Multiple screens representing the multiple different Chinese social media platforms consumers can chose from

The 8 Top Chinese Social Media Apps, Sites & Platforms 2023

TJ Kiely

Mar 27, 2023

When brands think of social media, they envision building connections with the audience around them. But social media has become quite the global sensation, giving brands more ways to grow their presence across borders. With the rise in Chinese social media, companies have more opportunities than ever to expand their reach.

Similar to its Western counterparts, Chinese social media spans a range of features and purposes. From instant messaging apps to microblogging to discussions and business reviews, brands have an easy “in” into the Chinese market. Plus, all those social media apps mean more paid advertising options! The challenge for brands is knowing which platforms to tap into for their social media publishing or social listening strategy.

China is not only the world’s largest social media market - it also boasts an incredibly rich and diverse online landscape.

After all, over 800 million Chinese internet users are looking for a place to share their opinions, ask for product recommendations, and connect with others. That’s a lot of content.

While Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter continue to dominate the western world, China has seen the emergence of many innovative new social platforms. This includes video sharing platforms like Douyin, as well as shopping communities like Xiaohongshu.

In this changing environment, global brands looking to build their presence in the Chinese market need to keep a close eye on what’s happening with these platforms.

Let’s look at the top eight Chinese social media apps, sites, and platforms that you should consider adding to your social marketing strategy in 2023.

Table of Contents:

Group sitting using their phones.

Why is Chinese social media important for global brands?

The numbers tell you everything you need to know.

According to a Chinese government study, 802 million people in China are now active internet users. This amounts to 57.7% of the country’s population.

Compare the US’s estimated 300 million internet users, or 78.2% of its population. While China might not yet have the same market penetration, it has a greater potential for growth.

Even more interesting is the incredible level of mobile uptake in China: 98% of Chinese people using the internet do so via mobile devices. Compare that with just 73% in the US.

This makes Chinese social media more immediate and dynamic, with mobile users looking to platforms like WeChat and Weibo for the latest recommendations, testimonials, and tips.

This high mobile penetration also helps drives the performance of massive online events like Alibaba’s Singles Day.

Alibaba Singles Day Promotion

Alibaba employees celebrate 213.5 billion yuan ($30.7 billion US) in Singles Day 2018 sales. Source: CNBC

For global brands, the sheer size of the Chinese consumer market makes it critical to dedicate time and energy to tracking trends on social media.

Not only is China a significant market, but many popular trends in wider Asia start in China.

Unfortunately, many brands struggle to understand the Chinese market in depth, and lack the ability to track local trends in real time.

To see this in action, just look at the outrage and subsequent public apology over Dolce & Gabbana’s promotional videos for its 2018 runway show in Shanghai.

Mercedes Benz found this out the hard way too. In early 2018, the company had to apologize to Chinese consumers after featuring a quote from the Dalai Lama - considered a divisive political figure in China - on its Instagram page.

Mercedes Benz Chinese advert

Source: BBC

Incidents like this demonstrate just how valuable the Chinese market is to international brands, and how important it is to consider how advertising and marketing activities may be perceived at the local level.

This is where social listening comes in.

Tracking and observing exchanges on Chinese social media platforms is a great way for brands to build a deeper understanding of local perceptions and values, and can help avoid the risk of embarrassing - and costly - marketing missteps.

Social Media Use in China by the Numbers

Before we dive into the most popular Chinese social media sites, it’s worth asking: just how big is Chinese social media?

Let’s start with the fact that many of the USA’s popular social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Google, and YouTube are blocked from Chinese servers. For those in the Chinese market to enjoy social media, they basically had to create their own networks.


  • User statistics show there are nearly 926.8 million social media users in China as of 2020. That ultimately makes China the largest consumer of social media sites in the world. Also, the number of active users is expected to rise to 1.279 billion by 2026.
  • The average user spends about 117 minutes per day on Chinese social media sites. For comparison, that’s a bit less than the average here in the U.S. (which is about 142 minutes per day).
  • About 88% of Chinese social media users are active on more than one platform.
  • They’re highly mobile, too, with 95% of users accessing social media via their mobile devices.
  • 70% of social media users in China are between the ages of 18 and 35, while the split between male and female users is almost equal (skewing slightly toward the male side).

