5 Questions Answered About Social Media in China

A recent announcement about a partnership between social media agencies Converseon in the US and CIC in China got us thinking about the state of social media in China.

US social media consultancy Converseon recently announced a strategic partnership with CIC, a leading Chinese social media intelligence provider, to integrate CIC’s Chinese social monitoring and analytics capabilities into Converseon’s global Conversation Mining Listening solutions. The partnership extends Converseon’s social mining capabilities into mainland China, while enabling CIC to access Converseon’s other multi-language capabilities and services for its clients.

I came up with a few questions about the state of social media in China that CIC’s Sam Flemming took the time to answer.

1. Is engagement is social media in China across all ages or is it concentrated in one “generation”? Is that expected to change over time?

70% or so of Internet population in China is under 34, so not surprisingly, social media skews a bit young. However, that doesn’t mean that young consumers, or those consumers who have money are not talking. For example, we track over 13 million consumer comments from auto communities every month which is by far the biggest category.

2. Is social media engagement in China primarily an “at home” or mobile experience? Have location-based features become popular and, if so, can you provide some examples.

Traditionally, it has been an ‘at home’ experience, but with the increasing popularity of smart phones, including the IPHONE, this has been changing. Sina Weibo, the “Twitter” of China, sees a significant number of logins coming from mobile platforms. There are more phones accessing the internet in China than PC’s, so expect social to become more and more mobile

LBS is begging to gain traction. China has a number of “Foursquares,” with Jiepang being the most prominent one. Still early days, but LBS is gaining buzz. However, just as in the US, there are other more established players which will take aim on this space, including Sina Weibo, Kaixin and Ren Ren (the leading social networking sites) and Dianping (the “Yelp” of China, which was started before Yelp and has more reviews than Yelp).

3. Are those engaged in social media in China using it to stay in touch with their real-world friends, create new friendships with real people or create online friendships? I suspect it might be some combination.

It is a mix. Social networking sites are more about staying in touch with “real world friends,” where BBS (online message forums), which are at the heart of Chinese social media, are more about finding information and new friends based on particular interests. Weibo is somewhere in between (existing friends but also new friends with shared interests).

Social media all over the world is a mix of information, socializing and entertainment. In China, entertainment is especially important since the mainstream entertainment options are not actually very entertaining.

4. What types of people are most popular? For example, are there very popular celebrities from China or other countries that have massive numbers of social media connections?

Mainstream celebrities are very big in blogging and microblogging (Weibo), just as in the West. However, there is a long history of ‘grassroots” celebrities dating back to 2005 with the Back Dorm Boys (aka Asian Backstreet Boys). Little Fatty, Sister Furong and Sister Angel have all leveraged the Internet to gain mainstream popularity. Also worthy of note, many of the popular novels in China start off as online novels before they are published “IRL,” a phenomenon dating back to 1999.

In short, we actually see that social media in China is older and more developed than the West.

One of my blog articles that might be of interest on China “group purchase” vs. Groupon. See also Mercedes selling 205 cars in 3 hours based on “flash sale“.

5. Is social media used for dating and romantic introductions? When I last visited China, almost 20 years ago, young people had few ways to explore these topics or get advice about them.

I would say China has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Social media is filled with stories/complaints from older generations that the current “90’s” generation is too forward and too promiscuous. Of course, this means that social is being used for flirting, dating etc. as this is a popular element of any ‘social’ activity, including social media.