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Overview of Key Chinese Social Media Platforms

Updated: May 27, 2019


More and more western businesses find it intriguing to market into Chinese communities, either the Chinese-speaking ethnic groups in North America or the Chinese in Greater China. But many may get confused at the first step to start social media presence on Chinese social media platforms: Weibo or Wechat, the influential “two pillars” of Chinese social media? Or Tiktok or Kwai, the emerging but wildly popular short-video-only social apps? Or long-video focused Youku and iQiyi? Or, if not already confusing enough, other numerous niche platforms such as the Little Red Book, Douban or Zhi Hu?


Chinese social media in 2017

The digital marketing world would have been more straightforward if the Chinese platforms could be conveniently labeled as the Chinese Youtube, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. In this article, let’s take a simplified overview of the main-stream digital platforms:


Wechat = Facebook + WhatsApp + Digital Wallet

Weibo = Twitter + Reddit + Netflix (via recent alliance with KRCOM)

Tiktok/Kwai = (the disappeared) Vine or Facebook’s New Lasso

iQiyi/Youku = Netflix + Youtube


Same as marketing on western social media platforms, we start from the objectives (to build awareness, make sales or provide customer services), target audience and budget before choosing whether to pay for an official account or purchase advertisements on which platforms.


Though Wechat is the top 1 platform which has the most users and is integrated into the everyday life of each user. It is expensive to place an advertorial on a third-party official account, for example around $2000 as a headline in an official account with more than 50,000 followers. Since Wechat is more complicated because of their three types of official accounts and different rules towards domestic and overseas entities, I will elaborate on the ROIs of Wechat in a separate blog.



For a western business to build brand awareness or a non-for-profit institution to achieve educational purposes, Weibo, Tiktok, and Kwai are much more cost efficient. Because the UGC (User Generated Content) on those platforms will be automatically published to the public, while Wechat’s official account is only viewable to subscribers like Facebook. This is true even for a free and not-verified account. Those platforms’ algorithms allow new feeds to reach an audience who hasn’t subscribed to your account but expressed interest in the category of your account. However, the exposure from a new account varies greatly according to the specific algorithms and the nature of the feeds.


For businesses, those three platforms are also important when the objective is to first build brand awareness with a limited budget, as the followers can be later converted into Wechat subscribers. While open social media platforms are needed, it is vital to utilize Wechat, the community centered platform, for more targeted marketing and better conversation rate. So, it is recommended to start applying for an official Wechat account as soon as possible. And place advertisements or advertorials on Wechat during the wait for the account approval.


Below is a more detailed comparison of the major platforms. Please contact us if you need a free assessment on which platform, or a combination of platforms, fit your needs the best.


Key Social Platforms By Monthly Active Users (MAU: In Millions)


* Sources: Weibo 2019 Q1 report, Tencent 2019 Q1 report, https://seekingalpha.com/news/3444167-iqiyi-looks-crack-blockbuster-short-video-app-market and https://seekingalpha.com/article/4252991-recent-developments-chinas-online-video-market-challenge-iqiyi


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