The sheer size of the Chinese internet market can be distorting when we look at global figures and especially when we look at micro-blogging figures.
Which of the following micro-blogging services do you currently use?
(millions of internet users in China, Wave 5 July 2011, Wave 6 November 2011)
If we look at active users of micro-blogging services in millions, we can see that GWI 6 estimates that the Chinese Micro-blogging site Sina Weibo has 184m active users, up from 154m in June 2011. This compares perfectly to Sina released figures of 200m.
Compare this to Twitter, and the size of China is clear. As of November 2011, Twitter has just over 72m active users, a difference of 110m active uses compared to Sina Weibo. More crucially, Twitter grew their active user base by just 1m from June to November 2011, compared to Sina’s 30m increase. These compare to Twitter released figures of 100m at the end of October. The slowing growth is probably due in part to the release of Google+, which mirrors many features of the micro-blogging service. We currently classify this as a social network, however we are actively reviewing how we classify these services as we move forward.
Interestingly, other smaller platforms are showing significant usage, with Tumblr recording 15m active users and Friendfeed with 18.6m, while “other sites / services” sits at 70m, demonstrating that the market is more diverse than many of us think.
The comparison of Twitter and Sina us shows three things. Firstly, there are two internets in the world, China and then everyone else. Secondly, while the hype always follows Twitter, we should (and the investor money certainly) all keep an eye on Sina. Thirdly, if you are a brand operating in China, it is imperative that you utilise micro-blogging platforms.
Moving forward, the news that Sina is developing an English language international version will be a real test of whether China, with the scale of its home market, can export its social services in the same way the US has.
This will be a huge challenge but key to seeing how the future of the internet will shape up.