February 17, 2013 by MobiBlogger
China and Western World Social Media transition to Mobile
One world 2 system
Social Media on the Rise in China
Facebook may be the world’s most popular social network. But in the world’s most populous country, Facebook is a virtual unknown, due to government filtering through the so-called Great Firewall of China. In spite of the fact that Facebook has long been banned in the country, social media has taken over the Chinese way of life, where 95 percent of Internet users from major cities are regular users of social media.
China has the world’s biggest online population, with about 550 million users. The country’s mobile base is an even greater figure, at 1 billion as of earlier this year. With these figures, this market is seen as having a big potential for shaping what the Internet and mobile landscape could look like in the future.
And for a population that has very minimal access to popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, it’s not surprising that local alternatives would thrive.
Copycat Services are Bigger Here
These include Qzone, with 560 million users, and the two big “Weibo” services — Tencent Weibo and Sina Weibo — having about 330 million each. This is not surprising, given that even search giant Google is a distant second to Baidu in its core search business. Baidu has about 80 percent of the market, with Google only getting an 18 percent share.
China is likewise among the most active social media users, with 91 percent of survey respondents saying they have visited a social media site in the past six months. In comparison, 70 percent of South Koreans have accessed social media in the previous six months, Americans at 67 percent and Japanese at 30 percent.
Converting Social Connections to Commerce
For businesses, it’s not just social media access that’s important, but conversions. For online retailers and brands, China is the place to be. China will be the world’s biggest e-commerce market by 2015, with a projected RMB 18 trillion (US$ 2.83 trillion) spent in online purchases annually by 300 million online buyers.
Social media will play an important factor in purchase decisions, as 61 percent of survey respondents say they make a decision based on social media campaigns
Recently, I visited with Greenpeace East Asia staff working in mainland China and discovered a culture of organizing that works with fast-growing communities, is highly creative, and innovating rapidly — especially when it comes to using social networks.
Social Networks in China are Huge — and Different
Popular social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are blocked in China (see Great Firewall of China), but home grown, China-specific, alternatives are flourishing. Sina Weibo (or just Weibo), a Twitter-like network, has over 300 million users in China and average usage seems higher than Twitter. While Twitter counted 10 million tweets during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics, Weibo reported 119 million. Like Twitter, Weibo has been used in many community and social change campaigns. A Chinese version of Facebook called Renren currently has around 160 million users, a 30% increase over the previous year.
In a recent study of Chinese social media use, 91% of respondents reported using a social media site in the past 6 months. In the United States, that number is 67% and 30% of Japanese report using a social media site in the past six months. The authors point out that Chinese value word of mouth more than in other countries because most public information is official, state-sanctioned, and distrusted. This may further empower social network communications which are largely person to person.
Given the role of social media in helping to catalyze community action (and whole nations in the Arab Spring), we wanted to know if and how these networks are impacting campaigns in China.
Campaigning with Social Networks in China
I spoke with Shinning Shen, Senior Web Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, to get her thoughts on how digital media is changing the campaigning landscape. Shinning shared the story of Beijing citizens using social media to share air quality monitoring data gathered independently by the U.S. Embassy. Social networks helped put organized pressure on the government with the goal of changing air quality monitoring and cleaning up Beijing’s fouled air.
Shinning points out that social media enables more people to know about the government’s actions — and also to take action or safely apply pressure in ways that they might never conceive of doing in person: