They do not care about the censorship and are not longing for Twitter or Facebook. Group buying has been invented in China, and crowd sources is old news for them. Internet guru Sam Flemming takes on a few misconceptions about China’s internet users in the Pandodaily.
Social networking may have been invented in the US, but the Chinese own it. They’re much more active on social media than their counterparts in the Western world. According to Forrester Research, 44 percent of metro Chinese Internet users can be considered “creators” on social media, compared to just 24 percent in the US. Only the Koreans (49 percent) rank higher.
“Back when our social media analysis industry started in 2003-2004, we would work with partners in the States and we would get, for any one category, two to three times the amount of conversation in China than they would get in the US,” says Flemming.
Word-of-mouth has always been important to Chinese culture, and social media has allowed that to become viral. Online bulletin boards (BBS) provided the first public forum for sharing information in China, Flemming says, and they quickly became extremely popular. Flemming’s explanation? “Entertainment is crap in China. There’s no good TV. The news has its limitations. So the word-of-mouth, especially for news and information, has always been very important.”
Back in November 2002, he heard of SARS via online forums months before the government officially acknowledged the outbreak the following April. “On online forums, people were talking about this strange sickness that people were getting in Guangdong. People were lining up to get into hospitals. Even when the government was not publicly discussing it, or admitting it was an issue, it was all over the BBS.”
The advent of Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo – microblogging services that were modeled on Twitter but have been localized to serve the specific needs of China’s Internet users – has only added to the social media activity in the country.
So why would China’s netizens care about Facebook? “Their social needs,” says Flemming, “are being completely met.”