Techy, social media-aware, and 1.4 billion strong as of 2023, Chinese consumers are on their phones for much of the day. Nearly all are active on a Chinese social media platform of some kind. Market your business in some of these, and you’ll be getting more eyes on your business.
Before we talk about the best Chinese social media apps for promoting your brand, let’s take a look at how crucial social media is to the life of the average Chinese consumer.
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In this post we will be looking at the following Chinese Social Media Apps:
- Bili Bili
- Baidu Tieba
The Landscape of Chinese Social Media
There’s no denying the power social media has in creating brand awareness. Wherever you choose to set up shop, you need to leverage the reach of social media. In no other part of the world is this more apparent than in China.
Chinese social media platforms have more diverse roles relative to their Western counterparts. Chinese social media apps have functionalities for e-commerce and online monetary transactions. They have gaming and entertainment functions, similar to some social media in the West. In other words, social media apps in China have something to offer to all Chinese Internet users.
Indeed, e-commerce functions aren’t exclusive to online marketplaces in China, social media are in the game too. This functionality is beefed up in the country to the point where each app has a place in a commercial ecosystem unseen in many countries. This has led to the popularization of social eCommerce in the country.
In short, Chinese social media does more than enable users to post status updates and reactions. It enables businesses of virtually any scale to promote and sell products in ways that are pervasive in the everyday lives of consumers.
Who are Chinese social media users?
China is home to more than 1.4 billion consumers. More than 70% of these consumers are on social media as of 2023. Based on existing projections, the number of social media users in China is expected to reach an adoption rate of at least 91% by 2026. This means that nearly all consumers will be using social media by 2026.
All Chinese users use the apps for instant messaging, which is normal and similar in the West, as this was always the main purpose of those apps and sites.
What is rather unique for China but starts being also more visible elsewhere is the usage of video apps and the popularity of video content among Chinese users. As you can see above, more than 94% of active users check those apps looking for video content, and 62% watches live streams. Those are very high numbers regarding the fact that those trends are fairly new.
Other important things to understand are mobile payments and the phenomenon of super-apps in China. WeChat, the most popular super-app, provides basically all functions needed in daily life, creating a space that provides all tools for users, that don’t need to leave the app for anything. You can pay there using WeChat Pay (and 86% of Internet users does it), and you can order food, taxi, shop, and more.
The Most Popular Social Media Platforms in China
In China, there are many social media apps. For your convenience (and success in the country), we’ve narrowed your choices down to these top ten.
A market penetration rate of at least 70% is a feat for any brand or application. However, when the consumer market consists of nearly every age group in the country, such an app becomes a marketer’s dream. WeChat is indeed the marvel of a Chinese social media platform, exceeding more than 1.26 billion monthly active users.
WeChat has gone a long way from how it was during its inception. When it broke into the online space in 2011, it began as a messaging app with a photo-sharing use case. Now, it has grown into a multi-function app capable of doing everything from booking appointments to making online payments. For its ever-expanding list of functions, it continues to be what many deem to be China’s most important app.
Marketers can advertise on WeChat and draw the attention of the platform’s 1.2 billion users. Wechat offers many possibilities to market your brand on the app, like:
- Wechat Official accounts: working like newsletters or mini websites for communication with followers and all brand announcements and updates
- Wechat mini-programs; allow brands to create brochures presenting their offer, but also shops and mini-games for customers engagement
- WeChat Pay: makes it possible to sell directly through WeChat using the mobile payment option
- WeChat Moments: are like a Facebook feed
- WeChat Channels; are the equivalent of Tik Tok inside WeChat, allowing brands to reach out to new consumers through video content
- WeChat advertising; with many different ad formats
- KOLs and influencer marketing
- Customer relationship management
And many more. WeChat is an all-in app that you can’t miss. When it comes to social media marketing in the Chinese market, all the companies that are not on WeChat are not really treated seriously. This is the Chinese social media platform that you need to start from.
