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Companies to cash in on social media expansion

By He Wei (China Daily)

13:27, April 26, 2012

China has the largest and most active population of social media users, and that has created unique opportunities for companies hoping to engage with a vast and increasingly affluent market, a new McKinsey study has found.

Of the 5,700 Internet users surveyed in China's first- to third-tier cities, 95 percent are registered on a social networking site, or SNS, the highest proportion worldwide. The consultancy said the country had 300 million social media users at the end of 2011.

China also has by far the world's most active social media population, with 91 percent of respondents saying they visited an SNS in the previous six months, compared with 30 percent in Japan and 67 percent in the United States.

Apart from frequency, Chinese netizens spend 46 minutes a day visiting SNS, in sharp contrast to seven minutes in Japan and 37 minutes in the US.

Local sites dominated the rather fragmented SNS landscape. The survey found that on average each user has about three accounts registered on different sites, 1.4 times that of the US. In the survey, users identify Qzone, Sina Weibo and Renren as the top three sites.

That has posed hurdles for companies keen to use social media tools for marketing, as it would be more difficult for them to precisely locate their potential clients, said Davis Lin, a partner at McKinsey.

Fueled by the increasing Internet population and the maturing of online payment systems, China's e-commerce sector is expected to topple the US as the world's largest in 2015 when sales reach 2.7 trillion yuan ($420 billion).

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