There’s no doubt social media has seen explosive growth in China in the last few years. And despite the “Great Firewall” that blocks Chinese users from many American social media platforms, USA brands can access top Chinese social media platforms with relative ease.

Interested in understanding your consumers in the Chinese market? Our social listening platform monitors WeChat, Sina Weibo, and Douyin.

Smiling woman using her phone.

How People in China Use Social Media

Chinese social media trends and usage are drastically different compared to their Western counterparts. For starters, China’s social media audience is large enough for companies and brands to carve out a following that may be as large as entire countries elsewhere.

There’s also a ton of diversification between the top Chinese social media sites. For example, there may be as many as 10 popular social video sites, but each one caters to a very specific audience.

There are also tons of communication-focused apps, including WeChat, QQ, and MOMO. Each of these has earned its place in the Chinese social media scene.

Many of the popular Chinese social media options take a multipurpose format. WeChat, for instance, is a top choice for messaging, e-commerce, live streaming, playing games with friends, reserving a taxi, and a myriad of other tasks. Users can also download mini-programs (kind of like apps) that run inside the larger WeChat ecosystem.

Of course, this also means that competition is fierce in the Chinese social market. With so many apps and more than three times the user base compared to the USA, brands will need no shortage of creativity to make an impact. 

Narrowing down the top Chinese social media apps is no easy feat. There are tons of apps that cater to very specific audiences and do very specific things. And they’re all part of the bigger social media umbrella. But when you can’t be everywhere and need to choose only the best opportunities, a short list of Chinese social media apps can come in handy.

Here’s our list of Chinese social media apps you’ll want to explore:

1. Sina Weibo

Weibo is among the most popular Chinese social media apps, with more than 573 million monthly active users. Owned by Sina Corporation and sometimes referred to as the Twitter of China, Weibo is a Twitter-like microblogging platform.

However, calling Weibo the "Twitter of China" isn’t exactly accurate. Chinese social media Weibo users have a 140-character limit on posts and can include images and emojis in their content. You can also tag other users, hold one-to-one conversations, create Stories (kind of like Instagram Stories), and add hashtags.

Keep your finger on the pulse by monitoring what Chinese consumers are saying about your brand, products and competitors with social listening.

Image of a Wechat on a phone between four people

2. WeChat

Another popular Chinese social media app, WeChat is probably one of the most recognizable names in the Western world. This jack-of-all-trades all-in-one super-app gives users and brands tons of unique functions and features, making it a must for social media marketing.

It’s a ride-hailing app. It’s a direct messaging channel. It's an e-commerce platform. It’s a place for video chats, ticket sales, and so much more. No matter your target audience, you’re likely to find them on WeChat.

Like many other social media apps, WeChat is free to use. However, signing up for an account isn’t so simple. To create your account, you’ll need to find an existing user and scan a QR code they provide to you. 

From a business perspective, using Weibo compared to platforms like Baidu and Tencent Weibo makes financial sense. Weibo has a 56% user share of China’s microblogging market, and that figure increases to more than 86% when accounting for on-page time.

TikTok app.

3. TikTok (aka Douyin)

Here’s a name you’ll probably recognize if you live outside of China – TikTok. The Chinese version is called Douyin, but if you’re outside of China, you’ll use TikTok.

This social network quickly shot to fame in the USA with its short videos, quirky dances, and loads of easy-to-use video editing features. It’s one of the biggest Chinese social media platforms to date, with more than one billion monthly active users around the world.

This platform thrives on short-form, user-generated video content, often accompanied by music and/or lip-syncing. Despite hailing from China, TikTok offers tons of English-language content and caters to more than 75 languages in 150 countries. Users are mostly Gen-Z and Millennial individuals and has spurred thousands of self-created influencers.

Tip: Read our dedicated blog about "What is TikTok?", learn how to use TikTok for your business, and check out the most important TikTok stats.

4. Tencent QQ

Another micro-blogging site on our Chinese social media list, QQ is owned by Tencent and is similar in function to WeChat. However, a key difference is its signup process – you don’t need to register with a phone number.

