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China Social Networks Market Report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Social Networks market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

In China, social functions have been common for most mobile applications, and consumers usually consume media content on these platforms. Therefore, there is not much difference among media networks and social networks, and in this Report, Social and Media Networks are identified as Social Networks. Social networks primarily refer to platforms (websites or apps) for online social networking activities with person-to-person interaction at the heart of their offering. Given that most online platforms in China are introducing/have introduced social network functions, for the purpose of this Report, Mintel defines social networks as platforms offering social networking functions with these functions being one of their major business offerings.

Social network platforms whose primary purpose is for users to connect with people, for the sake of communicating, networking, and sharing ideas and thoughts, are included in Key Players. Typical platforms include WeChat, QQ, Weibo, Tieba, Momo, and Maimai (‘脉脉’).

Excluded

Social networking platforms which cannot be accessed within mainland China, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are not included in the main discussions but may be mentioned to provide contextual or comparative information.

What you need to know

Although penetration of social networks may be difficult to increase, users are attracted by diversified formats of content. The integration of newsfeeds and short videos does not only attract users but also helps operators to generate more advertising revenue. Meanwhile, increasing number of users attach great importance to their images on social networks, making participating in social network campaigns more likely to be a way to showcase their thinking and value.

Another trend worth looking at is the rise of social network shopping, which not only takes advantage of the word-of-mouth effect, but also frees consumers to conduct searching and researching procedures in their shopping journeys. This report provides an overview of Chinese consumers’ habits in using social network platforms, including their usage and purchase of using various social network platforms. It also inspects how consumers think of the leading four platforms, ie WeChat, QQ, Weibo, and Tieba. This Report also explores drivers of participating in social network campaigns, shopping behaviours, and their attitudes towards content on social networks.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Yihe Huang, a leading analyst in the Social sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Although dominating positions rarely change, the social network market is changing fairly fast regarding functions: newsfeeds and short videos are introduced to better generate ad revenue, while dominator WeChat is building its operating system to keep its users. Also, social network shopping, grown on the grounds of online shopping, should not be overlooked by retailers Yihe Huang
Social Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Covered in this Report
        • Excluded
        • Executive Summary

            • Companies and brands
              • Users vs revenue: growth of penetration slowing down but newsfeed and short videos provide more ways to generate revenue
                • People vs content: leading platforms with distinctive impression
                  • Online vs offline: diversified content enriches social network using experience, and more online-to-offline experience also provided
                    • The consumer
                      • Social network being a comprehensive concept
                        • Figure 1: Usage of social network platforms in the last six months, April 2018
                      • In addition to getting in touch with others, keeping updated is also an important purpose
                        • Figure 2: Purpose for using social networks, April 2018
                      • Platforms from Tencent dominating interpersonal networks
                        • Figure 3: Perception towards leading social network platforms, April 2018
                      • Providing incentives is not a primary reason for campaign participation
                        • Figure 4: Factors encouraging participating in social campaigns, April 2018
                      • Social network shopping is no longer rare, especially on clothes and accessories
                        • Figure 5: Category of product purchased and seen on social network platforms, April 2018
                      • Although changing fast, social networks are still essential
                        • Figure 6: Attitudes towards social networks, April 2018
                      • What we think
                      • Issues and Insights

                        • Personal networks become an alternative shopping entrance
                          • The facts
                            • The implications
                              • Wordless social networks expect diversified media content
                                • The facts
                                  • The implications
                                    • Figure 7: ‘Spring Festival Call’ Campaign Featuring Jay Chow, February 2018
                                  • Getting aware of social activities influencing personal portrait
                                    • The facts
                                      • The implications
                                        • Figure 8: Coca-Cola China ‘Not Afraid’ Campaign, May 2018
                                    • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                                      • Major players are trying to profit from existing users, since they find attracting new users difficult
                                        • Common interest and diversified format still have potential
                                        • Companies and Products

                                          • Difficult to increase penetration, but more ways to generate ad revenue
                                            • Market landscape: people vs content, diversity vs quality
                                              • Figure 9: Correspondence analysis – social network perception, May 2018
                                              • Figure 10: Market landscape for leading players, 2018
                                            • WeChat maintains dominating position
                                              • Figure 11: Monthly active user and growth rate of WeChat, 2013-18
                                            • QQ’s differentiating strategy still has a long way to go
                                              • Figure 12: Monthly active user and growth rate of QQ, 2013-18
                                            • Multiple digital content drives growth of Weibo
                                              • Figure 13: Monthly active user and growth rate of Weibo, 2013-18
                                            • Being quiet after aggressive profiting strategy damaged Tieba’s image
                                              • Figure 14: Baidu business quadrants by Lu Qi, former CEO of Baidu, May 2018
                                            • After merging with Tantan, Momo leads in strangers networking
                                              • Maimai, a professional networking application raises awareness by insiders’ disclosures
                                                • Introducing ‘thoughts’, Zhihu became more user-oriented
                                                  • Knowledge content helps to boost revenue of Douban
                                                  • Competitive Strategies