To get an idea of what Weibo is, all you need to do is imagine a combination of Twitter and Facebook (or Instagram, whichever you use more for marketing). In a way, Sina Weibo is China’s answer to Twitter in the sense that the platform’s users can post under hashtags.
Two things make Weibo an excellent app for social media in China and brand promotion. First, as of 2023, Weibo has at least 573 million monthly active users. Equally impressive is the app’s mobile penetration, with 94% of the users being mobile users. This is a statistic worth paying attention to especially if you’re targeting mobile users in China (and you should).
The other attractive quality of Weibo for investors is how engagement is easy on the app. Engaging with consumers is possible and easy because brands can create official verified accounts. Hence, if you sign up for a Weibo business account, you’ll be able to create a page for brand awareness and customer engagement.
Xiaohongshu or Little Red Book is a social media platform but with a twist — and added eCommerce twist, that is. Xiaohongshu allows marketers to list products for sale under user accounts. Companies can sign up for e-commerce accounts with the e-commerce platform.
What Xiaohongshu has over most e-commerce platforms are its engagement functions. Consumers can interact with companies directly using the platform’s messaging functions. On top of that, users of the app can post customer reviews of products they have purchased.
KOLs (key opinion leaders) and KOCs (key opinion consumers) make full use of this function, so consider this when promoting your brand on the app, as it’s one of the best Chinese social media sites for influencer marketing.
The reviews can also include media showing their use and experience with the product. This enables potential buyers of a product to make purchasing decisions accordingly.
Xiaohongshu is especially good for fashion and beauty brands. The app is known for its user-generated content, and the majority of users in the Chinese market are women. They post recommendations, tips, and reviews of fashion items and beauty products they use and they also search the app for this type of content.
Douyin has exploded into one of the most popular video apps and platforms today. If you’re not familiar with this Chinese social media app, you’ll know it by a different name — TikTok. DouYin/TikTok together has accumulated more than 800 million users worldwide. In China, the app counts 700 million monthly active users as of 2023.
Douyin gives users the power to create video content. What does this mean for you? It means that you can promote your brand through videos on this platform. Even better, signing up for an account is quite straightforward, given how many consumers have personal accounts on the platform.
For the visibility your products can gain from videos on the platform, here’s one thing to think about. In 2019, DouYin amended the ideal length of videos. Seeing that the average user spent no more than 50 minutes on the app, DouYin encouraged the creation of shorter videos. How short? The encouraged length is anywhere from five seconds to a minute.
Your video won’t be cut being a few seconds longer, but you’ll be better off condensing your content to under a minute.
Kuaishou is the main competitor of Douyin in China and one of the biggest short-video platforms in the world. This Chinese social media platform owns its success in targeting lower-tier city consumers, creating content for those, that were often neglected by other apps.
Kuaishou’s content is more casual, presenting daily life, also in rural areas of China. As of 2023, it has around 600 monthly active users, and its target audience is far bigger than Douyin’s, presenting great opportunities for further growth.
Kuaishou became even more popular when the live-streaming function was added to the platform, and today it’s one of the most viewed live-streaming platforms in China, with more than 200 million live streams being added every day.
Are you looking for a way to direct some organic traffic to your company site in China? If you are, then you may want to consider brand promotion in forums. In the West, brands have done this on platforms like Quora and Reddit. In China, the equivalent is none other than Zhihu.
Zhihu works a lot like Reddit and Quora. In other words, it’s a Q&A platform that allows users with verified accounts to ask and answer questions.
Being an active Zhihu participant can work wonders for your social media campaign in China. The ability to answer questions immediately positions you as an industry authority and a brand that engages with people — things you want to be known for in China.
To date, Zhihu has at least 160 million active users, with more than seven million online daily. Most of its users are highly-educated people earning more than average. It’s a great social networking platform for undercover marketing and cost-efficient strategy, allowing you to build strong e-reputation and gain feedback about your brand.
