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Social Media in China: An overview of the most popular Chinese social networks

A few years ago, China was still alien territory for many, and only a few were interested in it. However, since its recent emergence as a real economic powerhouse, China has attracted the world's attention. It is not just the general economic development that is exciting to look at, but also, in particular, this within the technology and digitization of China. Chinese tech companies have grown enormously in importance in recent years. In the meantime, with its extraordinary development, they can even keep up with the American tech giants.

An important approach that is driving this innovative digital development in China is usability. This should make the life of the Chinese population easier and better. The mobile payment system in China is a prime example. This approach has in part led to a complete change in the way the Chinese people use media. Today, 99 percent of the Chinese population can only be reached via smartphones. One reason why Chinese social media are becoming more and more the focus of many, and are particularly attractive for those who want to position themselves in the Chinese market.

The social media platforms known to us such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Co. are of little importance in China. There are a number of other Chinese social media apps that are extremely popular and used daily by the Chinese population.

1. Wechat (微 信)

Wechat is an instant messenger that combines the functions of Whatsapp and Facebook. In addition to the news area, the Wechat also offers the option of sharing photos and short videos (max. 10 seconds) with your own friends or looking for people in the area.

Wechat was launched in 2011 and now has numerous other functions such as sharing your own story for 24 hours. Since 2017, mobile payment has even been possible directly via Wechat with your own smartphone. Another exciting function is the transfer of money directly via Wechat. Unlike PayPal, you can transfer amounts of money directly to your friends via the chat.

An email address or anything else is not necessary. As long as you are connected via Wechat, you can transfer money to your own Wechat account within seconds. The recipient can accept or reject the amount.

In addition to a personal private account, companies can also create an official business account and online shops in Wechat. This allows companies to establish 1-to-1 contact with customers and post promotions. Websites hardly play a role in China. They will be replaced by Wechat business pages.

Facts about Wechat

  • All-in-one app: Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram & Paypal in one
  • Largest social network in China
  • 1.15 billion active users per month (September 2019)
  • Users from China and worldwide
  • One of the most popular mobile payment methods in China alongside Alipay
  • Other functions: games, online shopping, travel & restaurant booking, etc.
  • Receives millions of third-party apps
  • Marketing tool for companies par excellence: a popular channel for e-commerce

2. Tencent QQ (腾讯 QQ)

Tencent QQ or QQ for short is a free instant chat for desktop and smartphones that was launched in 1998. Similar to ICQ and MSN, QQ found a great response from young people in China. It is one of the most popular platforms for chatting with friends and other users worldwide. QQ is the largest chat community in the world today. In the so-called QZone, a kind of personal website for QQ users, QQ users can share blog posts and photos with their friends. They are informed about status messages and changes in the Qzone and can comment on them.

Both QQ and its successor Wechat come from the Chinese company Tencent, which is one of the largest Internet companies in the world with a current market value of 398 billion US dollars.

Facts about QQ

  • Chinese ICQ
  • Second largest social network in China
  • 1 billion registered users
  • Users from 80+ countries
  • 731 million active users per month (September 2019)
  • Of which 653 million users via smartphones (September 2019)
  • Decrease in usage after the launch of Wechat
  • Has developed many other products and online services in the areas of gaming, music, entertainment
  • Good location for various advertisements

3. Weibo (微 博)

Literally meaning microblog, Weibo is the most popular microblogging service in China, having been in the market since 2009. Similar to Twitter, both private individuals and companies can communicate with their followers using just a few characters and react to comments in real time. In addition to text messages, photos, audio and video can also be shared on Weibo. In addition, Weibo forms a kind of news portal on which people can find out about certain topics either by means of news items or videos, share them and interact with one another. You can also play games on Weibo with other users.

Facts about Weibo

  • Microblog app
  • 497 million active users per month (September 2019)
  • 95 percent of users come from China
  • The remaining five percent come from the USA, Japan, Taiwan & South Korea
  • Character limit: 140 characters
  • Range of topics: entertainment, celebrities, education, travel, lifestyle, technology, fashion,
  • Ideal channel for companies to communicate with their customers / target groups

4. RED (小红 书)

"The little red book" was founded in Chinese in 2013 and is a lifestyle community platform. Users on RED publish detailed and authentic testimonials and recommendations on different products that they have purchased. These can be shared in the form of text contributions, photos or short videos (up to a minute). The topics are limited to cosmetics and beauty, fashion, celebrities, nutrition, travel, entertainment, books, fitness and childcare.