                                                    • Using interest to find people
                                                      • Using diversified media content to attract people
                                                      • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                        • Two thirds of respondents couldn’t get rid of social networks
                                                          • Besides messaging, keeping up with current news is also a main purpose
                                                            • Clear separation on which application to use
                                                              • Participating in campaigns but not for incentives
                                                                • Purchase on social networks being quite common
                                                                  • Diversified formats of content lead to meaningful content
                                                                  • Role of Social Network

                                                                    • Addicted to social networks
                                                                      • Figure 15: Attitudes towards necessity of social networks, April 2018
                                                                      • Figure 16: Preferred activities on social networks, April 2018
                                                                    • 25-29-year-olds use social networks for more applicable aims
                                                                      • Figure 17: Attitudes towards necessity of social networks, by age, April 2018
                                                                      • Figure 18: Preferred activities on social networks, by age, April 2018
                                                                  • Social Network Usage

                                                                    • Following the need of connecting is to get updated
                                                                      • Figure 19: Usage of social network platforms in the last six months, April 2018
                                                                    • Various usage preference among gender, city tier, and age groups
                                                                      • Figure 20: Usage of social network platforms in the last six months, by gender, April 2018
                                                                      • Figure 21: Usage of social network platforms in the last six months, by age, April 2018
                                                                      • Figure 22: Usage of social network platforms in the last six months, by city tier, April 2018
                                                                  • Purpose for Using Social Network

                                                                    • Desire to keep updated drives usage
                                                                      • Figure 23: Purpose for using social networks, April 2018
                                                                      • Figure 24: Purpose for using social networks, by gender, April 2018
                                                                      • Figure 25: Purpose for using social networks, by age, April 2018
                                                                    • News and updates, instead of social networking, drive the most usage
                                                                      • Figure 26: Social Network Activity – TURF Analysis – May 2018
                                                                    • Brand communication more effective on networking and tool social networks
                                                                      • Figure 27: Using social network to search for brand and products, by types of social network used, April 2018
                                                                  • Social Network Perception

                                                                    • Dominating platforms see users’ stickiness paying off
                                                                        • Figure 28: Perception towards leading social network platforms, April 2018
                                                                    • Social Network Campaign

                                                                      • Effectiveness of brand campaign is positive
                                                                        • Figure 29: Recall of brands advertised on social networks, April 2018
                                                                        • Figure 30: Attitudes towards ads seen on social networks, April 2018
                                                                      • Liking the product or topic drives social campaign participation
                                                                        • Figure 31: Factors encouraging participating in social campaigns, April 2018
                                                                        • Figure 32: Factors encouraging participating in social campaigns, by age, April 2018
                                                                        • Figure 33: Factors encouraging participating in social campaigns, by household income level, April 2018
                                                                    • Social Network Shopping

                                                                      • Shopping on social network not rare, especially for clothing and accessories
                                                                        • Figure 34: Category of product purchased and seen on social network platforms, April 2018
                                                                      • Shopping preferences across gender, age, and city tier
                                                                        • Figure 35: Category of product purchased on social network platforms, by gender, April 2018
                                                                      • Social network shopping targeting on consumers in lower tier cities
                                                                        • Figure 36: Category of product purchased on social network platforms, by city tier, April 2018
                                                                        • Figure 37: Category of product purchased on social network platforms, by household income, April 2018
                                                                      • Spokesperson being a key purchase driver
                                                                        • Figure 38: Reason for participating in social network campaigns, by seen and purchase on social networks, April 2018
                                                                    • Attitudes towards Social Network Content

                                                                      • Videos attract younger generations better than words/pictures
                                                                        • Figure 39: Media type seen more on social networks, April 2018
                                                                        • Figure 40: Media type seen more on social networks, by age, April 2018
                                                                        • Figure 41: Media type seen more on social networks, by city tier, April 2018
                                                                      • Positive impression on information usefulness and resonation
                                                                        • Figure 42: Perception of useful information quantity, April 2018
                                                                        • Figure 43: Perception of useful information quantity, by age, April 2018
                                                                        • Figure 44: Agreement on information seen on social networks, April 2018
                                                                        • Figure 45: Agreement on information seen on social networks, by age, April 2018
                                                                    • Meet the Mintropolitans

                                                                      • Mintropolitans see social network platforms beyond the social
                                                                        • Figure 46: Usage of social network platforms in the last six months, by consumer classification, April 2018
                                                                        • Figure 47: Purpose for using social networks, by consumer classification, April 2018
                                                                      • Participating in social network campaign more likely to showcase personal image
                                                                        • Figure 48: Factors encouraging participating in social campaigns, by consumer classification, April 2018
                                                                      • More likely to conduct purchase, especially on knowledge content
                                                                        • Figure 49: Category of product purchased on social network platforms, by consumer classification, April 2018
                                                                    • Appendix – Methodology and Abbreviations

                                                                      • Methodology
                                                                        • Abbreviations