There’s no denying the importance of video in any marketing strategy that involves social media in China. If video marketing comprises the bulk of your market strategy, then look no further than Youku Tudou. Youku Tudou is China’s answer to Youtube. With a user base totaling 580 million, this is one video-sharing app you’ll need to leverage for maximum brand awareness.
Youku Tudou offers marketers and channel owners access to analytics. Using data generated by the analytics function, marketers using the platform for video marketing can track the performance of their content. The analytics function helps you get a better idea of who your audience is and what content will generate the most engagement and appeal.
Bili Bili might seem like another Chinese Youtube, but it’s a bit different. In comparison to Youtube, it is indeed another video platform, offering both short and long-form videos. But when it comes to Bili Bili, its focus is on younger audiences.
Bilibili has quickly become one of China’s biggest and most beloved hubs for video content. Initially popular among anime lovers and gaming enthusiasts, the platform now caters to a wide range of audiences including those interested in consuming K-dramas – that are not always accessible through traditional media channels.
The platform boasts over 600 million monthly active users who share fan-made videos on its vibrant community space featuring unique visual styling.
If you are looking to promote your video, focus on building a close-knit community among pop culture junkies who can recommend your content – this is an excellent opportunity if tailored towards local audiences!
Baidu Tieba is an innovative online platform facilitating meaningful conversations between users. Think of it as a way to connect with like-minded individuals in the digital space – by typing your query into their search bar, you can quickly find and join exclusive “bars” dedicated specifically to that topic.
With its unique twist on social media engagement, this Chinese web service offers members something new: creating a place for them where they know everyone cares about the same things.
With the extensive capabilities of this platform, businesses can reach new and specific audience groups with tailored content. Furthermore, due to its ease of use for creating an organic presence in China, marketers are increasingly relying on it as a tool that not only helps grow their brand but also provides invaluable feedback from Chinese netizens.
QQ, the Chinese messaging app created by Tencent in 1999, has come a long way since its launch. Initially just an instant messenger like MSN Messenger, it now allows users to play online games and send emails as well as large files with ease.
Moreover, they can stream music while sharing Snapchat-style disappearing videos and animations or join multi-person groups of similar interests via their news feed on the Facebook lookalike service – Qzone. With all these features available at once under one roof along with dating services enabled for potential partners, how is it possible that you never heard of this platform?
QQ has rapidly become the go-to platform for a younger generation of consumers, particularly those in second and third-tier cities who are eager to participate in digital exchanges. Brands can unlock massive potential by leveraging this urban online population’s increased purchasing power.
Furthermore, their tendency towards media consumption as well as trying out new products grants higher levels of engagement with corporate entities on this social network compared to its peers. Not only is it popular among individuals but also appeals greatly to white-collar workers due to how easy it makes communication and securely sending large files across multiple networks
Marketing on Chinese Social Media Apps
All Chinese Social Media apps offer compelling tools to brands that become available once you registered for a business account. Each app has its own set of requirements and we strongly suggest you collaborate with a local partner to simplify and accelerate the process. This should be the first step you take when looking at promoting your company on Chinese social media.
All of the Chinese social media apps mentioned require no more than you sign up for a business account to start using their paid advertising tools. The only exception is WeChat where you also need to commit a minimum investment for advertising on the platform. The minimum will depend on the ad option you want.
One other area that needs a mention is the kind of content and products you can advertise. The Chinese government allows foreign brands to advertise in the country. However, there are many products that when advertised or mentioned on social media can lead to heavy penalties and censors.
Here are some of the products and keywords you should not include in your social media content in China:
- Medical products
- Formula milk for babies
- Anything involving Tibet or Xinjiang
- Tobacco products
- Alcoholic beverages
- Investments of any sort like real estate
- Educational services
There are many more regulated pieces of content as per China’s advertising laws. It’s hard to learn all of them overnight. This is what makes working with a China-based marketing agency all the more important.
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