China Social Media: 6 Critical Sites

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youkuTwitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google and others are blocked in China. Roughly 30% of China (1.3 billion) is online vs. roughly 75% in the U.S. This equals 390 million Chinese online, more than the entire U.S. population (310 million).

6 Important Chinese Sites:

Weibo: The Twitter of China. China blocked Twitter and other micro-blog technology ( in 2009 when riots started in the Western region of wieboXinjiang. The government could foresee Twitter enabling the revolutions we are seeing in the Middle East (by the way, Malcolm Gladwell, you were incorrect, the revolution was indeed tweeted). Weibo remains and is growing.  Interestingly enough, 140 characters maximum isn’t as limiting in Chinese as it is in English. Each Chinese symbol expresses so much more than each English character. Owned by publicly traded Sina Weibo means “microblog.”

RenRen: In 2006, Oak Pacific Interactive bought Xiaonei for around $4 million. It has since renamed it RenRen (in August 2009), which literally translates to “everyone.” With an estimated 120 million users, it is trying to become the Facebook of China. RenRen users are primarily high school and college students with Café Internet access.

Kaixin001: Literally means “happy” in Chinese. This social network is cleaner and has an older, white-collar demographic than its rival RenRen. Think Facebook (Kaixin) vs. MySpace (RenRen) circa 2007. Kaixin even has a knock-off of FarmVille called Happy Farm. Interestingly enough, users can use the same log-in to access RenRen and Kaixin001.

Youku and Tudou: Think YouTube/Hulu marriage. Less stringent copyright enforcement enables as much as 70% to be professionally produced (often pirated foreign content). This differs from American YouTube, which is dominated by shorter, user-generated videos. While Americans watch less than 15 minutes of YouTube videos per day, the youth in China spend up to an hour on these sites.

Taobao: “An online Walmart.” Popular among the youth of China. It is similar to eBay in that sellers offer used or new items either via an auction or fixed price. Most items are new merchandise sold at a fixed price. Started in 2003 by the Alibaba Group (partial Yahoo ownership), Taobao is closing in on 400 million registered users and has more than 800 million product listings. Large Fortune 500 companies have opened Taobao stores – finding it easier to sell their product here than on their company sites.

If you plan to do business in China, you will need to understand these social sites.  Get someone “in-market” to assist you in setting up strategy and executing. While these sites appear akin to Western counterparts, they certainly have their own nuances.   The culture differs dramatically too.

By Erik Qualman

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Hat Tip: Fast Company:  “The Social(ist) Network” by April Rabkin | “Social Media in China, the same but different” by Thomas Crampton, Thomas Morffew (RenRen)


6 responses to “China Social Media: 6 Critical Sites

  1. Great Post, Erik!

    As a Chinese, it’s very interesting to see U.S. social media experts dig into China social networks. A few days ago I found a video shared on my Weibo made by Hill&Knowlton Hong Kong Digital Group: “China Socialnomics” It is inspired by your great video “Social Media Revolution”. =) The video provides some data on social networks in China. Hope you find it helpful.

    Best, Lexie

  2. Very comprehensive post. As you said the culture in China is very different from that of the States, I would like to say we can still find some similarities and use different channels to communicate. What is your thoughts on the “group purchase” phenomenon in China nowadays? Do you think those e-commerce sites will develop social media function as they expand just like Groupon, Yelp, or Urbanspoon?

    • Evelyn: Great question on if a Groupon or Yelp clone will breakout in China. There are already dozens of copies, but no one has dominated.

      As you probably know tuangou has been around for a bit; where people in a similar geographic location band together and demand a group discount.

      Social commerce will greatly benefit China, where it is very common for companies to maliciously post bogus reviews about competitors. One a photo and name are tied to reviews this will help limit this activity. While there will still be workarounds and malicious behavior this will curtail a majority of it (my guess anyway).


  3. Love it Thomas! We plan to do another post on this so thanks for these suggestions..we had QQ and Douban on the radar, but Tianya is a great call we will need to dig into!

    Any favorite partners, agencies you recommend?

    Gave you a hat tip at the bottom of the article for the Weibo/microblog insight.

    Best, Erik

  4. Nice post Eric!

    You should also consider (a popular SNS) and Tencent (QQ) Weibo (Weibo just means Microblog in Chinese) Also don’t forget the BBS sites like Tianya, they’re still a major force in China.

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