With over 700 million social media users in the country and rapid economic expansion, China has become an indispensable market for companies interested in international business. The potential to tap into such a large audience through social media marketing is a tempting, yet challenging prospect.
Unlike many countries, China presents a unique challenge for social media marketing due to its extensive censorship of popular, global social media websites, instead creating Chinese-specific platforms for its users. These platforms can be difficult to crack because of their unfamiliarity and China’s particular rules about online content. But by modifying its approach to global marketing, a business can have a successful advertisement campaign in China.
The Great Firewall of China
In the face of protests and unrest in the 21st century, China has taken a stern stance on Internet freedom. Creating “The Great Firewall,” China uses over two million government employees to monitor, delete, and censor content that is viewed as detrimental to China’s public image.
Freedom House scored 65 countries’ Internet freedom in 2016, and ranked China as having the worst overall web censorship rate in the world for the second year in a row. Naturally, this censorship has caused many problems for international companies who’s marketing strategies are focused on traditional social media platforms.
In an effort to minimize influence and negative news from other countries, China has completely blocked public access to around 3000 websites, including social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. In the place of those platforms, Chinese entrepreneurs have created a complete suite of exclusive social media platforms for the public.
Popular Social Media Platforms
Most of these social media platforms are imitations of the more internationally well-known platforms. In the fast-paced technological culture of China, four popular social networking platforms have risen above the rest:
Weibo is a popular mesh between Facebook and Twitter. Although the 140-character structure from Twitter was initially used, the platform eventually ramped up the post limit to 2,000 characters.
WeChat is the go-to instant messaging service in China. It allows users to message each other, operates as an e-commerce and payment service, and offers WeChat Moments, which allows users to share their life with others. WeChat continues to grow in popularity, and has become an indispensable part of daily life in China.
Youku Tudou is the country’s version of YouTube, with millions of users watching TV shows, movies, and user-created content through the service.
QZone has a massive number of users, who enjoy sharing photos, music, videos, and blogs. While QZone still retains a large userbase, it has lost a lot of ground to WeChat over the past few years.
All of these platforms boast massive userbases and they will continue to grow larger as long as they can keep up with technological and social trends.
The current technological scene in China is one of frenzied change, and social media platforms are at the forefront. The importance of social media marketing in China can’t be understated, and the most popular platforms allow for 3rd-party advertising. Payment features are a well-integrated part of these platforms, which makes marketing and e-commerce a much more intuitive part of social media.
Video has also become an important part of social media culture in China, and advertisers benefit from putting content on Youku Todou and other video platforms. The popularity of video has moved on beyond just movies and prerecorded user content, as live-streaming has become a huge focus for advertisers.
By tapping into cultural and technological trends and opinions, a company can adapt their product to best fit in China. While regulations and national particularities can create difficulties, by evolving marketing strategy and recognizing what a Chinese market will gravitate towards, a company can succeed in the most profitable social media market in the world.