Social media is fundamental to any digital marketing strategy targeting the Chinese market. Highly popular with Chinese audiences, social media has different rules of engagement for the key platforms. Here’s how to navigate social media in China.

Nearly 100% of 14-47 year olds in China now own a smartphone, and half use their phones to access the internet roughly 25 times a day. Social media’s inherently mobile-friendly nature makes it a powerful tool in reaching a majority of Chinese users.

Because social media is so popular in China and relatively straightforward to set up, it’s the perfect place for companies to start marketing their products and services. According to one report in January 2017, about 70% of Chinese marketers will spend their advertising budgets on social networking and video sites.

Due to government censorship, the Chinese social media landscape is vastly different from the West, which means it can be hard to know where to begin.

Before choosing which platforms to target, however, it’s important to follow best practice for marketing to a Chinese audience.


1. Be personal.

Mass marketing won’t cut it in China. Social media users favor small-scale personal interaction. So if you want to make an impact, you’ll need to provide personalized, meaningful content for your users.

Otte, a New-York-based fashion brand, used its Chinese social media strategy as a gateway to the Chinese market, and may soon open a brick-and-mortar shop in Shanghai. They were able to penetrate the Chinese market by investing heavily in Weibo and WeChat, building a WeChat store to sell directly to consumers via the app. Otte pushed a lot of quality content around lifestyle and fashion advice, building an aspirational attachment to the brand, for example, by creating a VIP Club to bolster exclusivity.

Furthermore, WeChat’s platform enabled Otte to directly respond to consumers’ private messages, a level of personal service expected by Chinese consumers. The Otte story illustrates how social media can be effectively harnessed in China to build a consumer base with little initial investment.

2. Channel your creativity.

Creativity goes a long way in China. Chinese users want to be entertained and engaged rather than persuaded to buy something. They particularly appreciate interactive content and videos they can engage with. For the 2016 Chinese New Year, Burberry invited users to virtually unwrap a gift, after which they could send personalized greetings cards, which was a popular tactic. Clinique created a 40-chapter-long video series that was watched 21 million times.

3. Prioritize customer service.

One of the primary reasons Chinese users shop online is because of customer service. Rather than online forms and email confirmation, Chinese consumers value instant, direct communication with sellers. WeChat and Alibaba’s Aliwangwang messenger service allow users to chat directly with sellers at any time, building real relationships in real time. Quality customer service will quickly win fans, popularity, and increased social engagement with Chinese consumers.

4. Champion the right people.

Celebrities have millions of followers on Weibo, and a plug from the right person could reap huge rewards. Researching the social media behavior of your target demographic can help you find the right influencers. One thing to keep an eye on is the growth of “wang hong,” cyber celebrities (like MiuMiu & Viviandan) who are seen as authentic and personal. If you can get them on board, their influence can help your company gain popularity.

Popular social platforms in China offer something slightly different, and it’s important to know what sets them apart from the rest. Here’s a quick guide to social media in China, and what each platform can do for you.


1. WeChat

WeChat is China’s most popular social media site, with 768 million daily active users. Users can run their lives from the app, booking movie tickets, chatting online, and paying bills. There’s a bit of red tape for overseas businesses to get online, but the reward is worth it. WeChat allows you to access data about your users, send them tailored content, and offer an all-in-one brand experience. If you choose only one social media platform to work with, this is the one.


With 640 million active users, QZONE (or QQ in China) allows users to share blog content, which can be a great way of getting your name out there. Users primarily value QQ as a means of instant, direct communication with companies. Those companies can also build custom microsites within the platform to really push brand presence.

3. Weibo

Sometimes known as the Chinese Twitter, Weibo is a great way to engage with users on relevant topics to construct brand identity. It’s also great for online influencers to promote your business, providing access to users you may not otherwise reach. Other advantages include its well-established paid advertising system, as well as analytics, index, and trend tools for gathering data about competitors and consumers.

4. Youku

The Chinese equivalent of YouTube (which is blocked in China), Youku, receives over 800 million daily video views on various devices. It’s great for conducting research on which video advertisements work and for building brand awareness. Videos are popular on Chinese social media. So Youku should definitely be a part of your strategy if you have, or plan to create, video assets.

5. Ren Ren

Ren Ren has 44 million monthly active users, almost all of whom are college students. So if that’s your target audience, it’s a good place to invest.


The potential to reach and engage with China’s considerable social media market presents plenty of opportunity for global brands. With a solid understanding of popular platforms in the region and best practice for authentic social campaigns, social media platforms are a great way to enter and grow your Chinese market.