China Social Media and the Lies We Tell Ourselves

There has been too much hype about China social media. Much of this is partly driven by Facebook’s obscene purchase of WhatsApp which invigorated interest in China’s Wechat and  also the upcoming U.S. IPO for Sina Weibo. However, like most things about China, hype is easier to find than reality. The real numbers on social media in China tend to shockingly disappoint.

First lets look at some numbers for comparison:

The population of China is greater than the U.S. and Europe combined:

In China the number of registered users of Internet and mobile outpace the U.S. and Europe combined:

Good news so far as this would explain the intoxicating numbers that come from well publicized social media campaigns in China where 10’s of millions are eager to click like and share. Or do they? When looking at the real numbers of social media in China I start to scratch my head. Sina Weibo in China is “the” social media app. But its numbers pale in comparison of the U.S. and Europe’s use of Facebook and the daily user rate for China is downright anemic in comparison.

WeChat is the up and coming darling of China but it still has only 300 million registered users globally which makes it weak in comparison to Twitter or even Instagram use. If you listen to the hype of China it is a hyper active social media country, but it is a country where a college graduate makes less than US$500 a month and actual social media use seems pale to  North America and Europe. So why do the real numbers not add up? Well it could be cultural marketing practices that value inflated numbers over valid results. It might be a strong desire to believe that China is the new frontier with streets paved with gold. Who knows? What I know is that if it seems too good to be true it probably is. I have been delivering social media in China for 10 years and a “by the numbers” campaign delivers similar results as rest of world. I remember a message from the Director of IBM China from more than 10 years ago, “I can buy you all the market share you want, but I can not make you a profit”. People are always looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I think it might actually be in China, but not in the place most are looking. But that is for another blog.

Much success,



http://www.PRDA.Asia is a leading social media management agency


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