Social Media Marketing in China – A Primer

social media marketing in china
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    With over 800 million internet users, China is the world’s largest social media market. While Facebook and Instagram rule the social media landscape in the west, social media marketing in China has completely different players.

    Each day the average netizen spends 5hrs 50mins online, of which about 3hrs 10mins of that time is on a mobile device and 2hrs 12mins using social media.

    But why should you even care about that?

    According to a report by Accenture, 70% of surveyed China’s Gen Z respondents say they prefer to buy products directly via social media. 

    With Social commerce in China estimated to reach  2,419.4 billion yuan in 2022, it’s clear social media has become an integral part of the customer purchase journey.

    In this blog post, we’ll look at the top social media platforms in China, why global brands are engaging there and how you can get started on these channels.

    Let’s dig in!

    Top Social Media Channels in China

    WeChat

    Often described as a super app, WeChat boasts monthly active users of more than 1 billion.

    That is over 3x as many active users as Pinterest!

    The app is used for a variety of functions like chatting, social media, online shopping, payments, video calls to name a few. 

    Moreover, WeChat is currently responsible for 34% of mobile internet traffic in China. Not surprising considering the various functions of the app.

    Apart from the conversations screen, the app also boasts of a social feed which contains content called ‘moments’ shared by friends.

    social media marketing in china - WeChat

    How brands can advertise on WeChat 

    WeChat is often one of the first choices of brands advertising in China. The app offers plenty of ways to reach your target audience. Top ways include:

    1. Official WeChat account

    Businesses can use official WeChat accounts to promote their brand and send notifications directly to their followers. 

    2. WeChat mini programs

    WeChat mini programs are ‘sub-applications’ on WeChat that brands can create to engage customers with unique ‘adverts’ that are fun and interactive. 

    3. WeChat moments ads 

    A moments ad will appear in a user’s newsfeed, offering brands a great opportunity to connect directly to consumers in a native and trusted environment. 

    4. WeChat banner ads 

    Banner ads on WeChat appear in the middle or at the bottom of a WeChat article posted by an official account. This is a great way for brands to run adverts alongside popular content on WeChat. 

    5. Mini program ads

    As well as creating their own mini programs, brands can also run adverts on other mini programs in their niche. 

    6. Account promotion ads

    Account promotion ads are when users are presented with in-app adverts that promote an official account. These are ideal for brands looking to grow their following on the platform. 

    Example of an international brand using WeChat

    Brand: Lacoste

    In November 2020, fashion label Lacoste teamed up with National Geographic to launch its endangered-animal-inspired clothing line on WeChat. To do this, it used its WeChat mini-program to host a livestream, where the brand’s Chinese CEO was joined by an ecologist to discuss the importance of the collaboration. 

    After launching the new products, Lacoste then made them available via its online shop on WeChat, and used its official account on the platform to promote the project with adverts and photoshoots. 

    Results: The livestream announcement drove over 2,700 engagements within just two hours, and the livestream itself attracted over 30,000 likes before even going live. 

    Key takeaway: WeChat live streams can be a great way to create hype and excitement for a new product launch. 

    For more details on each of these channels, read our guide on WeChat advertising.

    Douyin

    Douyin, also known as TikTok, has been all the rage in the last couple of month. In May 2020, the app owned by ByteDance reported a tenfold increase in its in-app revenue. The short video app generated 315 million downloads globally in the first quarter of 2020.

    However, what makes Douyin different from Tiktok is that you can sell on it. In 2018, the platform took a major step towards e-commerce by introducing Douyin store.

    social media marketing in china - Douyin

    How brands can advertise on Douyin

    Douyin is a great channel to reach young and affluent female users. Ads on Douyin also allow you to use age and state-level geo-targeting. The top ways to advertise on Douyin are:

    1. Feed ads 

    Feed ads appear within a user’s personal feed on Douyin, which makes them an instant (and authentic) way to connect to users on the platform. 

    2. Custom sticker packages 

    When making videos, Douyin users can add branded stickers to their content. Brands like Pizza Hut have used these to grow brand awareness on the platform in a fun and native way. 

    3. Upload branded music 

    Just like users can add stickers to their videos, they can also add music from the Douyin library. Brands can add their own music to this library, which offers a fun and unique advertising opportunity. 

    4. Form KOL partnerships 

    Douyin is home to thousands of KOLs and influencers who are eager to team up with brands and promote products to their loyal (and trusting) followers. 

    Example of an international brand using Douyin 

    Brand: Nike

    In the midst of COVID-19, Nike launched its ‘Nothing Can Stop Us’ campaign to inspire its customers to persevere and ‘rise stronger’. 

    As part of this, the brand encouraged its Chinese followers on Douyin to make their own ‘duet’ videos where they uploaded clips of themselves playing sport on their own, synced with similar clips of their friends. This created a sense of togetherness and unity in a time of separation. 

    Results: The hashtag and campaign exploded on Douyin, attracting over 5 billion views and almost 500,000 participants


    Key takeaway: Creating trends on social media in China can be a sure-fire way to increase brand awareness and connect to consumers.

    Xiaohongshu

    One of the most popular social media shopping website in China at the moment, Xiaohongshu or Little Red Book is popular among young consumers looking to find out trending products.

