Which Chinese social media platforms are best for brands? Here’s the top 4 to use in 2023
Where are the Chinese consumers? That’s the million dollar question for brands looking to reach the world’s largest population and building out a strong Chinese marketing strategy.
While that question isn’t too difficult to answer, the challenge becomes: How can we effectively and actively communicate and engage with them?
In North America — or the Western world — Instagram remains a staple for marketing content and audience engagement, as the platform boasts 1.28 billion active users. As well, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok provide terrific opportunities to reach customers, while LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest have their advantages too.
But all those important platforms in North America will have very low impact in accessing the Chinese market. With most Western social media apps restricted, the audience instead engage on a whole new set of nationally developed social media platforms — four of which we will review in this article.
Although China residents account for a majority of the users on these social media platforms, many of those residing outside China also regularly use these platforms in the local market.
Understanding China’s social media landscape is essential for any business looking to engage the Chinese audience. For 2023, we take a look at 4 platforms and how brands can utilize it for their strategy:
With more than 1.31 billion monthly active users, WeChat is essential to everyday online use. It is the main communication channel in China, for both personal and business use. In fact, most businesses prefer WeChat over email.
While it started out solely as a messaging platform, it has now become a one-stop app. Users can make payments, book holidays, purchase items, share Moments, and much more.
However, Moments is most commonly used, with 61% of users checking their Moments section each time they open the app, similar to opening an Instagram feed daily. And like Facebook updates, users can share photos, videos, text, and links.
WeChat operates on a semi-closed system — users can only see someone’s post and interact with them if they are ‘friends’, creating a more intimate circle online. This is also reflected in Chinese consumer behaviour; word-of-mouth recommendations have a greater influence on their purchasing decisions.
Businesses can set up an official account on WeChat through a Subscription account or Service account:
- Subscription accounts mostly used by news outlets or influencers who have access to posting daily, and are not open to overseas businesses
- Service accounts are limited to four broadcast posts per month; however, it is opened to overseas businesses
There are several ways for brands to advertise on WeChat depending on a brand’s budget and objectives.
What are the types of WeChat ads?
- WeChat banner advertising
- WeChat Moments advertising
- WeChat Mini Program advertising
- WeChat Media buys
WeChat banner ads
WeChat banner ads target relevant users who are already interested in a specific topic. Banner ads can be featured at the top, bottom, or in the middle of WeChat articles by official accounts. As users are known to scroll through WeChat articles daily, this is a great tool for brands.
WeChat Moments ads
This is the most popular form of advertising on WeChat, as the majority of users open Moments when entering the app. Moments ads appear on a user’s WeChat Moments feed in the form of a post. Brands can include a combination of photos or videos, text, and links to their post.
WeChat Mini Program advertising
Brands can create a Mini Program, which are sub-applications, within the app. Mini programs can include advanced features for users such as e-commerce, virtual store tours, coupons, and more.
Mini programs are accessible within the app — and it can directly engage with consumers and drive traffic to a brand’s website or shop. In the example below, FarFetch’s WeChat mini program resembles an e-commerce store allowing users to browse through products and make purchases.
WeChat Media Buys
Media buys refer to sponsored content or paid ads in media outlets. Most Chinese media outlets are on WeChat, where many potential consumers would read articles and news. Tapping into the outlet’s existing audience can increase brand awareness while also maintaining the brand’s presence on Chinese social media platforms. But a strong call-to-action is needed for this process to be effective – such as driving consumers to a company’s official WeChat account or group chat.
To illustrate, the media buys for one of our clients Vancouver Whitecaps FC resulted in more than 9,900 WeChat article views and 75,000+ combined impressions.
If there’s one Chinese social media site that will help brands get their name out to a Chinese audience — it’s WeChat.
Douyin is the original version of TikTok, which was created in China and boasts more than 600 million daily active users. The majority of Douyin users are under 40 years old, accounting for 80% of their users.
While both Douyin and TikTok look identical and are used to share short-form videos, the type of content on each platform differs greatly.
Types of Content on Douyin
The most popular content on Douyin focuses on providing knowledge and value to the user. ‘Pan-knowledge’ content, which refers to content on personal growth and improvement, makes up 20% of the total broadcast volume on Douyin. As such, brands often partner with influencers to create organic content.
