Have you ever wondered which social media platforms are the most popular in China?
Instagram, X, Facebook? Nope, none of those! Read on to find out about the social media platforms you should have on your smartphone if you are coming to China, doing business in China, or are just interested in all things Chinese in 2024.
So here are our top 10 must-have Chinese apps in 2024!
Every second in China, no fewer than 500 articles are published on WeChat, 200 hotel rooms are booked on Qunar, 115,000 questions are asked on Zhihu and 3,500 orders are placed on Ele’me. Most would agree that these are quite astounding figures.
In addition, more than 65% of people open their WeChat app more than 10 times a day, and around 45 billion messages are sent every day. There is plenty more on this list of extraordinary figures, but let’s stop there for the moment.
The significance of social media in China is enormous because not only does it serve to entertain, it also influences people’s choices regarding food, life and fashion. It allows users to find out other people’s views on makeup, lifestyles, and holiday hot spots. Social media platforms are therefore a huge time sponge among Chinese citizens.
On which platforms do Chinese people spend their time?
WeChat continues to dominate the social media sphere in China, with its enormous user base of over of 1.3 billion people in 2023, and the easy-to-use nature of its basic day-to-day functions. For companies operating in China, it is simply impossible to do business without it.
Sina Weibo continues to make a big impact, with active engagement from more than half of Chinese users. The traditional mainstay Baidu Tieba continues to stay relevant among half of social media users, while relative newcomer Xiaohongshu continues its meteoric rise, with a market share of almost 27% built up in just a few short years.
Let’s take a dive into the digital life of a Chinese citizen
As soon as they wake up, many people reach for their phone, mainly to check WeChat and Weibo for updates and messages.
In the morning, they often listen to music on QQ Music or Netease, use WeChat or Alipay for their morning shopping, then book a taxi using the Didi app, and then order a coffee using the Starbucks mini-program.
At work, office conversations take place on QQ and WeChat, while lunch orders will be made on Ele.me.
During meals it is common for them to watch TV or clips on iQiyi and Youku (China’s YouTube equivalent), and manage their finances on Alipay or WeChatPay.
Evenings are spent scrolling through WeChat Moments, online shopping on Taobao or JD.com and booking cinema tickets on Maoyan.
The first thing most of us do when we wake up is check our phones. The infographic below shows the top social media platforms engaged with, at what time, for what purpose.
Due to previous scandals related to production and fake imports (with sometimes fatal consequences), consumers no longer really trust official advertisements in China. They prefer to follow the recommendations and opinions of other consumers.
Therefore, providing advice and recommendations online to other people has become a well-paid service. Thanks to this new type of service, influencer marketing (also known as KOL marketing) has emerged in a big way. China is therefore currently one of the most popular and profitable countries for brands that use this type of marketing to make themselves known and sell products.
TOP 10 must-have Chinese Applications for 2024
With a population of more than 1.4 billion people, China remains one of the most « connected » in the world, with 79% of its population being active users of social media platforms (compared to 71% last year), spending on average of 5 to 6 hours per day on the internet. 89% of residents watch videos, 71% stream videos, 53% play online video games, and 74% shop using their mobile phones.
In this context, it is not surprising to note that the Chinese application ecosystem is very segmented and that each platform or application has its own well-defined position in the digital sphere.
E-commerce plays an important role in the country’s economy and takes up a large part of the digital ecosystem. However, current trends show that video is now the second largest segment based on the number of regularly used video apps and platforms.
The Most Used Messaging Apps in China
WeChat – An all-in-one app: The number one application in China!
Q: What type of app is WeChat?
A: WeChat is an all-in-one app for messaging, social networking, online banking, and utility payments, with every feature imaginable.
Q: How many users does WeChat have?
A: In 2023, WeChat had more than 1.3 billion registered users.
Q: Who are the main users of WeChat?
A: The main users are Chinese people aged between16 and 64 years old (78% of all users).
It is no exaggeration to say that WeChat simply makes life easier in China. It is an absolute must if you live there. It is interesting to note that 98.5% of smartphone users aged 50-80 use WeChat and that 61% of users over 60 spend more than half of their total mobile data consumption on it.
These figures are significantly lower than those of the younger population, who only spend around 14% of their mobile data on the platform. Moreover, the userswho obtain information via official WeChat accounts are mainly over 30 years old.
