25% of all social network users in the world are Chinese (Synthesio), and yet many companies don’t have a clear understanding of the influence of social media in China. Partly due to the insular nature of chinese social media and partly due to a shortage of organized data, many companies struggle to understand how to engage with chinese social media users. The following is a primer on Chinese use of social media as compiled by facts on Factbrower. The facts and the reports they’re sourced from can all be found on Factbrowser’s China Page.
A Land Without Twitter, Facebook or YouTube
Three of the world’s most popular social channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube) are all blocked in China according to the Data Center of the Chinese Internet. Consequently, several China-based social networks have emerged as dominant channels in the region. In fact, the Data Center of the Chinese Internet reports that 41% of Chinese time online was spent on social networking sites in 2011, the largest percentage of any use-case. The following social networks, which operate solely within the country, are at the center of that usage.
- Renren, a social network comparable to Facebook with 31 million active monthly users (Burson-Marsteller)
- Kaixin, a social network comparable to Facebook has 130 million users and increased its revenue by 41% in 2011.
- Sina Weibo has 250MM registered users (Kaixin)
- YouKu, a video sharing platform comparable to Youtube, has 50 million registered users and distribution agreements with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and other content providers. In 2011, 13.5% of Youku Premium users paid more than once per month to view premium content. (BusinessWeek)
- Jiepang, a mobile check-in app similar to Foursquare. Jiepang reached 910,000 users in 2011 and has cross platform sync with Tencent and Renren social networks (Technode)
Sina Weibo beats Twitter
Despite the ongoing self-censorship to align with Chinese government regulations, Sina Weibo – a Chinese alternative to Twitter- is still more dominant in China than Twitter is in the U.S., according to the Data Center of the Chinese Internet. In sheer user-base volume, Twitter claims 175 million accounts to Weibo’s 250 million, a percent difference of more than 35%. Weibo operates much like Twitter with a 140 character limit and the ability to @ reply followers. However, Weibo includes social games and paid content in addition to micro-posts. Forbes called Weibo ”more of a Twitter-Facebook hybrid than a pure Twitter clone.” Because of these extra uses, Sina Weibo can generate revenue from targeted ads, e-commerce, and paid games among other revenue options. In March of 2011, iResearch reported that Sina Weibo had 56.5% of China’s microblogging market based on active users.
Chart from: The Next Web
Mobile leads the way in China
Mobile use is really what’s driving the momentum of social media and eCommerce in China. There are 338 million mobile Internet users in China in 2011, up 11.6% year-on-year (iResearch China). That usage is forecasted to grow sharply. According to Forrester, India and China will account for a staggering 80% of all mobile Internet user growth in Asia Pacific through 2016.
Mobile apps in particular are seeing high rates of growth. In 2011, the Chinese app market grew by 300%, with app revenue growing by 180% (AppAnnie). However revenue from apps still has room to grow in China. The same AppAnnie data shows that the highest grossing paid app in the U.S. is generating nearly 10x the revenue than the number one paid app in China.
A changing landscape
New data comes out all the time on social media and mobile use in China, and Factbrowser continuously aggregates this research. You can stay informed of new research by signing up for Factbrowser Daily on our homepage or follow the RSS feed for China. If you’d like to see more detailed data on a particular Chinese social network, list it below in the comments and we’ll write a future post on it.