Over time, RED has established itself as a large platform for influencer marketing and social commerce (social media & e-commerce). On the platform, influencers with large reach can publish product reviews and tutorials and sell them directly from companies through RED.

Facts about RED

  • Lifestyle app
  • Platform with a mixture of social network & digital marketplace
  • 300 million registered users (July 2019)
  • 100 million active users per month (July 2019)
  • 70 percent of users are under 30
  • Mostly female users
  • Shows users new individual trends based on algorithm
  • The ultimate e-commerce platform for B2C in China
  • New possibility for cross-border shopping & influencer marketing

5. Toutiao (头条)

Toutiao translates as headline and is a popular content platform in China. It started as a news website in 2012 and has gradually evolved into a platform that provides content in the form of texts, images, question-and-answer posts, microblogs and videos as a news format. Users can even share news that they have learned about other platforms on Toutiao with others.

Chinese users inform themselves daily on the platform about what is happening in all of China and in the world and interact with each other using the comment function under the news or posts. Toutiao works like Netflix, instead of films it offers its users personalized information feeds. The content of a feed is updated based on a machine learning algorithm.

Facts about Toutiao

  • News app
  • 260 million active users per month (June 2019)
  • 120 million active users daily (June 2019)
  • Average daily use / person: 12 times
  • Average length of stay / day: 73 min.
  • User age is 19 - 46 years
  • Most of them users between 19 and 35 years of age

6. Douyin / TikTok (抖 音)

Douyin, known in the West as TikTok, is a short video app. Douyin was published in 2016 and has taken the Chinese market by storm. Douyin is reminiscent of the principle of Snapchat. With its filters, special effects, different music and 3D stickers, Douyin allows its users to easily create creative and entertaining short videos and share them with their friends.

Because of its concept, Douyin is particularly popular with Generation Z. Thanks to this, entertaining content can be easily consumed in between. Douyin / TikTok is currently one of the most popular social media apps worldwide.

With its huge popularity, Douyin has also become a very popular platform for influencer marketing. There is also a live streaming function that influencers love to use to interact with their fans. The so-called Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) on Douyin enjoy a wide reach and are in great demand from companies that market their products through them.

Facts about Douyin

  • Short video app
  • 486 million active users per month (June 2019)
  • available in 34 languages
  • Average daily use / person: 6 times
  • Average daily usage / day: 60 min.
  • 66 percent female, 44 percent male users
  • 75 percent under 24 years of age
  • Popular channel for social commerce & communication between companies and brands with its target group

Douyin and the news app Toutiao both come from ByteDance, which is currently one of the most valuable unicorns in the world. In addition to Douyin, ByteDance has two other short video apps on the market that target niche markets: Huoshan and Xigua.

Video platforms are also very popular in China. Two very well known are: Bilibili and Youku.

7. Bilibili (哔 ​​哩 哔 哩)

  • Video platform
  • 101 million active users per month (March 2019)
  • 88.6 million of them are mobile users
  • User interaction: 1.4 billion
  • Average usage / day: 81 min

8. Youku (优 酷)

  • YouTube in China
  • 415 million active users per month (June 2019)
  • Topics in categories: series, films, entertainment, music, games, fashion, business, documentation and much more.
  • Free & paid offers
  • Ideal platform for branding & marketing for companies

Short videos and video streaming are basically very popular in China. According to a report by the Chinese BI provider QuestMobile (as of June 2019), short video apps have reached more than 820 million users in China. Entertainment, communication and community are the key points in China when it comes to media use, which certainly also determine the tendency of Chinese social media.


Yun is a German-Chinese and independent digital marketing consultant and service provider for Digital Spirit Marketing. Before starting her own business, she worked for many years as an online marketing manager in start-ups, agencies and corporate groups in a wide variety of industries. As an online marketer, Yun also deals a lot with online marketing in China and offers keynote speeches on online marketing in China.