Beyond 1.3 Billion: Understanding China and Social Media


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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.

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Beyond 1.3 Billion: Understanding China and Social Media

  1. 1. Beyond 1.3 Billion: Understanding China and Social Media Yuanbo Liu | @yuanboliu
  2. 2. China is a massive market with a unique social media landscape. How is it different and why?
  3. 3. First, let’s look at the sheer size of China.
  4. 4. Chinese New Year is the largest annual human migration with 3.6 billion trips taken.
  5. 5. Now let’s look at the Internet.
  6. 6. The world’s largest population of internet users 618,000,000 Internet users in China as of December 2013 China has the largest population of Internet users in the world. It is about twice the size of the US population (317 million people). Tech in Asia
  7. 7. There are still major growth opportunities 85 % Internet penetration rate, USA 45.8 % Internet penetration rate, China Almost all Americans who want to be online are connected to the Internet, already. Clearly, that is not the case in China. China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC)
  8. 8. A mobile revolution is taking place 500,000,000 Of the 618 million Internet users in China access the Internet on their mobile device Over 80% of Internet users in China access the web via mobile. China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC)
  9. 9. Local brands are beginning to emerge as leaders China is the world’s biggest consumer of smartphones. Today, Apple has more stores in Shanghai than in San Francisco, and launched new iPhones in Beijing when it does in California.
  10. 10. So, lots of people in China are going online, mostly via mobile. Once online, where are they going?
  11. 11. Chinese platforms are unique Search E-commerce Social Internet giants in China are shaped by the culture and conditions.
  12. 12. Social Microblogs Messaging Video/Gaming Different social media channels in China appeal to different audiences. Many incorporate multiple aspects of functionality, like messaging, video and gaming, with a Swiss-army knife approach.
  13. 13. Sina Weibo Screenshot Weibo is a type of microblogging platform. Sina Weibo is one such platform, though there are many others. Microblogs are now heavily censored in China and many require real-name verification.
  14. 14. Wechat Screenshots Wechat is the standard method of messaging in China, occupying 82% of messaging. Similar to WhatsApp, it allows you to send messages over the Internet, as well as voice messages and social sharing.
  15. 15. YY Screenshot YY is like“Whatsapp meets Zynga meets American Idol”. A completely different type of platform, YY appeals to a specific audience and mixes real time voice and audio with virtual goods.
  16. 16. To sum it up, Chinese platforms revolve around: Mobile-first technology Swiss-army knife approach Virtual goods Audiences
  17. 17. China is an enormous market that is very active on social. But it’s not just one big opportunity. Why?
  18. 18. To understand why China is different, look to the cultural underpinnings of specific audiences.
  19. 19. 1. Geographic
  20. 20. Tiered city structure Tier 1 - Beijing Tier 2 - Qingdao Tier 3 - Shenyang Consumer habits vary geographically according to the affluence and status of the city.
  21. 21. 2. Demographic
  22. 22. Social demographics Fuerdai Singles Tourists Audience subsets in China vary greatly. Each audience shares unique characteristics and motives, which drive behavior.
  23. 23. Common Themes Gifting Social Pressure Cultural practices and social pressures drive and catalyze emerging technologies and internet phenomena.
  24. 24. These audiences are each unique, but they share common cultural themes that translate into online behavior.
  25. 25. What are the takeaways?
  26. 26. Massive scale with unique conditions have led to innovation that is very different from our own.
  27. 27. We are beginning to feel the impact of this innovation.
  28. 28. To understand the opportunity offered by China, look to the cultural values.
  29. 29. Thanks for listening. Questions?