As the country with the most internet users in the world and the biggest mobile market in the world, China is an important place for businesses, reachers and analysts to consider as the largest data set we can observe and draw insights from around social media usage, technology adoption and behavior. Overall, China's internet industry has many unique features, and it is an enormous market opportunity with 1.3 billion people, 56 ethnic groups and over 290 spoken languages.
There are about 618 million Internet users in China today, the largest in the world.
When you look at penetration rates, whereas the majority of Americans who want to be on the Internet are already connected, less than half of the Chinese population are connected, hovering just below 46%. This means that there are still major growth opportunities in China, and that is exactly what the China Internet Network Information Center predicts, estimating there will be 800,000,000 users by 2015.
What is also very interesting is that the vast majority of Chinese prefer to access the internet on their mobile phone. Of the 618 million Internet users in China, 500 million use a mobile device to access the Internet. That is over 80% of all of the Internet users in China.
In fact, if you look at the smartphone space, China is already the world’s biggest consumer of smartphones. When you think of smartphone technology, your mind automatically jumps to Apple iPhones and Samsung products, but we are beginning to see local brands emerge. By show of hands, how many people in this room have heard of Xiaomi? Xiaomi is a very interesting brand. It is a local, Chinese company that makes Smartphones. They got started in 2010 and sell their product almost exclusively online. In December 2013, Xiaomi overtook both Apple and Samsung to become the top selling smartphone in China. It is a phenomenal example of one of the first local Chinese brands to break through and compete at a very serious level with established, global brands.
If we look at the Internet landscape in China, there are several Internet giants. The most important thing to takeaway here is that these companies are different from our own. Their products are shaped by the culture and conditions in China.
The social media landscape, platforms fall broadly into 3 categories: microblogs, messaging services and video/gaming. You will notice that there is a lot of overlap between these, because Chinese social media platforms are rarely singularly focused in terms of their functionality. They have a Swiss-army knife aspect to them, so a messaging app might also have a social sharing function and gaming and music and mobile payment, all rolled into one platform. This is difficult to really understand unless you actively use these apps.