A common mistake outside observers make is taking their own social media experience, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, as the reference point for what is happening in China. Wrong, tells CIC-president Sam Flemming in China Innovation. China has a unique social media landscape.
I think the first thing you have to understand about Chinese social media is that it is not new. Before Facebook, before MySpace in the West, they had these things called BBS which is the equivalent of forums or message boards and the BBS sites have always been very mainstream – it’s been a place where netizens in China would go to get the latest information about cars, cosmetics etc. particularly high quality products. These forums have always been very important in China. In the past few years we have had the launch of Weibo – a mircoblog that is similar to a Twitter that has exploded. (There are 400 million people on Weibo) Most recently you have something called WeChat which was launched by Tencent which in the past 2 years or so has only got 300 million users and is continuing to grow like crazy. I think the challenge for Americans/Westerners coming into China is that China is a very unique social media environment – we know the players that are popular in the west (Facebook or Twitter) – but in China there are unique fragmented players, there isn’t one dominant platform, there are multiple popular platforms which are dynamic. Netizens are also more active on social media in China but the media landscape is ever evolving and I think WeChat is case in point with that. Just 2 years ago, it wasn’t even on the map and now it has 300 million users. Unique, fragmented and dynamic are the key words!
China tries to limit access to the free internet. Internet users in China try to circumvent those filters, using VPN‘s, but China’s censors are fighting a cat-and-mouse game, trying to close those loopholes. The China Weekly Hangout discussed in December 2012 the state of the VPN’s in China with Sam Xu, John R. Otto, Gabriel Rueck and Fons Tuinstra.
- KFC at last deals with the internet buzz – Sam Flemming (chinaherald.net)
- Why the WeChat vs. Weibo War Will Be the Year’s Biggest Story, and Why Weibo Needs to Win (techinasia.com)
- Six Reasons Why Weibo is Powerful, Even If It’s Haunted By Zombies (tealeafnation.com)
- Top 25 Most Popular Celebrities on Chinese Social Media (mashable.com)