What’s more, you can also use QQ as a desktop application, making it more palatable for business professionals.

Tencent video.

5. Baidu Tieba

China’s largest search engine, Baidu, has its own social network named Baidu Tieba. While it might not be well known in Western countries, Baidu Tieba is actually older than Facebook. Its total number of registered internet users has surpassed 1.5 billion, making it a top network for brands to consider.

Since Baidu Tieba has the backing of the search engine Baidu, its content ranks extremely well in search. It’s ideal for keyword-based content, as well as question-and-answer content and interactive content.

6. Tencent Video

Another video-sharing Chinese social media platform, Tencent Video boasts more than 112 million subscribers under its premium offer. It recently overtook its once-stalwart competitor, Alibaba Youku, and now sees more than 400 million monthly active users in China.

However, the platform has endured a tumultuous relationship with the Chinese government. It remains under constant surveillance and has experienced its share of censorship.

7. Zhihu

Zhihu is a question-and-answer social media site. It's similar to Quora in that questions are posted, answered, and edited by members of its community.

Users of Zhihu include entrepreneurs, speakers, and other professionals who aim to showcase their expertise in various subject matters. It's aimed at Chinese netizens and marketed as a source of knowledge. Users can upvote answers they think are the best, which helps those answers (and the users that provided them) gain more exposure. 

Zhihu offers two levels of paid membership, both of which give users access to tons of webinars, e-books, and other content.


8. Little Red Book

Our list of Chinese social media channels wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Little Red Book. Originally built as a platform for user-generated content, Little Red Book has now become a primary source of information when buying decisions are at stake.

Most Little Red Book users live in first-tier cities (sprawling metros like Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Beijing). Its 450 million users post an average of 450,000 times each day. It's more sales-oriented in that many of its users are actively searching for new products and brands.

Overall, content on Little Red Book appears more trustworthy and has become an ideal place to grow brand awareness and word-of-mouth marketing among Chinese consumers. 

How global brands can leverage Chinese social platforms

Chinese social media’s combination of huge user numbers and platform variety presents a significant advertising opportunity for global brands.

Brands and businesses are recognizing this opportunity, and are creating bespoke content for many of these platforms. This includes offering flash sales on WeChat, using KOLs on Xiaohongshu, and targeting Zhihu users with niche product offers.

Here are a few more examples:

Balenciaga WeChat campaign

Balenciaga’s WeChat mini-program offer. Source: Jing Daily

Very recently,  Xiaohongshu began offering its a “brand partner platform”, a service where brands can be connected with influencers to arrange for sponsored content.

Since unveiling this service, many luxury brands (including YSL, Shiseido, and Fendi) have entered into official collaborations with KOLs, using Xiaohongshu to drive online interest.

Insight is everything

These examples each highlight the opportunities for brands to take advantage of different platforms and expose their products to new groups of users.

However, to identify potential marketing opportunities and avoid the risk of missteps, brands need a deep understanding of what’s being said on Chinese social media.

Because the Chinese social media landscape is so complicated, brands need human expertise based on great data to provide analysis and insights.

This is where Meltwater can help. We work directly with the Chinese social media platforms and local data providers to provide the most comprehensive coverage possible to bring real-time global and local insights to our customers.

Meltwater can also help global brands to understand local cultural nuance, and to interpret how local brands and consumers and using social media platforms.

For global brands wanting to take advantage of the huge opportunities offered by Chinese social media, working with a social listening company with comprehensive coverage and local researchers can make all the difference.

Invest in Chinese social media platforms to stay ahead

In this post, we’ve looked in depth at some of the unique features of Chinese social media, and have examined eight important social media platforms to watch in 2021.

Chinese social media changes everyday. This makes it crucial for global brands to have a detailed understanding of what’s happening at the local level, and what users are saying.


Thinking about using Chinese social media in your marketing strategy? There’s a wealth of opportunity, and Meltwater can help. We monitor your presence across all social networks to help you grow and manage your brand’s presence. Get in touch to learn more about how you can understand your international audiences.