    As of July 2019, the platform had approximately 300 million users and 85 million monthly active users. Chinese consumers use Xiaohongshu to post product reviews and tips that other users can save – like Pinterest.

    social media marketing in china - Xiaohongshu

    How brands advertise on Xiaohongshu

    Xiaohongshu presents an amazing opportunity for global brands looking to build their online presence in China. The top ways to advertise or sell on Xiaohongshu are:

    1. Open an official account

    An official account is a great way for brands to share promotional posts (or ‘notes’), photos and video content directly with their XiaoHongSHu followers. 

    2. In-app ads 

    XiaoHongshu lets brands run both ‘pop up’ ads (that appear when the app is first opened) and in-feed ads (that are integrated within a user’s feed) to target users on the platform. 

    3. KOL partnerships 

    Teaming up with KOLs and influencers on XiaoHongshu is ideal for promoting products to users on the platform, since it is so specifically focused on UGC (user-generated-content) and user reviews.

    Example of an international brand using XiaoHongshu 

    Brand: Jeep

    In 2019, American car manufacturer, Jeep, celebrated International Women’s Day by launching its own ‘hot topic’ on XiaoHongshu. 

    In the promoted post, it encouraged female users to share a photo of themselves with the hashtag #BeYourOwnQueen. The brand then chose ten participants to reward with free shopping on the platform. 

    Results: Over 6,000 users posted under the hashtag, which boosted Jeep’s brand awareness among young females on XiaoHongshu. 

    Key takeaway: Using hashtags and giveaways can be a great way to engage social media users in China. 

    Looking to get started and succeed with Xiaohongshu? AdChina.io has helped several leading brands make their presence felt and generate sales on the platform.

    Sina Weibo

    Known as the Chinese version of Twitter, Weibo is one of the more open social networks in China. Users can share text, images and videos with their networks and use it to keep up with current events.

    The platform also makes it easy to share content with others, making it a hit with brands looking to build interest around their products.

    social media marketing in china - weibo

    How brands advertise on Weibo

    Weibo as a channel is dominated by influencers since their number of followers on the channels is far more than the official accounts of most brands. Some of the top ways of advertising on Weibo are:

    1. Display ads

    Weibo display ads appear in various positions across the platform, including in the ‘discover’ section, on the homepage, and within the content feeds of individual users. 

    2. Fan headlines

    A fan headline is an ad (or post) located at the top of a user’s personal timeline for 24 hours. These are used to target a brand’s existing followers and their personal connections. 

    3. Fan tunnel 

    A fan tunnel is similar to a fan headline but is used to target all Weibo users within a specific target group, as opposed to just pre-existing followers. 

    4. Weibo search ads

    Weibo is one of the only social media platforms in China to have its own search facility where users can search for specific posts and accounts. This is great for brands, as it offers the opportunity to run SEM ads against relevant keywords and terms. 

    Example of an international brand using Weibo

     

    Brand: McDonald’s 

    When McDonald’s China teased a new 5G ‘product launch’ on Weibo, fans were both confused and excited in equal measure. 

    In what became one of the boldest marketing moves of 2020, McDonald’s revealed that their 5G product was in fact a new fried chicken meal (pronounced ‘ji’ or ‘gee’ in China) that ticked five very important boxes, including tastiness and freshness. 

    Results: the post on Weibo received almost 50,000 likes and 20,000 comments, creating an instantly viral moment that promoted McDonald’s and its new meal. 
    Key takeaway: Thinking outside of the box with social media campaigns in China can seriously pay off.

    For more details, read our blog post on creating your Weibo marketing strategy.

    Tencent QQ

    With 731 million monthly active users, Tencent QQ is one of the most popular instant messaging platform in China. Though it has been around since 2009, it’s still a popular social media platform in China.

    social media marketing in china - tencent qq

    How brands advertise on Tencent QQ

    QQ has quite a few advertising options. The platform also uses an intelligent match algorithm that allows brands to optimize their campaigns. The top ways to advertise on Tencent QQ are:

    1. Brand promotion ads 

    A brand promotion ad is a type of banner or pop-up ad that promotes a particular brand by linking directly to its website. 

    2. App promotion ads

    Just like brand promotion ads, an app promotion ad will direct users straight to a download page to install a particular mobile application. 

    3. Product promotion ads

    When watching video content on QQ, users will be presented with a pop-up ad that promotes a new product or service with a direct link to purchase it. 

    4. Store promotion ads

    Store adverts appear both on a user’s QQ homepage and in videos, promoting online stores specifically. 

    Example of an international brand using QQ

    Brand: MAC Cosmetics

    To launch its game-inspired lipstick line, MAC cosmetics enlisted gaming and beauty KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) to promote the collection on QQ by posting photos of themselves and the product. 

    Results: The campaign was a huge success, with just one post by the Rocket Girls (a Chinese pop group) receiving over 3.1 million interactions alone. As a result, the collection sold out within 24 hours and helped MAC reach its total monthly sales average in just one day. 

    Key takeaway: Collaborating with social media KOLs is guaranteed to grab the attention of Chinese consumers — especially in beauty and gaming subcultures. 

    Wrapping up

    Several global brands are waking up to the power of social media marketing in China. Whether it’s Prada’s Valentine’s Day campaign on WeChat, Weibo, and Douyin or Louis Vuitton’s first-ever digital fashion show ‘re-see’, brands are making massive sales by investing in China’s social media platforms.

    Advertising in China doesn’t have to be a complex puzzle. Sign up for a free AdChina.io account, the only platform that allows you to advertise on top social media channels in China from one place.

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