Five Similarities and Differences Between the Social Media Behaviors in India and China
Almost two years back, I wrote a post on the similarities and differences between Indian and Chinese social media users. Now, as I am beginning to become involved with the Chinese social media scene once more, I decided to write an update to the post.
Out of the next billion internet users (and the next billion mobile users), a substantial number will come from emerging economies like India and China, which are also the two most populous countries in the world. Therefore, to understand the future of the social media, it’s important to understand social media behaviors in India and China.
Social media behaviors in China and India are similar in several ways –
1. In both countries, internet penetration is low and internet access is often shared, at school, office, or cyber cafes.
2. In both countries, mobile penetration is much deeper than internet penetration, mobile phones are the only personal communications device for most people and 3G-driven mobile web is expected to dramatically change web user behaviors.
3. Neither country has led the world in internet or mobile innovation, but both countries have been quick to adopt international innovations into local clones.
4. Internet users in both India and China have large social circles both online and offline and are heavy users of social media, possibly because of a strong early adopter bias.
5. Both countries have vibrant blogging communities which have played a leading role in covering natural disasters, like the 2004 South East Asia Tsunami and the 2008 China earthquake, but struggled to use social media for social change in any meaningful way.
However, China and India also have several importance differences related to social media behavior –
1. China has the world’s largest internet user base with more than 400 million users, while India is still a marginal (but growing) presence on the internet with less than 50 million users.
2. India has a vibrant democracy and the Indian internet is mostly uncensored, but the same cannot be said about China.
3. Most of the content on the Chinese internet is in Mandarin whereas the internet in Indian is dominated by English language content.
4. Helped by the language advantage and the Chinese government’s protectionist policies, Chinese social media services have dominated their international counterparts, whereas global social media services are dominant in India (In fact, India is the only BRIC country where Facebook is the number one social network).
5. Finally, it seems that while many Indian internet users are beginning to view their online identities as an extension of their real identities (because of the popularity of global real-name platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter), most Chinese internet users probably use their online identities to escape from their real identities (evidenced by the popularity of anonymous or pseudonymous bulletin boards, virtual worlds and social games; Sapient Nitro’s Asia digital head Freddie Laker makes the same observation in AdAge).
What do these similarities and differences mean for brands marketers trying to use social media to engage with consumers in India and China? What other important similarities and differences am I missing? Do share your insights in the comments below.