Chinese Social Media in 2017: What You Need to Know

    A recent report by the market research company Kantar Group reveals that the social media landscape in China is not all about WeChat and Weibo anymore.
    Photo: imtmphoto/Shutterstock
    Yiling PanAuthor
      Published   in Retail

    Chinese social media users are most pleased with WeChat, while younger generations have a higher satisfaction rate with Weibo; female consumers look to social media to make purchasing decisions, while younger generations see it as a way of relieving stress. These are just some of the findings from a recent report released in Beijing by the market research company Kantar Group, which shows that the social media landscape is not all about WeChat and Weibo anymore.

    The “China Social Media Impact Report 2017,” which was released on June 6, uncovers the latest developments in China’s rapidly evolving social media landscape, providing brands with fresh insights into the field.

    Kantar Group embraces a broad definition of “social media," including not only WeChat and Weibo, which most brands are familiar with, but also a number of rising apps such as Jinri Toutiao (a news aggregation app), Taobao and RED (e-commerce apps with social media functionality) that have gained traction over the past year.

    The discovery that people are using all types of social media has led the report to conclude that WeChat and Weibo are no longer enough to serve the needs of social media marketing for brands in China; other platforms have become way too important to be ignored if marketers hope to reach out to their targeted Chinese consumers effectively.

    For example, the report goes deep into Toutiao, a news aggregation platform that has already enabled a lot of social media features. From 2016 to 2017, the usage rate of the app rose to 28 percent up 13.1 percent from the same period the year before. 69 percent of users are male. In addition, the penetration rate of the app is almost balanced across China's various city tiers.

    According to the report, WeChat remains the most important social media app in China, but the behavior of users has demonstrated several significant changes.

    For instance, there are a great number of younger users starting to recognize the negative impact of social media on their daily life, with about 40 percent of those surveyed who were born after 1990 reporting that they have disabled push notifications from their social media apps.

    On the other hand, consumers’ preferences in terms of social media advertisements are shifting too. While in the past, emotional content tended to resonate more with users, now it’s ads that are entertaining and fun that people like most.

    The above changes combined have certain implications on how brands can market toward Chinese consumers. As the report suggests, when brands are facing consumers’ increasing desire to stop receiving real-time message notifications from the social media apps, they’ll have to adjust to assume the fundamental strategy of using “the right platform to push the right content at the right moment to the targeted consumers.”

    Last but not least, the study also reveals some key details about the booming KOL economy in China. It identifies the difference between grass-roots KOLs such as Papi Jiang and expert KOLs such as Mr. Bags. Even though Papi Jiang and Mr. Bags both have huge online followings, because of their different sensibilities and modes of presentation, they generate wildly varied chemistries with brands. Therefore, it’s crucial for brands to choose wisely when looking for a KOL to work with. They should opt for one who truly fits their public image in four ways: exposure, sentiment, influence, and engagement.

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