US Insights

Chinese enthusiasm for social media drops sharply

Martin Guo

Editor-in-Chief, Kantar China Insights

Social 02.03.2015 / 16:10

Kantar China Social Media Impact Report infographic 2015

Concerns over time spent and quality of content cause lower satisfaction

Chinese social media users are increasingly concerned with the impact social media is having on their lives as the number of people who feel positively about social media has dropped by 12.1 percentage points from last year to 64.7%.

The second annual Kantar China Social Media Impact Report also found that social media is now used by more age groups, by less educated people and by people in smaller cities, while Tencent WeChat has become the dominant social media platform of an increasingly mobile-connected country.

Kantar, the data investment management division of WPP, carried out this year's report through data-mining, Weibo text-mining, WeChat article text-mining and online polling. The research covers 60 Chinese cities, 66,000 respondents, 2 million Sina Weibo posts and 711 million WeChat article reads.

For the online polling part of the research, 64.7% of 13,341 participants said social media's impact is positive, 12.1 percentage points lower than a year ago, while 12.2% of respondents said social media made their lives worse, nearly doubling last year's 6.7%. The rest, 23.2%, felt social media had a neutral impact, higher than 16.5% a year ago. This gives us an overall average satisfaction score of 68.0, compared to last year's 73.4.

Key Numbers

  • 64.7% say social media's impact is positive
  • 23.2% say social media's impact is neutral
  • 12.2% say social media's impact is negative

The continuous survey part of the research captured the shifting profile of Chinese social media users from face-to-face interviews with 53,112 urban residents. Social media's reach among urban residents has increased to 34% from last year's 28.6%. People born in the 1990s usurped the 1980s generation to become the largest age group (37.7%) and the proportion of older generations also increased at the expense of the 1980s, whose share dropped from 44.8% to 30.8%. 

"As social media becomes less new, it is no longer the cool thing to do and loses part of its charm in certain groups", says Sophie Shen, General Manager of CTR Media & Consumption Behaviour, who led the online polling survey. "More profoundly, social media has penetrated into the lives of Chinese people and they now realize they are spending too much time on it. At the same time, they are receiving more low-quality and duplicate content, this is why the proportion of `zero interaction' social users increased by 7 percentage points to 46%."

"The higher penetration of social media has also increased people's concerns about their privacy. Many people have been disturbed by their `virtual friends', which would not have happened without social media," Shen added.

To better understand the sentiment and behavior of social media users, this study also includes two text-mining projects on WeChat and Weibo. CIC, Kantar's specialist social media research agency in China, followed 711.3 million WeChat users' clicks on 50 influential subscription accounts to understand what topics are most widely read and what makes a popular subscription account. The monitoring period stretched from August 1, 2014 to November 15, 2014.

This survey found that 15 entertainment accounts made the Top 50 and attracted 49% of total clicks followed. Although the Top 50 list includes 10 news and information accounts, they garnered only 5% of all reads.

The average number of reads per post for the Top 50 was 39,531, while the average number of likes was 154. Surprisingly, these influential accounts don't need a large volume of posts to be successful; on average, an account published just 21 posts each week. For the top three, the average was even lower at 16 posts.

CIC's Weibo monitoring project pulled 2.1 million posts filed by 10,000 Weibo users over a full year (November 16, 2013 to November 15, 2014) to analyze what people were talking about.

Entertainment is still the largest category (25.4%), followed by news events 19.6%, health and beauty (15.7%), work and study (14.3%), travel (12%) and others (13%). Though some suspect that social media users tend to appear negative, CIC's analysis of emoticons found the opposite: 67% emoticons are positive, 33% are negative.

"China's social media landscape continues to develop at a rapid pace and it is critical that marketers utilize systematic research to better understand how consumers ultimately use different platforms like Weibo and WeChat to create, receive and share information," said Sam Flemming, CEO and founder of CIC. "We believe that while WeChat is clearly a dominant platform, China is not a 'winner takes all' environment. Weibo serves as the 'pulse' of China and WeChat subscription accounts serving as a new form of a modern, more shareable magazine. This research illustrates how they can be best used to reach consumers in meaningful, compelling and effective ways."

Source: Kantar Media CIC, CTR, Kantar, Kantar Media

Editor's Notes

Journalists, download the full infogaphic above. For more information or to interview one of our China social media experts, please contact us.

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