May 22, 2019

Understanding Social Media in China

The first thing you need to know about social media in China is that it has its own ecosystem. There is no Facebook or Instagram in China, which has allowed them to create platforms unique to its population. And those platforms have thrived, currently being home to over 900 million active users of social media. To put that in perspective, that’s more than four times the amount in the U.S.

As an international business owner, there’s clearly an opportunity. The overwhelming amount of first awareness in China (measuring how users first interact with a brand) occurs through digital channels like social, streaming and audio. That suggests that if you’re able to establish a presence on native Chinese social platforms, you’ll better position your business to leave an impression on its consumers than if you built a physical store.

Social Media Platforms in China  

Similar to the west, two of China’s social media platforms dominate the pack. Those two brands are WeChat and Weibo.


At the end of 2018, WeChat counted nearly 1.1 billion MAU. As incredible as that figure sounds, it’s not the most impressive aspect of this app.

What is WeChat?

WeChat started as a simple messaging app in the vein of WhatsApp. What it’s morphed into is a lifestyle app offering multiple functionalities that occupy close to 35% of users time on mobile.

How can WeChat be used for my business?

In addition to messaging, WeChat enables mobile payments, e-commerce functionality, allows you to access food delivery, book doctor appointments, call a taxi, start a business page, and other functions that are too numerous to list. For foreign businesses, the WeChat Pay option is particularly enticing. Transactions can be settled in CAD and setting up a WeChat store inserts your business onto a platform that is infused into the daily lives of Chinese citizens. It’s not a stretch to say that WeChat is a central pillar to day-to-day Chinese living, especially with a penetration rate of 83% among smartphones and 92% among those living in first-tier cities.

How do I create a WeChat business account?

Follow these steps to create a WeChat business account:

  1. Provide a China Residence ID and phone number or partner with a company who is already a Chinese entity. Either way, anticipate filling out large amounts of paperwork.
  2. Verify account to access advanced features such as WeChat Pay and other third-party applications. A gold shield will appear in your account description to let customers know they are dealing with a trustworthy account.  
  3. Verify your trademark (if applicable). A green shield will appear in your account description.

Learn more about setting up a business account on WeChat


What is Weibo?

Weibo is a mix of Twitter’s search page paired with Instagram. Opening the app takes you through a curated newsfeed of stories happening in China. It also presents users the option to follow their favourite celebrities, post messages, and open either a personal or corporate account. Weibo is thriving with a 20% YoY increase in users. At over 400 million users, it’s more populated than Twitter despite launching two years later.

How can Weibo be used for my business?

For foreign business owners, you’ll be able to sell products directly from your Weibo account through a feature called Show Window. Approximately 48 million shoppers use the Show Window feature and payment is accepted through native Weibo Payment.

How do I create a Weibo business account?

Follow these steps to create a Weibo business account:

  1. Fill out the “Sign up now” form including the popup that asks for a verification code.
  2. Verify your account. This will take filling out several forms on top of verifying your account through email.
  3. You’ll also be expected to provide links to your company website along with your business licence and any certificates.

Learn more about setting up a Weibo business account.

Video Streaming Platforms in China

We couldn’t talk about social media in China without mentioning video streaming. Viewership for live streaming in China comes in at around the 450 million mark and, according to Deloitte, by the end of the year should bring in over $4 billion in revenue.

While there are several notable video streaming apps in China, three stand out.


What is Yizhibo?

Launched in 2016, Yizhibo has quickly become the go-to video streaming app for Chinese Millennials. One of the benefits of Yizhibo is the level of interaction between broadcasters and viewers. Viewers are able to send virtual gifts through their Weibo account which enhances their experience and offers unique engagement opportunities for broadcasters.

Learn more about Yizhibo.

Alibaba Live Streaming

What is Alibaba Live Streaming?

Alibaba live streaming takes a more sales-oriented approach. With consumption the main goal, Alibaba encourages a see now buy now environment where brands promote deals that are happening in the moment. Alibaba’s conversion rate is 10 – 20% on Tmall and 30% on Taobao, respectively. With technologies like Alipay, the company has made the process of making a purchase while watching video seamless and convenient.

Learn more about Alibaba live streaming.


What is Douyin?

Douyin is primarily used to upload 15-second videos, usually involving some musical element or for a good prank. With 150 million daily active users watching an average of 82 videos/day, Douyin is one of China’s most popular video streaming apps, particularly among young people. Tik Tok is Douyin’s American sister. With 40 million active users and 80 million downloads in the U.S alone, it’s comparatively as popular as Douyin is in China. Throughout 2018, Tik Tok was the most downloaded free app in the Apple and Google Play stores and stands as the third most downloaded app in the world.

Learn more about Douyin.

Which Chinese social media platforms should I use for my business?

Deciding on which social media platform is best is a premise that should be tested. Each platform functions differently so you shouldn’t make any assumptions. It’s worth trying out the top platforms like WeChat and Weibo, but look for opportunities to connect with consumers on platforms that may not be as popular but also have a dedicated and defined user base. We’ve noted some of the requirements that must be met to set up business accounts on these platforms – if you have questions or do not meet the requirements, Route86 may be able to help. Contact us to learn more.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed.  All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change.  No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.