In the age of technology, more and more people connect online, no matter what time it is or where they are. However, access to certain social media sites is restricted in parts of China (these restrictions have hilariously been dubbed "China's Great Firewall".) Because of this, many self-generated social media platforms took this opportunity to blossom and attract their own community of users.
Social media is known as "社交媒体 (shè jiāo méi tǐ) in Chinese. If you’re interested in being part of the this popular media landscape, we’ve provided some of the most popular Chinese alternatives to well-known social media sites below.
1. WeChat (微信; Wēixìn)
WeChat, a mobile app, swept up the pool of potential users of Facebook, developing into what is possibly the biggest hub for communication in China. It has all the features of Facebook Messenger, the usefulness of Venmo and Paypal, and a multitude of other utilities that it seems unfitting to call it simply a “social media platform.” Users can post Moments on their walls, order taxi service or movie tickets, and in general utilize the app not just for communication but for daily services. Not only is it used by individuals; companies and famous persons can host public accounts that generate content for promotional purposes.
2. RenRen (人人; rén rén)
When people talk about the "Chinese version of Facebook", they could also be referring to "RenRen.com." Renren launched in 2005, and gained massive popularity in the wake of Facebook censorship all over China. The color scheme, logos, and design are based on the original Faceboo, so much so that people often wonder if there's any affiliation between the two companies. However RenRen's failure to anticipate the switch to mobile, along with several other lost opportunities, eventually led to its downfall. Many people have since switched to WeChat or Weibo, leaving them to dub RenRen as the "Failed Chinese Facebook."
3. Weibo (微博; Wēibó)
With Twitter being one of the sites inaccessible in China, people still have the capability to sharing snippets of personal opinion. Weibo is the most popular blogging platform for Chinese users. While fundamentally structured like Twitter, the differences in the Chinese and English languages caused this media site to develop differently. Since 140 characters in Mandarin can hold much more content than 140 characters in English, the length of communication on Weibo is considered much more extended than its English version. This allows individuals to, instead of just dropping one-liners for each post, do microblogging. Companies with a Weibo account can also increase their level of communication with its customers, posting messages that contain much more content than what they can accomplish with Twitter.
Many people take to Weibo to follow celebrities, influencers, and like-minded individuals.
4. Youku Tudou (优酷土豆; Yōukù tǔdòu)
Although similar to YouTube in that both host videos for users by users, Youku Tudou contains less self-produced content and more professionally created ones. People often use this site to stream or download movies and watch TV shows. It is essentially an online alternative to watching television or going to a movie theater. Much of these videos are from foreign sources, from American movies to Japanese dramas. They are subtitled in Mandarin.
Note: Youku and Tudou were once two competing streaming websites, that have since gone through a merger. It is unknown whether the websites will still operate separately.
5. DianPing (大众点评; dà zhòng diǎn píng)
This is often known as the "Yelp of China"; a website and app for crowdsourcing reviews on established businesses. Aside from the main features such as reviewing restaurants, DianPing takes ratings to a granular level, allowing members to vote for their favorite dish at a restaurant. This is extremely important in China, since it is not uncommon for a Chinese restaurant to have over 100 dishes on their menu.
One extremely useful feature that DianPing boasts is it's ability to rank restaurants and local business in various cities based on popularity. Traveling to Beijing? Click "Beijing" from the city list to check out the most frequently visited places.
DianPing also posts "group deals," which offers hefty discounts for a large number of members using the same service, or dining in the same restaurant.
So if Groupon and Yelp had a Chinese baby, it would be DianPing. This startup is currently valued at over 4 billion dollars.
6. DouBan (豆瓣; dòu bàn)
Douban is one of the social media sites on our list that has no clear Western equivalent. It's like a mishmash of Imdb, Spotify, SoundCloud, and MySpace. "Culture" seems to be an overarching theme throughout the website, as users use Douban to discuss books, movies, music, and events. The website makes it easy to book tickets for movies or concerts, and download e-books through their interface. Users can connect with one another based on their similar tastes and interests.
In 2013, Douban launched their music subscription service Douban.FM, which offers ad-free music streaming, and operates in a similar way as Spotify.
What do you think? Have you tried any of these social media sites? If so, please tell us about your experience in the comments! If you want us to delve deeper into how to use each site, let us know.sign up for our general Chinese courses here.