How Douyin’s algorithm works
Douyin’s algorithm ranks accounts with more followers, likes, and engagement on top, which leads to higher reach for verified brands. The verification process gives brand accounts more authority and legitimacy on the platform.
Luxury brands such as Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci are leveraging the app’s e-commerce features by conducting regular livestreams and setting up flagship stores.
Douyin and e-commerce
The e-commerce features on Douyin are also much more advanced than TikTok’s. Users can directly link to e-commerce sites like Jingdong and Taobao, so users can make in-app purchases. KOLs can also feature products on the Suggested Products page.
Overall, Douyin’s platform is more effective for businesses and brands compared to individual creators. It is a great tool for personal branding, increasing brand awareness, and driving sales.
3. Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu)
Little Red Book or Xiaohongshu is a content sharing and e-commerce site where users often post product photos with reviews and tips. There are more than 200 million users as of 2022 – 90% who are young, female, middle-class consumers.
With Little Red Book being the go-to source for new beauty and makeup trends among the community — there are many opportunities for these brands to engage with the Chinese audience.
Little Red Book has two main sections: the user community, and the e-commerce platform. Users can like and save content, and leave comments.
Unlike other e-commerce platforms, Little Red Book does not allow anonymous reviews or one-click ratings. It focuses on building trust and credibility on the platform, rather than simply driving sales. As such, long product review articles, known as Notes, are common and perform better on the platform.
Due to the tight-knit and engaged community on the platform, influencers on Xiaohongshu tend to do very well as reviews are seen to be more authentic.
Little Red Book’s low barrier to entry makes it an ideal platform for brands to gauge consumer interest and build an online presence in the Chinese market.
Learn more about how brands can get started on Little Red Book here.
Weibo is known as the Chinese version of Twitter, and is the biggest microblogging platform in China with an average of 252 million daily active users.
Key features include:
- 2,000 character limit on posts
- Up to 18 images per post
- Make payments within Weibo with Weibo Wallet
- Subscribe to accounts or join chat groups
- Earn rewards through reward system
- Brands can own hashtags (Super topics on Weibo)
Depending on your business objectives, there are a variety of ways for brands to advertise on Weibo:
- Influencer Campaign
- Fan Tunnel
- Fan Headline
- Prize Campaign
Weibo influencer campaigns help increase brand visibility by working with the influencers or KOLs (key opinion leaders) in your niche. Users are redirected to online storefronts – like Taobao – when they click on a product link in an influencer’s post.
Fan Tunnels are effective for new brands building their follower base. It is similar to boosting a post on Instagram. However, with Fan Tunnels on Weibo, brands can choose to promote a single post or their entire account.
Fan Tunnels push a brand’s post to the top of users’ feeds. Additionally, audiences can be targeted based on age, gender, location, interests, and even stages in life.
Fan Headline offers a quick and efficient promotion for posts and accounts, and they are the most common type of advertising on Weibo. It enhances visibility as it pushes a post to the top of a large number of people’s news feeds.
There are three types of Fan Headlines:
- Fan Headline for Posts — pushed to the top of users’ feeds within 24 hours, and can target potential followers based on similar interests and industries
- Fan Headline for Others’ Posts — pushes another user’s post to the top of their follower’s feeds instead of their own (more for working with KOLs)
- Fan Headline for Accounts — allow brands to promote their account to users who are likely to follow them for a limited time period
A post promoted through Fan Headline will be indicated with a tag on the top left “热门” (Hot)” such as the example below.
Prize campaigns are a built-in function on Weibo, which ensures a fair and seamless process. There are several types of campaigns including flash sales, repost, lucky roulette, free trial, and content collection.
Compared to WeChat’s semi-closed system, Weibo is an open platform where comments and posts are visible to all users and there is no limit to how much you can post.
Weibo is a great platform for brands to build organic reach and establish authenticity.
As an emerging leader in Chinese marketing, Sageus Strategy + Digital can help your brand grow more by connecting with the Chinese market. That includes journeying with brands through the entire process from registration to management of Chinese platforms — whether it’s WeChat, Douyin, or Little Red Book.
With more than two decades of combined experiences working alongside global brands and organizations, Sageus Strategy + Digital focuses on getting to know your business, and help you connect with your audience.
Headquartered in Canada, and committed to making a global, cross-cultural, sustainable impact — we’re your one-stop firm for cultivation and growth, in all areas of branding and marketing.
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