Social media trends in China

By Posted in - China & Chinese Social Media on September 8th, 2016 0 Comments

To develop a successful social media strategy in China, it’s important to get to grips with how the Chinese population uses social media. Kantar’s recent research on Chinese social media offers Western businesses some important insights, so let’s pick out some notable findings:

Penetration amongst elderly generations

As you’d expect, young people (born post-1980s and 1990s) make up the vast majority of the Chinese internet population. However social media use by the post-1960s and post-1970s generations has increased to 31.3 percent and 53.3 percent respectively.

This means that over half of Chinese people aged between 36 and 45 and almost one third of Chinese people between 46 and 55 use social media regularly as well. The increase of social media population amongst elderly generations can no longer be ignored by businesses who want to develop their brand awareness in China through social media platforms.

This is particularly important when thinking about student recruitment in China. In Chinese culture, parents tend to make the final decisions when it comes to education, often choosing universities for their children. With more Chinese parents using social media, it is worthwhile for universities to develop a content strategy that takes Chinese parents’ needs into account as well.

Figure 1 - The Penetration Rates of Social Media amongst Different Generations

Figure 1 – The Penetration Rates of Social Media amongst Different Generations

Traditional media more trusted

WeChat, the most popular Chinese social media app, is an increasingly important information source for the Chinese social media population. That applies to both young people and the more elderly generations.

However, according to Kantar’s research, it is less trusted than more traditional media. The three most reliable sources of information cited by respondents were TV, newspapers, and the web, with WeChat in fourth place.

So whilst social media is increasingly important, other media should not be neglected.


Figure 2 – Top Reliable Information Sources

Overlap of social media and online shopping

Interestingly, there’s an overlap between social media use and online shopping. Statistics show that almost two thirds of WeChat users also use Taobao (Alibaba’s online shopping site – similar to in their everyday lives.

So it appears that WeChat could present an opportunity for Western brands to develop e-commerce in China.

In particular, WeChat allows businesses to sign up for a service account (see our past blog post for more information), directly providing customers paid services and charging them on the platform. For Western businesses, it is worthwhile considering making full use of the platform to promote online sales in the Chinese market.

Video in China

Whilst popularity of video is increasing in the UK, Kantar’s research shows that videos are less likely to be circulated amongst WeChat users in China than on Western social media platforms.


Nevertheless, this by no means suggests Chinese users never subscribe to videos. Interestingly, Kantar’s research discovered that a video often works well on WeChat, if it is presented alongside other forms of text, including text, images, and music. Thus, posts with multimedia components are recommended.

The research by Kantar uncovers that, while the popularity of social media has become a global phenomenon, unique socio-cultural factors mean that it can be used in notably different ways in different places. For businesses, your successful experiences in the West may not always work well in the Far East. Thus, a culture-sensitive strategy is needed if you want to engage with Chinese customers on Chinese social media.

Please drop us a line if your institution needs any help with developing social media strategy in China. We’re here to help.

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