No Facebook?! — Social Media in China

An article on written by Henry Fong, the CEO of Yodo1 (a company that helps developers enter the China mobile gaming market) gave me some insight into the social media situation in China. My favorite quote from the article is Fong’s statement: “Facebook and Twitter will never dominate China (even if they were allowed there)” – so I will dissect this a little bit for you.

Yes, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook are all blocked in China. Although China has it’s own set of state-approved versions of these networks, you must wonder, why can’t they just use Facebook like the rest of us? Fong argues that Facebook is not conducive to China (or, rather, China is not conducive to Facebook) because its two main sources of revenue are advertisements and gaming; but both of these activities are highly regulated in China, and would require government licenses at every turn. With such strict monitoring, the system would be slow and inefficient, and therefore, unpopular.

Fortunately, China seems to be doing just fine without Facebook in the way of social media. In fact, according to Fong, there are more social media users in China than there are Facebook users in the entire world. As of October 2012, there were approximately one billion social media users in a population of 1.4 billion.

China’s social media platforms share the spotlight more equally compared to the US—several of their networks exceed 100 million active users, while in the US, Facebook and Twitter largely dominate the social media scene. The following Chinese social media networks have exceeded 100 million users (the parenthesis indicate the US ‘equivalent’ to these Chinese networks– also see picture below):

  • QQ/Qzone (Facebook): 700 million +
  • Sina Weibo (Twitter): 400 million +
  • Tencent Weibo (Twitter): 200-250 million +
  • WeiXin (WhatsApp): 100 million +
  • Douban (MySpace): 100 million +
  • Renren (Facebook): 100 million +


(photo shows social media equivalents in China)

In China, there are many more popular social media networks to choose from, and therefore more competition. This would likely also prevent US networks like Facebook or Twitter from “dominating China,” as aforementioned.

On a slightly different note, given these high penetration rates, a lot of pressure is being put on the government and businesses in China to understand and utilize social media in order to effectively reach their citizens and clients, respectively. As the population of internet and social media users increases, more and more pressure is being put on the government to increase transparency, which could be a good thing for the citizens of China.

To close, a quote by Sam Flemming (Founder and CEO of CIC, the first and foremost provider of social business intelligence in China) : “China has the most complicated, fragmented and developed social media landscape in the world with a unique online culture that requires its own specialized understanding.”



2 responses to “No Facebook?! — Social Media in China

  • rhomsche

    Sam Flemming was onto something; the culture of China is something that should definitely be considered with social media. For instance: I could honestly care less about a pop star’s new hair-doo in China, but if Willie Nelson gets a buzzcut, it’ll find a way onto my newsfeed. This is a ridiculous comparison but it shows that although our world is globalized, we are still very distant culturally.

  • elladove

    While I agree that we are distant culturally, there are still many aspects of pop culture that connect the world. Aside from pop cultures, issues of global politics, environmental topics, and more connect us all. I also beleive that the more connected we are through social media, the more connected we are through culture.

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