MAIN FUNCTIONS OF WECHAT
WeChat is used to send voice messages, videos, images and texts over the Internet. It supports group chats and users mainly use it to communicate with their friends through text messaging, images, GIFs, and video calls.
WeChat is completely free. All you need is an internet connection to use it.
WeChat supports mini-programs which are directly integrated into its interface and designed separately by brands and companies. Like other apps, they aim to sell, engage and entertain.
WeChat’s integrated apps include pretty much everything you can think of; brands, utility payments, mobile top-up services, online ordering and much more.
ADDING FRIENDS ON WECHAT AND PRIVACY FUNCTION
The most common ways to add friends on WeChat are searching by phone number, scanning someone’s WeChat QR code, adding from your QQ friends list or mobile phone contact list, typing in their WeChat ID (if they have one).
One other nice little function allows you to « find people nearby » by simply shaking your phone!
The most common messaging functions are instant voice messages, video chats, and WeChat calls.
YOUR OWN PHOTO/VIDEO TIMELINE OR YOUR OWN « MOMENTS »
With a little inspiration from Instagram, WeChat offers its users the possibility of creating a « wall », a space where you share your life’s « Moments » in the form of photos, videos, messages, and music.
However, only friends with the necessary permissions set by you can see your wall. So it’s up to you to configure your WeChat in the way in which you are most comfortable!
WeChat is widely used for business promotion because it allows you to create business accounts and promote them.
Many accounts have a specific purpose: offers, listings, blogs, etc., while other accounts display general information about the business.
WeChat mini-apps allow you to use partner services, such as calling a taxi, making a hospital appointment or paying bills.
WeChat’s success in China owes a lot to its easy payment system. Simply scan a WeChat QR code to pay for items through your WeChatPay wallet, which is linked directly to the bank cards you register onto the platform.
This is a real boon for businesses because it makes it very easy for users to make purchases on all platforms available in China!
For more information, take a look at our guide: 30 marketing tools on WeChat!
QQ – The Chinese version of Messenger
Q: What type of application is QQ?
A: QQ is one of the most popular messaging apps in China.
Q: VSHow many users does the QQ app have?
A: QQ has around 550 million active users.
Despite the rise of WeChat, its predecessor, QQ Messenger, has kept more than 558 million monthly active users. It’s more often used on desktop computers because it’s integrated with email and file management, and has some nostalgia for those who used online messaging before WeChat came along.
Creator of WeChat, QQ Zone, QQ Messenger and dozens of secondary brand products, Tencent is an early innovator of technological development in China.
Today, Tengxun.com is a popular search engine (related to WeChat) and QQ Mail is one of the most used email services for individuals and businesses.
QQ Music and V.QQ are the two entertainment platforms. QQ Zone is one of the main platforms of Tencent Group where users can communicate on a global ecosystem.
The top 3 social media platforms in China
Douyin – Chinese TikTok
Q: What type of social network is Douyin?
A: Douyin is first and foremost a short video sharing platform.
Q: How many users does the Douyin app have?
A: Douyin has over a billion registered users.
Q: Who are the main users of Douyin?
A: 48.7% of Douyin daily users are under 30 years old in China.
Known internationally as TikTok, Douyin is the king of short videos. Its 1 billion plus users are predominantly women and come from third-, fourth- and fifth-tier cities.
Today, Douyin has also become one of the most popular e-commerce platforms on social media, attracting millions of influencers and customers. The shopping experience may remind you of those infomercials that were so popular in the 90s. With a fresh approach and a hint of glamour, this new business model is boosting sales for many small brands looking to reach China’s middle class.
Advertising on Douyin is also a great way to make a brand popular in China. Douyin, which offers very competitive prices, wants to attract more international brands to the platform in China.
Want to learn more about advertising on Douyin? Check out our article on this subject: Marketing on Douyin 2023: How to sell on Douyin
Xiaohongshu or RED, the Chinese Instagram
Q: What type of application is Xiaohongshu?
A: Xiaohongshu is a social media platform, as well as an e-commerce and product review platform.
Q: How many users does the xiaohongshu app have?
A: Xiaohongshu has over 200 million monthly active users.
