Insights-Based Marketing, Research & Digital

China’s Bird Flu H7N9: The Winners and Losers

Although China’s current Bird Flu H7N9 scare has had just 24 ‘confirmed’ infections and seven deaths, memories of 8,000 SARS infections a decade earlier still cut deep with the Chinese public. With an online population increasingly connected through social media, news of cases, such as the Weibo post of the third death by a brave hospital worker, helps fuel changes in consumer behaviour in China.

China's Online Shopping Interdependence

Chinese online shoppers

Online shopping is huge in China.  It is the forth most popular online activity and the fastest growing.  Every 60-minutes, Chinese consumers make three million purchases just on Taobao, China’s Amazon-cum-eBay-giant.  While nearly 200 million Chinese consumers regularly shop online, that accounts for only 38% of China’s 513 million online population.  By comparison, North America and Western Europe's online shopping portion is close to 80%, so there’s plenty of room for growth.  By 2015, 350 million consumers, half of China’s forecasted 700 million Internet users, are predicted to shop online - more than the US, India, Japan, Indonesia and Russia's online shoppers combined. 

But Online shopping doesn't stand alone in China; it has become intertwined with several of China's important sectors such as social media, the luxury segment and offline retail.

Weibo User Demographics

Weibo user split

Sina Weibo's 368 million registered users represent the most educated and highest earning portion of China's population, and the consumers who are most likely to buy western exports. Given 95% of Chinese consumers trust a brand more if they've seen it on Weibo, it's a good idea to understand Weibo user demographics when marketing to them. 

The infograph below should help you understand the profiles of the Weibo faithful.  Note that 60% of Weibo users live in 1st and 2nd Tier cities and almost two thirds have a University degree of higher...

China's Sina Weibo user demographics

Which Chinese Use Weibo – Weibo Demographics?

Weibo demographics

There are 368 million registered Weibo users, more people as the population of the United States.  Yet with more than 1.34 billion people in China, that still leaves almost 1 billion on the other side of the Weibo-divide.  So just who are the 368 million Weibo-haves?  

Sina Weibo users represent a vast cross section of China’s rising middle and upper classes including professionals, Government, sports stars, celebrities and leading voices in every category.  They tend to be in higher income brackets than users of other social media, with 30% earning more than 8,000 yuan ($1,270) a month ($15,240 / year).  The household income of the average user is 8,364 yuan/month ($15,828 p.a.) .  They are also much more likely to live in Tier 1 cities according to McKinsey. 

When Do Chinese Use Weibo? The 10-12 Rule

Weibo Tweet Time

Chinese netizens are big Internet users.  According to a Boston Consulting report in early 2012, China’s 513 million Internet users were online for 2.7 hours every day – more than any other country except Japan’s 2.9 hours. 

So during these 2.7 hours, just when do Chinese use Weibo the most?  What’s the most effective time to post or view microblogs?  You only need to remember two numbers – 10 & 12. 

Weibo users are most active in the two hour period between 10am-12 noon CST (China Standard Time), the perfect precursor to a yummy lunch, and then again between 10pm and midnight, catching up on everything before they get to bed.  As China’s timezone is 12 hours ahead of New York (EST) during the warmer months of daylight savings, and 13 hours in the cooler months, which means if you’re posting on Weibo in NYC, the peak times are the same in summer.   

China Social Media Usage Analysed

Chinese social media

Social Media is running hot in China right now.  A recent study by McKinsey revealed that 91% of all Internet users in China, have used Social Media in the past 6 months - that's 467 million Chinese consumers.  So just who are these consumers and what are they using?  Weibo takes top spot in most categories.  Curiously, as a sign of China's growing wealth, users of the top-4 social media sites all have a household income of more than $15,000 USD per annum.

Chinese Social Media User Analysis Infograph

Chinese Trust Weibo

Chinese trust

Social media the world over is proving to be one of the most trusted places consumers source information about products and services, but nowhere more so than China.  As Chinese television, radio and newspapers have long been controlled by the Government, many Chinese consumers are somewhat skeptical of news and ‘advertorials’ from them. 

Although the Chinese Government does exercise some control over Weibo by scanning and screening certain content and in extreme cases, disabling commenting for short periods, Chinese users view this as a necessary evil.  The transparent nature of Weibo, which allows anyone to have a voice, makes it one of the most trustworthy and unbiased sources of information in China. 

More than a quarter of Weibo Users Search for Brand Info

Chinese magnifying glass

The China Internet Network Information Center published a report last month outlining how Chinese consumers search on Sina Weibo.

Unsurprisingly, hot trending news is the most popular topic, looked up by 70.4% of all Weibo users who search. Thankfully, finding friends is more common than celebrities as many Weibo users now use the network to connect with their nearest and dearest.

The most relevant statistic for businesses is the 27.4% of users searching for brand information, and 19.6% searching for factories and producers of goods. This further cements Chinese consumers’ usage of Weibo to find information and opinions about businesses and products.

Weibo closing in on 400 million users

Weibo Users

Sina Weibo’s latest registered user count stands at 368 million on 30 June 2012, according to Sina’s quarterly financial report. The user numbers are well up on the last count of 324 million users at 22 May 2012, indicating that Chinese netizens seem relatively unfazed by the negative commentary about censorship, a 3-day period of blocked comments in April and some limited services thereafter.

Weibo Users following business accounts en masse

China businesses

As more and more businesses jump on the Weibo horse, the Chinese Weibo community are on the wagon following them.  A study published by Sina Weibo found that 56% of users follow at least one business account on Weibo, following four businesses on average.  Like social media in many parts of the world, some of those so-called 'followers' rarely use social media or are bots, with just 35% regularly accessing their Weibo accounts (‘regularly' is not defined in the research).


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