The Chinese are the number one internet users in the world. In 2014, there were 647 million internet users in China and 557 million people were using mobile internet. In comparison, the entire population of the United States is only 324 million. There are about 1,4 billion inhabitants in China, and the number of people using internet is constantly growing.
The Chinese aren’t only the largest group of internet users in the world, but also the most active. In China, social media users have several profiles on different platforms. You don’t reveal your true self in every profile – people also use alias profiles. People use the internet to actively interact with others and for entertainment.
The most popular social media platform is WeChat, which in 2015 had about 600 million users. The number two, Weibo, has over 200 million users. For example, Twitter has only 300 million users worldwide. In China, Twitter is blocked, as are Facebook (1,6 billion) and Youtube (billion).
The Chinese spend a lot of time online, and mobile use is on the rise. Almost half of mobile users spend three hours a day using the internet and social media services. The social media platforms, that Europe for instance is familiar with, are focused on sharing certain kind of content: images on Instagram and short messages on Twitter. WeChat, the most popular social platform in China, is like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a few other platforms combined. You can, for example, make smartphone payments, send voice messages, and search for a place to have lunch. By shaking your phone, you can locate other people nearby who are also shaking their phones. Both WeChat and Weibo are used mainly with smartphones. WeChat was originally a mobile application.
Videos are a rising form of social media content also in China. Content created by celebrities, sometimes very commercial, is also popular. The growth of online shopping has been exponential, and buying products through different services is easy and popular.
News from a news app and brand news from celebrities
Unlike in Europe and America, in China news apps are the primary source of news for over half of internet users. About 17% of users follow the news primarily through social media, and the same number visits news agency websites on their desktop computers. As the traditional channels lose their popularity, news agencies have become active in different channels and social media to hold on to their audience.
Chinese social media users are most interested in entertaining and funny subjects, and the lives of popular celebrities. For many brands in China having a well-known celebrity take part in the advertising campaign is a successful way of marketing. People don’t mind that the celebrities are paid to praise a product and can easily be impressed with a hot local celebrity. Western celebrities are also used in campaings, but not as much.
Business communication in general can also be more commercial than in Europe. Even a bit over the top. A European company’s Chinese press release would not work in Europe, because of the hype and exaggeration it contains. The media usually publishes the stories as is. Business events need to have entertainment, food and drink, and even animal figures bouncing about for journalists to even turn up. Contact with journalists is mainly through social media. Sending an email is, after phone calls, only the third most popular way of handling media relations.