding your brand and providing useful information to users on these platforms can greatly improve your presence on search engines.
While advertising in the traditional sense might not be incredibly effective on either platform, providing users with useful content will almost certainly result in some increased brand awareness. Businesses can answer questions that relate to their industry and post links to their company website or contact form. However, businesses must be careful to not come off as too sales-oriented and self-promotional. Users accept the presence of links to websites and contact forms in exchange for useful content and contributions to discussions, but outright sales pitches will not fare well.
One way to ensure that your the content you create on this platform is through KOL promotion. While they might not consider themselves as KOLs in the traditional sense, top contributors on Zhihu have managed to gain massive followings on the platform. Collaborating with these top contributors can help brands to reach their target audience and impart a sense of trust to Zhihu users.
8. Meituan-Dianping: The Chinese Versions of Yelp
What is Dianping?
Dianping, roughly translated as everyone’s comments, was first created to collect people’s feedback on restaurant services and to share reviews with consumers. It’s basically the Yelp of China. However, like everything else in China, it offers even more than its Western counterpart. Users can order food directly from within the app & purchase promotional offers at nearby restaurants for later use. The service has become so popular that they process over 20 million orders daily, according to Jane Zuo of Meituan-Dianping.
The platform is not only limited to restaurants as users can also post reviews on bars, beauty salons, hotels, gyms, and so on. When you search for a restaurant on Dianpang, for example, there are tons of photos that help to give you an idea of what to expect at the restaurant. These pictures will also often include useful information like restaurant menus, storefronts, and promotional offers.
Meituan was originally Dianping’s competitor but it has since merged with Dianping. While both are still operational they still provide the same services.
Why is Dianping is important to your business?
According to DMR, Dianping has 60 million reviews and 12 billion monthly page views. It has obviously become the largest local review service in China, with a strong focus on restaurants. With such impressive numbers, it is a great place for brands to advertise on this site.
Dianping’s users are white-collar and urban people with money to spend. The site is still growing bigger due to economic development in China as disposable incomes have begun to increase and expectations for service quality have also increased.
Unlike other social media sites, Dianping’s target users are older people between the age of 20 and 35 in major and fast-growing cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.
Their revenue comes from advertising and promotional fees for businesses and group buying services. Both services offer powerful location-based targeting which businesses can use to offer promotions to nearby users. You can read some examples of this here.
9. Momo: Tinder of China
What is Momo?
Momo is an instant messaging app and also the number one dating app in China. In fact, it is the third largest fully mobile app after WeChat and QQ with 81.1 million monthly active users, a stat from DMR. While it now faces competition from the more direct Tinder clone, Tantan, it remains the largest dating app in China, even going public on the NASDAQ in 2014!
The app allows users to connect with strangers based on interests and location.
Other than that, the company is trying to make the app more than just a dating site by launching a campaign to help homeless cats and dogs in China. They also offer mobile gaming and live-streaming, to improve the way users connect to each other on the app.
Why is Momo important for your business?
One of Momo’s biggest sources of revenue comes from advertising.
They also launch a new advertising platform for offline retailers.
Advertisers can target customers through location-based service. For instance, when users are searching for their potential dates, advertisers can place an ad of a local bar or club with a discount offer on their result sites so as to attract customers to pay a visit.
Momo offers relatively advanced targeting for advertising, as users purposely populate their accounts with their interests and other relevant information to make themselves more attractive to other users. This makes advertising on Momo very powerful for businesses.
10. Meipai: Chinese Instagram for Video
What is Meipai?
Meipai is the most popular video messaging app in China. It allows users to make 60-second videos, import photos, add effects, and then share their videos directly to Weibo and WeChat.
Why is Meipai important for your business?
Meipai has 30 million monthly active users (DMR). Advertising on Meipai is great for brands that rely on visuals to promote their brands.
Meipai is most popular for live-streaming function, which is favored by many celebrities, especially the famous actress, Fan BingBing. That is why a lot of brands would like to team up with KOLs on this site.
Normally, Meipai will rank the popularity of the videos and the videos’ uploaders. That way, it helps brands identify the popularity level of the KOLs and which KOLs best represent your business.
Like Instagram and Twitter, users can tag their videos with different topic tags. This is one of the ways to get more views. Brands can utilize this feature to have more engagement with the target audience.
More than that, Meipai also has a “red envelop” feature. The more popular your videos are, the more red envelopes you get. Also, if the users share your videos, they will get red envelopes too. Therefore, this is a win-win situation for both of brands and potential customers.
Toutiao: The Hottest News & Information & Entertainment Platform
Toutiao is a news distribution app which focuses on providing all kinds of information using complex algorithms. The company has over 4,000 partners producing content daily. The AI will first analyze each user regarding their locations, click and browser history. Toutiao then recommends the best-fit articles and videos to users accordingly.
Toutiao adopts a different style of giving news to people. Additionally, they provide short-videos, funny jokes, and featured articles to keep users entertained. The platform ensures the user experience to be personal and distinct. Therefore, in 2017, Toutiao already had 120 million daily active users, spending 76 minutes on the app daily (comparing to 66 minutes of WeChat!).
Over 85% of Toutiao users are young people from ages 18 to 30 years old. 37.8% of them are freelancer, self-employed and private company owners, concentrated in first or second-tier cities. Putting ads on Toutiao can have significant effects. If your business is similar to a news portal, you can have a stronger presence in China through setting up an official account (Toutiao Hao). You may gain followers through constant updates and interactions on Toutiao.
