To the Western market, China is an incredible complex society that spans great territory. There are trends that can be identified to show why some global social networking sites work whilst others do not:
- Professional social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, have not yet taken off in China, with just under 11 million registered users. Although LinkedIn has amassed over 350 million users globally, there is low uptake of professional social networking sites in China. This phenomenon is due in part to Chinese people’s reluctance to provide accurate personal information online. There are many businesses that sell personal information to third parties unlawfully. It is common for people registered on professional social networking sites to get bombarded with unsolicited sales calls, a high proportion of which could be scams. Another reason for the slow uptake of registration to these sites is the fact that Chinese business executives prefer to connect with contacts face to face. Chinese culture dictates that this is a more sincere method of conducting business than using email or telephone to secure sales.
- In most countries, Twitter dominates the microblogging space; in China there are four microblogging services setting up by the major portal sites: Sina, Tencent, Sohu and Netease. Sina currently has the largest user base due to its early entry into the marketplace, however other Weibo’s link to portals’ own popular assets such as online video, QQ instant messaging and webmail subscriptions.
- In much of the rest of the world, social networking sites that host pages dedicated to artistic and creative people (similar to MySpace) are no longer popular. In China, however, this type of social networking site is still thriving. One such site is Douban, which profiles people with special talents in the arts, literature and movies. Brands that have unconventional images may benefit from engaging with influential artists with popular profiles on sites like Douban.
- The rise of Wechat, the mobile social app launched in 2014. Considered a game changer for social marketing in China, with 549m active users in China and 180m users outside of China. It has built in QR code reader and integration with iBeacon, enables brands to be able to gain leverage from them to realise their offline to online (O2O) strategy, driving deeper brand engagement and retail footfall.
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