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The top Chinese social media apps for SMEs


The 846 million active users on WeChat are hard to ignore, but the costs required to stand out are making the platform less attractive, particularly to smaller brands.

While large multinational brands, such as Coca-Cola or Adidas, can afford to invest significant budget on Chinese social media strategies, the same cannot be said for small and medium sized business – like many of the New Zealand brands marketing their products in China.

Rather than trying to compete with big international players for a share of voice on WeChat and Weibo, these brands could benefit from creating strategic partnerships with a handful of popular niche Chinese apps and platforms.

“Working with popular, more niche, apps could really help SME brands make more noise in the Chinese market,” says Jessica Miao, General Manager of UMS.

“When you compare the marketing spend of the big players from the US, UK or Europe, New Zealand brands have smaller budgets, so it’s much harder for them to make a big impact.

“These apps and platforms may not have the huge audiences or attract the big budget brands. However, they are big players in their niche areas, and they have engaged and loyal consumers.

“Working with these medium-sized apps and platforms could be a huge benefit for brands, instead of making a little noise on the big platforms like WeChat and Weibo, brands can make a much larger noise on these smaller more engaged platforms,” says Miao.

Here are Jessica’s picks of the Top Marketing Partners for SME Brands:

小红书 – Little Red Book
Weibo Fans: 1.3million
WeChat Official account average readership: 100,000+
E-commerce start-up “Little Red Book” or Xiaohongshu, is an online shopping site which connects overseas merchants with local buyers. The site has 24 million registered users who post pictures of their favourite products and the app then connects the users with the international merchants selling the products. The site’s users are predominantly young women – 90% of users are women, and 80% are under 30 years. Little Red Book’s products are mostly beauty and make-up related, although they aim to provide everything and anything that the sites users are interested in.

The opportunity for brands:
The Little Red Book community of mostly young women is very active, with users regularly sharing their opinions and experiences of products. These peer recommendations can help elevate products and brands. This app is excellent for marketers with products in the fashion, cosmetics, homewares and healthy food sectors – also if your brand is smart or trendy, these savvy women will be all over it.

Weibo Fans: 2.94million
WeChat Official account average readership: 40,000
Keep is a health and fitness app that has attracted 60 million users and 8.3 million daily active user base. The app enables Chinese users to upload and share videos and photos from their exercise workouts, along with eating tips and training information. The app has fast become one of the most downloaded health and fitness app in China. Keep targets young people with women making up 55% of its users. However, what’s most significant is the time people spend on the app, which averaged 13.58 minutes. Keep’s popularity is a sign of the popularity of health and fitness in China.
The opportunity for brands:
Keep has built a social community of millions of active people who care about fitness and living healthy. The app is open to co-branding and creative campaigns, so marketers with products that are relevant and targeted at active, healthy people would benefit from this targeted approach.

荔枝fm – Litchi FM   
Weibo Fans: 870,000
Litchi FM is an app that enables users to set up personal radio stations and record radio shows on their smartphones. Litchi FM has been called China’s answer to Sound Cloud. The app has 80 million registered users, of this audience 75% are women, 86% are aged under 30 years, and 50% are students.
The opportunity for brands:
Live audio FM is becoming a huge trend in China, partnering with Litchi FM provides marketers with a unique approach to the market. Instead of creating a brand channel on WeChat, brands can create a live weekly audio show sharing brand stories and updates.

有道 – Youdao
Weibo Fans: 1.47million
WeChat Official account average readership: 15,000
Youdao is a Chinese-to-multi language dictionary based in a search engine, which released by NetEase in 2007. Youdao reach 500 million users, back to April 2015 and according to research it holds more than 70% market share in the dictionary app industry. Most of the Youdao users (74%) have a bachelor degree or higher and are aged between 18-35-years-old. Youdao’s audience is well-educated, high earners, who are loyal to brands and likely to share content.
The opportunity for brands:
Youdao offers marketers a highly desirable audience of well-educated high earners. This app presents a huge opportunity to brands that wish to engage with this community, who are using the social dictionary daily. Brands could engage this active user base to create a Chinese product slogan or run competitions.

大姨吗 – Dayima
Weibo Fans: 360,000
Dayima began life as a women’s health app, enabling users to track their monthly cycle and monitor their menstruation and ovulation. The app has evolved and expanded to promote and sell health related products and snacks to its 80 million registered users and 4.2 million daily active users. The apps personal and family health focus makes it appealing to health-related brands.
The opportunity for brands:
Dayima offers marketers a captive audience of pregnant women, new mothers and women hoping to get pregnant. Marketers with products aimed at this audience will love this app, as well as brands with health-related products.

黄油 – Butter Camera
Butter Camera is a photo-editing app that allows users to put Chinese words onto photos as well as providing photo editing tools and backgrounds. Butter Camera is often called the Chinese version of Instagram, and much like that app, it has evolved beyond photo editing to create a community of users who share their images. Last year the app reached 7 million users, 530,000 of these were daily active users.
The opportunity for brands:
Much like Instagram, Butter Camera provides a great opportunity for marketers to share images and brand values while creating a community of followers. Butter Camera’s audience skews heavily towards young women, the “Butter Girlfriends” who represent an attractive and captive community.

蘑菇街 – Mushroom Street  
Weibo Fans: 7.8million
WeChat Official account average readership: 65,000 or “Mushroom Street” is one of China’s biggest fashion-focused e-commerce services. first launched in 2011 and was similiar to Pinterest, however, it has evolved into a women’s fashion e-commerce site where merchants pay commissions to be featured. Last year, merged with rival to expand the site further. Mogujie creates popular content using celebrity images to share clothing advice and promote products.
The opportunity for brands:
Mushroom Street has a strong female audience who love fashion, if your brand has accessories, bags, homewares, clothing – or really anything that women want to buy this app will turbocharge your sales.

Key opinion leaders (KOLs)
While this is not a standalone app, China’s key opinion leaders, or KOLs, are a powerful force when it comes to social media. Some of China’s leading KOL’s have collected social media followings that are larger than the population of some countries. They also have a huge influence over trends and products and should not be ignored. KOLs can be found across all the apps listed above, particularly “Little Red Book “and “Keep”.
The opportunity for brands:
Marketers that can harness the power of influence of KOLs will reap the benefits. Obviously, it is important to identify the most relevant KOL for your brand and product, however, when done right this offers a huge opportunity, particularly for brands hoping to raise awareness in China.

By Jessica Miao
Jessica Miao is General Manager of UMS. This article was first published in the Exporter Magazine.