10 Chinese mobile apps every entrepreneur should know!
April 27, 2022

With the lockdown in Shanghai and an imminent one in Beijing, netizens have taken to Chinese social media to keep themselves occupied. Chinese food delivery apps are sold out in minutes and mobile applications that help group or community buying have become all the rage for youngsters. At a time when food is scarce, restaurants are shut and Shanghai’s vibrant food scene has dulled out, Chinese social media apps are hot business. They not only connect people with each other, but also keep you entertained, and bring essential supplies to your doorstep.

Whether locked in or not, understanding Chinese social media is integral to your business. Marketing companies spend billions on social channels to promote, plug and lure consumers. Virtual shows, influencers and viral videos are the new buzzwords for any brand worth its crypto to catch a Chinese consumers eye. With the usual American social media tools like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter banned in China, marketing moguls need to first understand the various social handles available in China and know how they are used.

Earlier this year, more than 800 million residents of China were accessing the internet, the majority of them using their smartphone to do so. Chinese consumers spent 4.2 hours a day using mobile apps and this was before the lockdown; – in 2017 App Annie said the worldwide average was 2.15 hours Therefore, if you are a company looking at creating a brand presence in China, it’s integral to know the different types of Chinese social media, mobile applications and virtual formats to reach your consumer.

Since it’s an integral part of your business and because Chinese mobile apps are unique, Inchin Closer has listed 10 Chinese mobile apps that you can use to promote your business in China. Read about all of them, their features and advantages, then take a call on which mobile application will work best for your business. Each has a unique target audience and profile of consumers, a special industry they cater to, see what works best for your brand. Inchin Closer will be happy to help, if you need more detailed advice.

Wechat

Wechat or weixin Mandarin for ‘micro-message’., owned by Tencent is the most popular super app in China. It’s Facebook, Whatsapp Twitter and Instagram all rolled into one. Launched in 2010, Wechat launched its payments gateway in 2013 and today dominates the messaging, payments and social media space in China, With 1.24 billion active users as of Q1 2021, its safe to say that if your brand isn’t on wechat, you don’t exist in China. Tencent’s social network revenue was 108.2 billion RMB in 2020, which accounts for 22% of the company’s total revenue

Wechat is so popular that some of the most popular applications in China, including Pinduoduo, JD.com, DiDi and Meituan, all have mini programs on WeChat. As China’s premium messaging app, 45 billion messages were sent daily in January 2019 on WeChat.

WeChat Pay, which was built using the framework of Tenpay, has over 900 million users and has supplanted AliPay as the most popular payment service in the country.

Sina Weibo

Chinese twitter, Sina Weibo was launched by Sina Corporation in 2009. Weibo (微博) means “micro-blog” in Chinese. As of the Q3 2021, Sina Weibo’s daily active users amounted to 248 million active users (compared to Twitter’s 211 million), making it only the second largest social media platform in China after WeChat. 

In 2013, the Alibaba Group, the largest e-commerce platform in the world, acquired an 18% stake in Sina Weibo. This deal is expected to drive more web traffic to Alibaba’s Taobao Marketplace, the largest e-commerce website in China with a consumer focus.

Weibo users have a 140 characters limit per post. They can upload images, videos and gif’s to make their posts stand out. Weibo users can also follow an individual, like and share their posts. Weibo influencer campaigns, lotteries and weibo paid ads work best for brand promotion on the platform.

Tencent QQ

An instant messaging software platform, QQ is primarily used for online messaging, casual video and voice calls, document-sharing, and social networking. QQ interest groups are most popular, as like-minded individuals organically update information and ask questions on various topics ranging from travel to health drinks.

With more than 638 million active users as of 2021, QQ it is the world’s 4th most visited website, according to Alexa. While QQ tends to be a lot more Chinese than wechat, its a great platform to interact with native Chinese people and improve your Mandarin. However, if thats not your agenda, QQ also has an international version in multiple foreign languages.

Xiao Hong Shu

Known as Little Red Book, is a social media and e-commerce platform. It has been described as “China’s answer to Instagram”. Xiaohongshu is popular with China’s Gen Z for its blend of influencers and shopping. As of 2019, Xiaohongshu had over 300 million registered users and the number of monthly active users is over 85 million.

Launched in 2013, the app integrates community, content and commerce. Xiaohongshu’s primarily young, affluent users have spent US$23 million through the app until March 2022, according to Sensor Tower data. As of end February 2022, some US$1.1 million was spent in the app, a 44 percent rise from a year ago. Sensor Tower pegged Xiaohongshu’s global downloads at 167 million, though that doesn’t include Android downloads in China.

