How western businesses can succeed with Chinese social media

Social media plays a far more important role in the daily life of Chinese people than it does in the West, and the way social platforms work is also very different. Companies and individuals charge for followers, social e-commerce is widespread and trust in a brand is based on whether you read about it on the subway to work.

For new brands and businesses entering the China market, it’s essential to know these platforms and how they can add value to your business.

To understand Chinese social media it is important to understand relationships in Chinese culture. People are more expressive than in the West and they like to learn and share information more readily than in almost any other country. Some key differences:

  • The average Chinese person spends nearly 4.5 hours per day on social media, compared to 2.5 hours per day in the US. 
  • Eighty-two per cent of Chinese social network users say that social media has influenced their purchase decisions.
  • Chinese people trust the information they see online – perhaps more so than in the West.

Chinese social media platforms are not just Chinese-language copies of their Western peers. They offer unique, innovative features designed to work for the Chinese audience. On the micro-blogging site Sina Weibo you can access instant messaging, music, pictures, video, social e-commerce, discussion boards, a huge range of emoticons, rewards, event group boards and bespoke template styling. 

SMS and voice-messaging platform WeChat is what we call a 'super app' combining Skype, Facebook and WhatsApp, and it also includes a payment system that is fast becoming a serious rival to Alipay, China’s equivalent of Paypal.

WeChat’s popularity has exploded over the past two years thanks to its innovative features and functionality. It offers brands a choice to have their accounts ‘verified’ and this tiny orange ‘v’ in the corner of a page is a ticket to trust and engagement with followers.  

China has a huge range of social media platforms available to brands and businesses. Like the West, it's important to choose the right platform to suit your brand, based on the audience segment you want to reach.

Whatever platforms you choose, content is the absolute key to success in China. It’s essential to invest the time and resource into producing fun, exciting, engaging, shareable content in Chinese. We recommend hiring local help to create content that will help you maximise the benefits of your Chinese social media platforms.

Understanding social media is no longer a luxury for companies operating in China — it is a must. Previously, a lack of engagement with netizens could be considered a lost opportunity. Now, failing to understand your online audience in China could be considered a business risk.