How Covid-19 is shaping a new Chinese Social Media landscape

To prevent the propagation of Covid-19, most cities and residential compounds in China have implemented quarantines and curfews, whilst companies put remote work in place. Housebound Chinese consumers have relied more heavily than ever on digital platforms to access information, socialize, and consume. As a result, a new Social Media landscape is emerging.

Greater time spent on Social Media platforms

China is home to the world’s largest online population and ranks only second globally in terms of time spent on mobile phones. We see this trend further accelerating in the past weeks.

Following a WalkTheChat analysis based on a QuestMobile report, Social media platforms all show a strong time spent increase compared to the same period last year, apart from China’s online dating app Momo (arguably due to fear of contagion from strangers).

A shift consumers’ attention forces platforms to innovate

Not all platforms enjoy the same amount of attention or engagement. Surprisingly, television has been on the rise, showing an increase of 76 minutes in daily time spent compared to the same period last year, according to Kuyun Data.

The biggest winners of this situation are mobile games, particularly Honor of Kings, showing close to twice the average time daily.

Live Streaming platforms boomed last year, reaching 89 billion yuan market size, a trend that has further developed in the past weeks. As a response, many platforms are developing Live Streaming capabilities, including WeChat which launched Channels.

Chinese celebrities vlogging on Channels, such as actor and supermodel Hu Bing singing and miming how to properly wash hands and delivering encouraging messages.

The emergence of related hot topics

Another effect of the epidemic is the rise of related hot topics on social media, such as Fight against eating Wild gameQuarantine Boredom, and Pride and Patriotism as reported by What’s on Weibo.

Riding on the topic of quarantine boredom, the short video platform Douyin started a fun activation called #??DOU??# (fun things you do while homebound). They collaborated with multiple celebrities and KOLs who shot live videos of their daily activities at home. The fun and relevance of the content created a blast on the platform.

 Popular Chinese young actors and actresses Masu, Li Zhiting and Zhang Jiani showcasing their daily life on Douyin.

Brands responding with love

Knowing the anxiety and sensitivity of Chinese consumers in this period, brands are implementing two main strategies: making large donations and adapting the topics and tone of their communication.

Consumers are concerned about whether their favorite brand has supported China during this period. Donations from Chinese digital leaders such as Alibaba, Tencent, ByteDance, Sina and Netease reached billions of dollars. Western brands have followed suit, including the Richemont Group, LVMH Group, and Hermes.

Some of the Western brands who donated funds to alleviate the Covid-19 crisis.

Brands have also adapted their content planning and tone to better match the situation. Heartwarming messages won over consumers. We saw many adaptations of communication strategies, particularly around Valentine’s day with brands choosing to show love and support to the people instead of individual lovers. This approach supported alleviating consumers’ widespread anxiety and to raise their interest. Most importantly, it established brand relevance and prepared them for the rebound.

Brands publishing their support on their official WeChat accounts.

Key Learnings

Every crisis holds opportunities. Value is destroyed, value is created. Agile organizations who react timely and appropriately can emerge strengthened.

For brands on China social media, it means:

  • Shift short term media spend on platforms that are buzzing right now. When matching your target market, consider running activations on different platforms like mobile games and fitness apps
  • Stay in tune with consumer sentiment and ride on fast emerging hot topics. Social listening tools like Lavector or curation platforms like What’s on Weibo can help you identify them
  • Don’t follow through your initial copywriting direction if it becomes irrelevant. Adapt your message and tone to resonate with what is on consumers’ mind right now

Co-authors: Rachel Daydou & Emilie Dong