Social media is exploding worldwide, and China is leading the way.
Ari Silverman, Davis Lin, Cindy Chiu
Social media is exploding worldwide, and China is leading the way. A new McKinsey survey of 5,700 Internet users in China has found that 95 percent of those living in Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 cities are registered on a social-media site; in addition, the country has by far the world’s most active social-media population, with 91 percent of respondents saying they visited a social-media site in the previous six months, compared with 30 percent in Japan, 67 percent in the United States, and 70 percent in South Korea. The survey, which explores the behavior of Chinese consumers on social networks, is the first of its kind in China.
While messaging and sharing photos is as popular in China as in other regions, one aspect of usage in the country stands out: social media has a greater influence on purchasing decisions for consumers in China than for those anywhere else in the world. Chinese consumers say they are more likely to consider buying a product if they see it mentioned on a social-media site and more likely to purchase a product or service if a friend or acquaintance recommends it on a social-media site. This can be explained in part by a cultural difference: Chinese consumers prize peer-to-peer recommendations because they lack trust in formal institutions. In general, the Chinese populace is skeptical of information from news sources and advertising; people rely more on word-of-mouth from friends, family, and key opinion leaders, many of whom share information on social media.
The popularity of these sites in China is critically important for companies looking to engage the vast and increasingly affluent online audience that uses social media as a vital source of information for brand and product decisions. The social-media landscape in China is a complex environment at huge scale. Yet not all social-media users are alike. They have distinct reasons for joining social media and different usage patterns, and companies that are forming social-media strategies should consider these elements. Our survey identified six user groups; understanding these target segments will facilitate analysis of consumer engagement to form insights on a broad spectrum of business activities, such as product development, brand and marketing strategy, sales-lead generation, and customer service and support.
This report reviews the survey findings and offers a perspective on how companies can use Chinese social media to create meaningful value for their businesses. First, we will review China’s digital-development stage and its social-media landscape. Next, we will look more closely at how the Chinese are using social media and how behavior and preferences differ by user segments. Finally, we will discuss the hurdles that companies face in addressing consumers who use social media and the ways to overcome them.