China Insights

Chinese concerns about impact of social media continue to grow

Martin Guo

Editor-in-Chief, Kantar China Insights

Social 28.01.2016 / 09:30

Chinese social media impact report 2016 image

People in China are using social media more than ever, but continue to worry about its negative impact, the Kantar Social Media Impact Report has found.

Key Numbers

  • 61% (-4) Chinese who feel positive about social media
  • 15% (+2) Chinese who feel negatively towards social media

New research shows social media penetration in China has now reached half (51%) of the urban population, an increase of 17 percentage points on the previous year. However, the percentage of Chinese people who feel positively about social media has slipped by 4 points from last year to 61%. And 15% of respondents said social media has made their lives worse, an increase of 2 percentage points. The rest, 24%, felt social media has a neutral impact. This gives us an overall average social media usage satisfaction score of 67.0, down from 68.0 in 2015 and 73.4 in 2014.

The third annual Kantar Social Media Impact Report has found the number of people who say social media has no negative impact whatsoever on their lives has decreased from 18% last year to 14% this year. Social media users are more likely to agree that their life is becoming increasingly hectic, 71% compared to an average of all Chinese urban residents of 67%.

This year's report was carried out through online polling, data mining, mobile behaviour data analysis, Weibo text mining and WeChat article text mining. For the first time, the research has been expanded to include data beyond China, with answers from 150,000 respondents across five countries and the ability to compare mobile behavioural data between the US and China.

Li Yan, General Manager of the Media and Consumption Behaviour Research department of CTR, who together with Kantar Media CIC carried out this year's research, says: "Social media acceleration is happening across all city-tiers and age groups. We ask people, 'did you use social media yesterday', so we can see people are using social media more frequently, even though the number of registered user numbers of China's dominant social media platforms, such as Weibo and WeChat, are not growing as much."

Li Yan also notes that with the expansion of social media, the credibility of media platforms is changing: "The trust of traditional media, such as television, newspapers, radio, etc. among social media users, especially those born in the '90s, is lower than the general population. Instead, new media such as WeChat and the internet have won favour and trust with the young generation of social media users."

When compared to the US, UK, France and Brazil, China ranks third most active on social media: 62% of people in the US have used social media in the past four weeks, compared to Brazil (58%), China (56%), France (50%) and the UK (36%). Across all these countries, women are more active than men; in China, the gap is 4 percentage points (58% vs. 54%).

Kantar's mobile behavioural data from 18,500 Chinese panellists (WeChat usage) and 6,058 US panellists (Facebook usage) shows that US social media users check social media apps more frequently than Chinese users (17.9 times/day vs 14.5 times/day), but Chinese stay on social media longer than their US counterparts (48 minutes per day vs. 43 minutes per day). Female US users are on social media 20 minutes longer than male users per day, but in China, the gap is only eight minutes.

Li Yan continues: "It's clear that a love of sharing for women is a global trait, and social media provides a platform to fulfil this need. For those brands whose main customers are female, putting topical advertising on social media looks like a good choice."

To understand the content people actually consume on social media, Kantar analysed 6.9 billion pageviews generated by the top 50 influential WeChat subscription accounts. Compared with last year, emotional content, most of which is known to Chinese people as "chicken soup", has surged in popularity. There are now 19 emotion-themed accounts in the top 50 list, compared with three last year. Their share of the total pageviews has grown to 34% from 21%. Entertainment (41%) content still attracts more clicks than other categories. Health & lifestyle's share (14%) did not change year over year, while news and information accounts increased their share from 5% to 8%, and beauty and fashion content slid from 12% to 3%.

Linda Xu, Head of Research & Consulting of Kantar Media CIC, says: "WeChat continues to set the front-end pageview limit at 100,000, but we've seen the actual pageviews are much higher than that. The top 100 most read articles in this period have been read at least 1.5 million times, the highest reaching 8.56 million times, suggesting the quality of WeChat content varies greatly. The popularity of 'chicken soup' content has exploded, attracting audiences seeking personal reflection, while original hot-topic content in multiple media format (i.e., video, pictures and music) is most likely to go viral on WeChat. Brands should adopt a distinctive style or work with specialised individual key opinion leader (KOL) accounts to leverage the power of social for brand benefits on WeChat."

As China's social media ecosystem continues to evolve, Weibo has become a popular platform to talk about celebrities. Kantar's Weibo research found the top 50 most popular celebrities generated 110 million buzz* in a year. Boy bands are extremely popular, with TFBoys earning four spots on the top 50, while current and former EXO band members had a total of six slots on the list. Jay Chou (周杰伦), Wallace Huo (霍建华) and Zheng Shuang (郑爽) are three celebrities who made the top 50 even though they have no Weibo accounts at all. On average, a top-50 celebrity has 23.58 million followers on Weibo and each of their tweets will generate 43,395 retweets and comments.

Linda Xu continues: "Young, handsome and multi-talented '90s~'00s generation male icons have become increasingly popular in the past year, with 'fan power' the driving force for celebrity endorsement on Weibo. Also, films and TV dramas adapted from popular online novels are well received. Brands should take advantage of popular media themes to interact and enrich their image."

Source: Kantar, Kantar Media CIC, CTR

Editor's notes

*Including celebrities' full name, nicknames and Weibo account names mentioned in original tweets and retweets.

Journalists, download the press release above or for more information, contact us.


1) Online survey of Chinese social media users:

13,512 registered Chinese Internet users joined an online polling hosted on All users are registered on a real-name basis. The online survey was held from December 19, 2015 till December 27, 2015. Under 95% confidence level, the sampling error is ±0.8%. CTR is a joint venture between Kantar and China International Television Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary under CCTV.

2) CNRS-TGI research:

CNRS-TGi covers 60 cities with an annual sample size of nearly 100,000, representing a population of 180 million urban residents. CNRS-TGi provides single source continuous data of tier 1-4 city residents in China on their product consumption, media habits and lifestyles. The research results are based on analysing continuous survey results collected in 60 Chinese cities from March till August, 2015. Altogether data from 54,052 samples were used. Social media users were defined as those who answered that they've used social media yesterday on the day when they were surveyed. Global TGI comparison part used data from 10,005 US samples, 24,821 UK samples, 15,397 French samples and 11,224 Brazilian samples.

3) Chinese and US social media user behaviour patterns research:

Included mobile behaviour data from 18,500 Chinese panellists and 6,058 US panellists. The monitoring period was October 1 till 31, 2015.

4) CIC Weibo text mining:

Track and analysed buzz about 300 popular entertainment and sports celebrities on Sina Weibo between December 16, 2014 and December 15, 2015, including celebrities' full name, nicknames and Weibo account names mentioned in original tweets and retweets. Then top 50 most talked about celebrities were shortlisted. Altogether 110,748,395 Weibos were analysed. Zombie users have been manually screened out.

5) CIC WeChat text mining:

Track reads and likes on 300 candidate influential WeChat subscription accounts from September 15, 2015 to December 15, 2015 to shortlist Top 50 influential WeChat subscription accounts. Analyse reads and likes on articles published by Top 50 accounts during this period. Altogether 26,202 posts, 6,960,443,631 pageviews and 32,749,118 likes were analysed.

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