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China’s unique platforms – an introduction to the Chinese social media landscape...

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Mailman Sport, SportBusiness International's partner on this report, outlines the social media landscape in China, with a summary of the top platforms and user behaviour patterns.

Social networking has evolved differently in the middle kingdom than in Western societies. Forget the classic Western sites such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. These established networks have not been able to successfully expand in China due to strict state censorship. Being protected by this powerful barrier and without the influence of Western firms, localised networks have developed for the Chinese market.

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The dominant social networking sites are Sina Weibo and WeChat. We look in detail at these and provide an inventory of other popular sites below. It is wise to remember that this guidance could soon change in such a dynamic market, with top dogs fading and young pups emerging seemingly overnight.

China tends to lag a year to 18 months behind Western social media trends. There are, for example, several competing Instagram-style networks, none of which has gained dominance. One to watch is Nice, a photo- sharing platform with Instagram-like features, which at the moment is untested by Western sports brands.

China’s social media platforms and online behaviours vary in important ways from what may be considered their international equivalents. Differences that need understanding include language, culture, user behaviours, and SEO techniques. Companies entering the market must adapt their strategies to be successful.

Strategies and tips for engaging Chinese sports fans in the social media environment.

Strategies and tips for engaging Chinese sports fans in the social media environment.

Strategies and tips for engaging Chinese sports fans in the social media environment.

 Tennis has seen a surge in popularity in China in recent years, especially after Li Na’s second Grand Slam victory at the Australian Open 2014. Thrilling matches between top players in tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai have also expanded the fan base. Novak Djokovic has been successful on the court – this year winning the Shanghai Rolex Masters and the China Open – and a fan favourite during these tournaments.

In 2011, Wimbledon began to rethink its approach to China and in particular how it engaged with Chinese fans. Historically, promotion was pretty much limited to what its Chinese broadcast partners did to promote their coverage.

Choosing to begin electric racing series Formula E in Beijing was no accident, despite China having little history in motorsport.

English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur has an estimated fan base of around 45m in China, according to the club, with five Official Supporters Clubs in the country. It has over 2m followers on Weibo and has its own WeChat page and Youku channel.

The NBA started playing in China in 1979 when the Washington Bullets took on China’s national team at the invitation of then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. Few foresaw that one day China would play such a huge role in the NBA’s international growth.

Liverpool was the first European football club to enter Chinese social media in July 2011 with the launch of an official presence on Sina Weibo, coinciding with a club tour of the country. Liverpool was also first to launch on WeChat, in 2013.