Xiaohongshu, also known as Little Red Book or RED, is a Chinese platform combining social networks and e-commerce, comparable to Instagram. Created in 2013, it mainly targets young people, especially women from large cities, with 80% of users under 30 years old. RED stands out for its user-generated content, a strong presence of influencers (KOLs) and e-commerce integration, allowing users to discover and purchase foreign products. With a community of nearly 200 million monthly active users and over 140,000 brands, Xiaohongshu offers a unique platform for foreign brands looking to enter the Chinese market.
Its user base, mostly female (72% Gen Z) is active and influential, focusing on fashion, cosmetics and lifestyle products. These « digital natives with» high incomes and significant consumption enhance branding. RED stands out thanks to its unique features and e-commerce integration, providing an engaging platform for influencer marketing and product promotion.
Weibo – Chinese Twitter/X?
Q: What type of app is Weibo?
A: Weibo is a short form blogging platform.
Q: How many users does the Weibo app have?
A: Weibo has over 511 million active users.
The wide variety of functions available has allowed Weibo to evolve into a versatile platform which has no equivalent in Western social media. Just think of any function that can be found on any social media platform, and Weibo has it. Among its hundreds of millions of users, the post-1990 generation represents 48% and the post-2000 generation 30%.
Weibo, short for MicroBlog, is a platform for sharing short messages in real time. Considered China’s X (formerly Twitter), Weibo is a complex platform that offers different types of native advertising, semi-targeted ads, and even a live streaming option.
MAIN FUNCTIONS OF WEIBO
– Originally posts were limited to 140 characters per message, but Weibo has increased its character limit and encourages longer messages. The idea is to post thoughts or updates to people who follow you online (like on Facebook or Twitter).
– Weibo is a communication tool. It allows you to follow people or organizations that interest you in order to see their new content, shared information…, such as any social media platfor. Other people can also follow you.
– To increase attention online, users can discuss current topics and interact with other people.
– Like on Instagram, the @ symbol is used to mention someone. Hashtags are also commonly used to search for topics (Weibo introduced this feature years before the feature was added « follow the hashtag » from Instagram).
– You can comment on and forward other people’s posts. For more privacy, you can chat via private messages.
– Weibo also has a lot of gamification features like acquiring medals and adding apps (Weibo Square is where you can check them out).
– Live streaming
– Video vlogs
The top 2 Rating and Recommendation Apps in China
Meituan – Yellow bikes? Meituan!
Q: What type of app is Meituan?
A: Meituan is a review and delivery platform and is known for its bike rental service.
Q: How many people use Meituan?
A: There are 500 million accounts on Meituan.
Meituan is an application very similar to Dianping. It is also operated by the same company: Meituan-Dianping, since its merger in 2015, shares its users’ data mutually.
The main differences between the 2 applications are a food delivery service integrated into the application, and a bicycle sharing/rental service. Meituan bikes can be found everywhere in Shanghai and in major Chinese cities. Its 500 million users are generally young with above-average income.
Dianping – The Chinese version of Tripadvisor
Q: What type of app is Dianping?
A: Dianping is a platform for reviews, restaurants and online experiences.
Q: How many users does the Dianping app have?
A: Dianping has more than 500 million annual users.
Recently acquired by the Meituan group, Dianping is a bit like Tripadvisor or Yelp, but much more advanced. Users can find and review restaurants, hotels, gyms, movies and many other services. They can book directly and benefit from discounts and advantages via the application.
The social dimension is at the forefront, with several feeds that display the best recommendations from nearby users. Most of the 500 million users are between 16 and 40 years old and are mainly students and city dwellers. Dianping was hit hard during the COVID-2019 pandemic, but was able to recover once the Chinese economy recovered.
Launched in 2003 and supported by Google and Tencent. Dazhong Dianping is the leading information and review platform in China. This app also provides e-commerce services such as group buys, restaurant reservations, takeaway delivery and loyalty cards.
The top e-commerce apps in China
TaoBao – AliExpress in China
Q: What type of application is TaoBao?
A: TaoBao is an e-commerce platform and online marketplace.
Q: How many users does the TaoBao app have?
A: TaoBao has over 500 million active users.
Launched in 2003 by Alibaba Group, TaoBao has long been a household name for e-commerce in China.
With an annual turnover exceeding several hundred billion dollars, it can be compared to giants like eBay or Amazon.
