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June 1st, 2011 by Mythreyi Krishnan under Commentary

Social media across Asia : China

In countries across Asia, young people have made similar number friends offline as they have made online. But, in China, youngsters actually have made a larger pool of friends online as a combination of socio-economic factors coupled with higher rate of internet penetration has led to a union of online and offline lives. Due to rural-urban migration many youngsters are separated from their families and find social networking a convenient way to keep in touch with those back home. Another reason often cited is the one child policy which has resulted in most young people growing up in single child homes. Social media has given them a chance to connect to people and share information on a daily basis.

Note that compared to internationally popular sites like facebook, myspace, YouTube and twitter, home-grown social networking sites are used heavily by the Chinese population. After the government disabled these platforms, numerous home-grown clone sites sprung up catering to various segments of the market. Some sites are more popular among 1st tier cities while others cater to 2nd and lower tiered cities. Accordingly, preference varies according to age as well. Techrice used their data to come up with the distribution across segments shown below.

China segmented

Qzone : Launched in 2005, this is the biggest site in terms of number of users which ranges anywhere between 300-480 million registered users according to various reports. Users are able to write blogs, keep an online diary and listen to music. This site is most popular among 2nd tier and 3rd tier cities in China.

Pengyou : Launched by the same company as Qzone, Pengyou meaning “friend” caters to both students and white collar workers. Pengyou is a networking platform for friends in real life whereas Qzone is mostly a network for instant messaging friends on QQ, the most popular IM platform in China.

Renren : this site has around 160 million registered users and is still growing. It is very popular among young people in 1st and 2nd tier cities, especially university students. It started off as Xiaonei.com, and was considered a carbon coby of Facebook with similar layout and the trademark shade of blue. Now, Renren has gained its own place in the social media space in China with 31 million active users monthly. In April 2011, it filed for an IPO in the US offering shares on the NYSE raising over US$743 million dollars.

Kaixin001: Another facebook clone that became one of the fastest growing sites in China by launching apps and games that is available on facebook. Kaixin, unlike Renren is targeted at the white collar worker who spends upto 9 hours in front of the computer each day. Accordingly the user interface is simpler and designed to be more intuitive to use.

Some unique usage patterns

  • Chinese netizens are the most likely to share a negative product review online. 62% of them attested to this compared to the global average of 41%
  • Personal: 1. Staying in touch is the most frequent use of social media 2.Read content 3.Make new friend
  • Business use: 1. Highlight personal expertise 2. Build network contacts  3. Identify lead
  • Chinese state-owned companies have been a late and slow adopter of social media compared to Chinese private firms and foreign subsidiaries in China.

china-internet-users-2010

According to a report last year, China has close to 460 million internet users with 34.3% internet penetration. This is up 19.1% from 2009 and still growing. With such a massive pool of potential consumers, the scope for monitoring is boundless. Web analytics is still shaky in China but monitoring what this community says about your brand is essential for any company.  According to a Nielson poll, Chinese netizens are the most likely to share a negative product review online, 62% of them attested to this compared to the global average of 41%. With stats like these, it would be prudent to have a constant eye on one of the most lucrative online communities in the world.

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