Douban

A community-centered site that is also China’s best-known ratings site for books and movies, douban (豆瓣) is IMDB, Goodreads and Reddit all rolled into one. Named after a hutong in Beijing, in 2005 douban is actually not based on any specific western app, but is unique on its own. Its probably the reason why it could grow to to a whopping 300 million monthly active users that span all ages and backgrounds.

So what are douban’s most attractive features? People can post reviews on movies; create lists of movies they want to watch; share their favorite books with friends, etc., you will find forums dealing with a variety of topics depending on your tastes: TV shows are ranked by popularity, while music lovers can create playlists that they can share on the platform.

For a business, the big advantages of douban are that it’s community driven and therefore has organic content which is valued higher than other sites where paid content is king. As a friendly app that helps netizens keep track of their friends, trends and seamlessly shift between interests, it also helps that douban can be easily accessed internationally, so you can keep tabs on it from anywhere.

Meituan Dianping

Voted as one of the most innovative companies by Fast Company, Meituan Dianping is shopping platform for locally found consumer products and retail services including entertainment, dining, delivery, travel and other services. Dubbed the Amazon on China, Meituan Dianping banks on its large data set as an asset to help digitize local businesses, informing where they might expand and finding gaps in the market for new restaurants or stores. In the first half of 2018, Meituan facilitated 2.77 billion in food delivery transactions alone for more than 350 million people in 2,800 cities.

Besides a delivery service, Meituan Dianping also offers group buying and restaurant reviews

Douyin (Tik tok)

TikTok was the most downloaded app globally in 2021, with 656 million downloads. TikTok, is also known as the international version of the Chinese successful short video app douyin. While both the apps are built by Bytedance, a Beijing-based internet company, the two are not exactly the same, both host different content. Douyin also includes an in-video search feature that can search by people’s faces for more videos of them and other features such as buying, booking hotels and making geo-tagged reviews.

Businesses effectively use douyin and tik tok to create short catchy videos with their products or services. Influencers grooving to popular songs are usually a smash and addictive hit propelling brands to Gen Z consumers.

Jinri Toutiao

Also developed by Bytedance, Jinri Toutiao meaning today’s headlines in Mandarin is a Chinese news and information content platform that customised a news feed list for each consumer based on a complex artificial-intelligence-driven algorithm that analyses the features of content, users and users’ interaction with content.

Going a step further, toutiao also has bots write news articles, During the 2016 Olympics, a Toutiao bot wrote original news coverage, publishing stories on major events more quickly than traditional media outlets. In fact toutiao’s short video formats are so popular when consumer news that the average user spends more than 74 minutes each day in Toutiao, that’s more than the average user spends on Facebook and more than twice what they spend on Snapchat.

Tencent Video

Another video streaming app, tencent video has over 1.268 billion mobile monthly active users, and 123 million VIP subscribers, making it the 4th largest streaming service in the world, after Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+. Tencent video has also successfully overtaken Alibaba’s youku, a live streaming website in 2019.

However unlike douyin which specialises in short format video’s, users can watch full lenght movies, films and tv series on tencent video too.

Zhihu

Is a question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by the community of its users – similar to Quora. Beijing based Zhihu recently listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange. The name translated into “Do you know?” in classical Chinese. Zhihu stands out from its competitors by providing high-quality questions and credible answers. As of 2018, it has reached 200 million registered users, with over 120 million answers on the platform it has become China’s largest knowledge sharing community.

QUICK TIPS

While you might have got a fair idea to China’s most popular apps and know which one might work for your business, here are some quick tips that any marketeer should keep in mind while vying for consumer interest in China.

  • Apps and websites will be more successful if they are created in Chinese, even though Generation Z is familiar with the English language. Most Chinese people don’t use English outside of school, so translating your app is one of the best ways to attract attention from this large market.
  • Paid apps are not as popular in China. Making your app one that makes money through ad sales might be most successful.
  • Be culturally aware of trends, the news and the current mood of the market before making content for China. Chinese consumers are extremely sharp, quick and on the pulse.
  • Influencers work, know which influencers represent your brand accurately, research them and then sign a contract. Aspirations run high in China.
  • Remember that China’s government regulates what its residents see.
  • Budgets will have to be higher than in most other countries as content is king, and making viral videos is a specialised skill.

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