The platform is popular among a wide range of consumers, especially young people, thanks to its wide range of products and easy-to-use interface. TaoBao stands out for its live streaming, customizable stores and interactive features, attracting a large user base, including many young consumers.
It plays a crucial role in China’s digital retail landscape, offering a complete and varied online
Pingduoduo – Taobao but even cheaper
Q: What type of application is pingduoduo?
A: Pingduoduo is a group purchasing platform
Q: How many users does the Pingduoduo application have?
A: Pingduoduo has over 720 million monthly users.
Q: How is Pingduoduo different from other apps?
A: ¨Users can purchase discounted products by forming buying groups with friends, family, and strangers…
As of 2023, e-commerce giant Pinduoduo had more active users than JD.com, 90% of whom were born after the year 2000. 60% of its users are from third and fourth tier cities.
Created in September 2015 by Shanghai XunMeng Technology, before going public in the United States in 2016, Pingduoduo became the second most downloaded application in China last year. Pingduoduo is a third-party social e-commerce platform that focuses on the C2B conglomerate.
In 2023, Pinduoduo, a Chinese e-commerce giant, continues to make waves in the market. With an impressive growth of 66.6% in sales over three years and a 142.6% increase in earnings per share, the company attracted strong institutional demand. These remarkable performances not only strengthened its position in the market but also led to a significant rise in its share price. Pinduoduo stands out thanks to its ability to innovate and respond to changing consumer needs, giving it a strong position in China’s competitive e-commerce industry.
The best Chinese video platforms
Youku – Somewhere between YouTube and Netflix
Q: What type of app is Youku?
A: Youku is a video service application.
Q: How many users does the Youku application have?
A: Youku has over 580 million registered users.
Q: Who are the main users on Youku?
A: According to statistics, 82% of Youku users are between 18 and 40 years old.
The original « Chinese YouTube », Youku occupies a unique place among the main and essential social networks in China. More than two-thirds of its 580 million users come from affluent and university-educated backgrounds and 82% are aged 18 to 40.
MAIN FEATURES OF YOUKU
Youku is therefore a video platform managed by the Youku group of the giant Alibaba. Currently, Youku is one of the leading video platforms covering a daily viewing volume of over 1.18 billion minutes per day, figures that will make your head spin.
Videos can be viewed directly on your computer or TV, but are mostly watched directly on users’ mobile phones. You can find all types of content on the platform such as video games, entertainment, and education…
Which Chinese applications should you use for your business in 2024?
The choice of Chinese applications where you decide to invest will really depend on the type of business you run.
Generally speaking, most Chinese people are looking for advice (RED, Weibo), read entertaining and educational content (WeChat) and watch videos (Youku, Douyin). Younger generations spend their time on Taobao looking for new or interesting products, while the older generation is looking for bargains on Pingduoduo.
Most platforms offer purchasing options and almost all of them are interactive and very comprehensive, offering maximum functionality to their users. The Chinese social media landscape is truly immense and it is therefore quite easy to get lost.
So where do you start? Here are a few tips for you:
Don’t create an account on a social media platform just for the sake of having one
Brands often open accounts on several Chinese social media platforms in the hope that Chinese social media will actively search for them, but this is not the case. If your account does not provide any added value to the subscriber’s life (membership, games, discounts, access, etc.), you will have difficulty increasing the number of your subscribers.
Don’t open an account if you don’t intend to bring value to customers
The most successful accounts on WeChat and other platforms are those that are interactive and not those that just provide text to read.
Like Facebook and LinkedIn, most Chinese social media apps intentionally reduce visibility so brands spend more money on advertising. Indeed, applications such as WeChat are said to be « ‘closed off’ », because only close friends and contacts can see updates.
However, there are « creative » ways to make yourself known on so-called « open » platforms like Weibo or Douyin, where creating viral content is still relatively easy.
Otherwise, targeted advertising on WeChat remains one of the best options to start with.
Identify the best Chinese social media platforms to support your e-commerce solution
Whether or not your brand has a large number of followers on Weibo or Douyin, it is still important to link your e-commerce links to social media platforms.
If you have any questions or would like more information, do not hesitate to contact us.
HI-COM is a digital marketing agency that provides businesses around the world with China-specific strategies, social media communications services and e-commerce marketing services. Working with more than 100 brands, HI-COM is the preferred partner for companies wishing to enter the Chinese market!
Contact us for a free consultation today!
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