Get to know more about Toutiao at here!
DouYin: Short-video Platform Trended at the Start of 2018
In 2018, “Karma is a bitch” Challenge flooded the entire online community. The challenge is to transform from an ordinary image to a bad-ass or surprising one. Westerners regard it as the “Chinese Transformation meme” on social media, bringing a brand-new trend globally. In fact, these amazing clips are mostly from China’s influential short-video platform: DouYin.
DouYin is a popular short-video entertaining platform launched in 2016. DouYin allows users to watch and produce funny music videos through special effects and filters. These 15 seconds clips are easy to attract attention.
DouYin has over 12 million users and ranked the 4th in the 2018 Top 10 Apps in China (January). Thousands of KOLs can gain billions of followers on DouYin is now the trendiest platform. Utilizing the platform with posting advertisements and KOL marketing can make a huge difference to your business.
Industry-Specific Social Media Platforms
I’ll just give a quick run-down of some more topic-specific social media in China that are more niche, but could be incredibly useful considering the nature of your business. Advertising on all of these platforms is available in some shape or form whether it be through KOL promotion, standard banner ads, or plain-old organic outreach!
1. Xueqiu (Snowball): Equity & Finance Social Media Network
Xueqiu is a platformed designed for investors to discuss and learn more about a range of different financial assets.
Investors can examine data across the US, Hong Kong, and Chinese stock markets, along with several bonds, funds, trusts, and Bitcoin. Users can get up to date alerts, news bulletins, and price changes all within the platform itself. They can also follow other investors, communicate with them, and discuss investing strategies in large forums.
However, the platform does not offer broker services as of yet, but it plans to in the future. This would allow users to buy and trade stocks directly in the platform further increasing its attractiveness to individual and professional investors. Aside from equities and financial products, there is also a section devoted to real estate, where users discuss up and coming investment opportunities and trends in the real estate market.
2. Keep: The Home of Health and Fitness Enthusiasts!
Launched in February 2015, Keep is meant to act as a professional trainer. Its primary draw is that it offers a variety of training courses and videos that teach you how to work out anytime, anywhere. It also offers dedicated activity trackers where you can record your progress.
It’s also has a social, aspect, with which users can follow each other and share their progress. This can all be shared to other social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo. Technode states that “23% of Keep’s users live in China’s top 5 megacities — Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. 77% are under 35 years old.” Besides providing exercise videos, activity tracking, and tips, the app continues its reliance on social interaction by enabling users to share pictures and videos.
This is an ideal platform to market on for businesses involved in the health, wellness, and physical fitness sectors.
3. Mafengwo: The One-stop Site for Things to do During Your Travels!
Mafengwo was launched in late 2010 and has since then acquired over 100 million active users. According to 2018 statistics, there are over 130 million registered users. The platform is available both as a webpage and an app. Users can go through the latest travel information, glance at Q&As and reviews, as well as book hotels, travel destinations and local tours.
Unlike Ctrip and the other OTAs, Mafengwo rose to popularity due to its social aspects, in that users can share information about their trips and post content for other users to discuss and up/downvote. Today Mafengwo hosts more than 1 million user-generated travel guides and has seen massive amounts of engagement on its content.
Chinese tourists travel in large tour groups organized by tour operators. However, in recent years a new type of Chinese tourist has begun to emerge, the free and independent tourist (FIT). In 2016, nearly 60% of outbound tourists booked trips independently. These tourists prefer to book on their own and decide their own itineraries. Mafengwo caters to this market as a source of information for these tourists.
Mafengwo has become the go-to platform for suggestions on travel and tourism, so those in the travel & tourism industry should certainly take note of its significance in influencing travelers decisions.
Advertising is available on the platform, but as with almost any platform in China, KOL promotion on Mafengwo can go a long way. Seasoned travel experts with large followings on Mafengwo are often willing to collaborate with brands to promote their businesses. This method can be incredibly effective for reaching the elusive FIT demographic in China.
4. Xiao Hong Shu (Little Red Book): Cross-Border E-Commerce for Females
Xiao Hong Shu is an e-commerce platform that also has many features commonly seen on social media networks. Users can post reviews, join in on discussions, and post their own content. Content on the platform tends to focus on product photos and shopping experiences, including shopping tips, deals, and experiences from their trips abroad.
Users can browse through lists of the most popular brands for a category, and through products on brands’ exclusive pages. They can share also share pictures of products that they have purchased, on a board that bears a strong resemblance to Pinterest, where other users can like and comments.
Aside from its social aspects, Xiao Hong Shu is an advanced e-commerce platform. The home page features items that have received the most shares. This allows users to dictate which items are featured on the home page and to direct trends.
KOLs on this platform can directly influence sales through the content that they generate, making this a very attractive platform for foreign luxury brands, with most of the larger ones already taking advantage of this advertising method.
Conclusion: Top Social Media In China
10 Chinese social media sites above are the hottest ones in 2018. There are tons of other social media platforms that might be more suitable to reach your target audience that I have not mentioned in this article, so be sure to do your research and find the platform that makes sense for you.
I hope this helped you to understand how each of these Chinese social media sites works, and to decide which ones would suit your business best for advertising.
If you want to build your presence in China, please contact our marketing consultants for information and tips!