5 Differences Between Chinese and American Social Media Sites

QQ, RenRen and Micro Blog (also known as “Weibo”) are some of my favorite Chinese social media sites, although Americans have probably never heard of them.  They are closely tied to daily social networking for Chinese younger generations.  Instead of only visiting those sites in my comfort zone when I came to America, I decided to experience American social networking as well.  However, after using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. a question popped into my mind: Why do most Chinese social networking sites look so similar to each other while American sites are so different?  Here are a few reasons why:

1. Different Needs and Purposes: Because Chinese social media is booming but still not very advanced compared to American social media, Chinese online users, especially the younger generation, tend to seek out content mostly about entertainment.  Their ultimate purpose is simply to gain happiness and joy through these social networking sites.  Also, there are a variety of interesting applications listed in those sites, such as video games, radio stations, online live shows, and an online store for decorating their own blogs or Facebook pages.  There is even a system of “internet money” that users can buy virtual presents and gifts with, and people even have the ability to express their feelings with moving emoticons.  However, the relatively simple needs might not be satisfying to American online users who tend to absorb different types of content so as to achieve or meet their goals.  Examples of this include online job or internship searching and academic discussions.

2. “All in One” vs. “One-on-One”: This might be the most obvious difference between the two country’s social media sites.  The fundamental reason why QQ, Weibo, and RenRen look alike is because all of them contain similar functions and applications.  This means that even if you only open and constantly use one site, you still can be offered the same level of service such as watching video and listening to the radio stations. This is much more convenient.  Unlike the structure of Chinese sites, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Linked-In have distinct characteristics, which appeal to certain types of people with certain needs.

3.Target Audience Varies Depending on Each Site: The ‘all in one’ model targets general online viewers, regardless of if their age or education level.  Everyone can obtain their own satisfaction through social media, whereas, the ‘one-on-one’ model gathers specific ranges of people sharing similar levels of social values and knowledge altogether in order to make progress and act in their best interest.

4. Distinct Mindsets Reflected by Cultures: One thing that RenRen has but Facebook does not, is a section showing the amount of online viewers that visit your personal page. Most individuals have a strong desire to share more interesting content to help increase the number of visitor hits. This is only more exemplified by the level system on RenRen, which teaches that with more friends a person’s “level” may increase, and those who are newcomers to the site have a much lower level of popularity.  The more attractive your webpage looks like, the higher amount of “fans” you will get, which is a common phenomenon showing how important Chinese people care about how others think about them more than caring about themselves.  Although this is a universal aspect to modern culture, it may be stronger in Chinese culture, due to the sense of collectivism as opposed to individualism, where every single person goes their own way without paying too much attention on other peoples’ expectations.

5. The Extent of Awareness of Using Social Media to Brand Yourself: After participating in the PRSSA-UD Twitter Chat Skill Slam last week, I was surprised by the amount of students eager to become PR pros in the future and that used Twitter to look for internship opportunities.  I was also truly inspired by how sophisticated they present themselves by writing blogs including their own portfolio and resume. In general, Chinese college students are not aware how they can use social networks to build their careers while American students really take advantage of these online tools.

Written by Kathy Hu.

Below are my personal web pages from each Chinese social media site that I mentioned above.  Get a sense of how Chinese popular social media sites look and how Chinese and American social media differ, so that they can learn from each other:

Renren: http://www.renren.com/profile.do?id=277792718
Weibo: http://www.weibo.com/2163593131/profile?topnav=1

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