What you need to know about Social Media Marketing in China

China’s consumers are one of the most connected consumers in the world, especially in the area of m-commerce. Alibaba recorded total mobile sales of approximately RMB 99 billion during last year’s Singles’ Day Festival, an amount larger than the combined sales of Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day in America. A large reason for the growth in m-commerce in China is due to the high smartphone penetration rate amongst Chinese consumers, and the trust that Chinese consumers have in third-party payment providers to conduct digital transactions through their smartphones, according to a report by KPMG.


China’s mobile users exceeded 1.3 billion at the end of 2015, with 29.6% of them using 4G, according to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). A 2016 survey conducted by KPMG found that 17.2% of consumers purchase something online after seeing the product being mentioned in a social media post or blog. Social media thus becomes an important tool for companies to utilize in order to appeal to this new generation of consumers who are increasingly engaging with digital platforms.

Also, more than half of the respondents in China share their purchase, views, opinions and feedback online post-purchase. A study done by OgilvyOne found that 55% of Chinese netizens had initiated or participated in online discussions about companies. As such, it is important for companies to not only be visible online, but also follow discussions regarding their products, and actively educate their consumers on what they have to offer. In fact, 93% of digital marketers in China believe that social media is important, and 76% of digital marketers in China use social media marketing either always or frequently, according to the 2014 Digital Media Marketing Report by Hylink Advertising, comScore and Pacific Epoch.

However, given the Chinese government’s strong Internet censorship, the social media platforms in China are unique to its domestic market with Chinese equivalents of our Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter, and overseas companies may struggle when attempting to carry out social media marketing campaigns. If that’s the case, which domestic social media platforms should they focus on?


1. Sina Weibo

Sina Weibo can be said to be the equivalent of Twitter, allowing users to post posts limited at 140 characters, with links, photos and videos on their profiles. It has a user base of approximately 560 million. However, Sina Weibo is seen as a microblog rather than a platform for short updates, as Chinese require less characters to convey the same meaning as what is expressed in English e.g. I love to eat snacks (19 characters used) vs 我喜欢吃零食 (5 characters used). 81.5% of marketers in China considered microblogs to be the most important social media channel, followed by WeChat with 58.8% of respondents, according to a 2013 survey.

2. WeChat (known as Weixin in China)

WeChat is the most popular chat app, and WeChat Pay is most popular for peer-to-peer money transfers. It primarily functions as a chat app, allowing users to send text messages, photos, voice messages, videos, and stickers to each other. In this aspect, it is very similar to Whatsapp. However, it also has additional features, such as WeChat Moments, where users can view their friends’ status updates, and leave comments on them. To visualize it better, you can think of it as a Facebook timeline. The app also allows users to play games, shop, visit businesses’ WeChat Official Accounts, obtain promotional coupons from nearby shops or talk to a stranger nearby using WeChat Shake, and send money to one another via WeChat Pay.

The numerous features available makes the app a very attractive platform for businesses as there is so much that they can do on a single app – be it customizing messages to their potential and current customers, placing products for sale on their WeChat Official Accounts, drawing customers to their physical stores through coupons distributed through the app, and many more. Partnering with Key Opinion Leaders is a common social media marketing strategy for companies to reach out to a wider audience on both Weibo and WeChat.

3. Youku

Youku is often compared to YouTube, as the interface is very similar. It is the largest video-sharing site in China, with more than 800 million daily video views. Users can upload content, comment on them, upvote/downvote the video, and share it with their friends. They can also download the video, or favourite it to view the video at a later time. However, Youku tends to have longer videos than YouTube, most of which are professional videos such as television dramas. It is an effective platform for brands that intend to tell a story using videos to attract consumers from China.

4. QZone

QZone is China’s most popular social networking site, with a young user base from mostly second and third-tier cities. It is created by Tencent, which is also the parent company of WeChat, and has more than 625 million active users.

Other popular social networking sites include Douban, Kaixin001, and RenRen, but they have very different user bases. Douban attracts audiences who may be more passionate about culture, reading and the arts, connecting people who have the same interests. Kaixin001 attracts young professionals, and is mainly used by working adults in first-tier cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, and some second-tier cities. Lastly, RenRen is used by a younger audience, mainly university students who wish to connect with their classmates, but also has white-collar professionals and a wider audience using its platform.

About FOMO Pay Pte. Ltd

FOMO Pay is the first authorized WeChat Pay & Baidu Wallet partner in Southeast Asia, and was selected as one of the TOP 100 Asian Companies by E27, TOP 100 Startups by Red Herring Asia, and Top 8 by DBS’ FinTech Accelerator Program. FOMO Pay provides a one-stop solution for local merchants by facilitating payment collection from the China market, including Chinese tourists. This comprises of online/offline Chinese payment modes, such as WeChat Pay, Alipay and Union Pay. FOMO Pay’s business solution serves clients from a wide range of industries, including the telecom, publishing, tourism and hospitality, F&B, education and retail industries.