Tencent QZone: the other social network in China for brands

With Sina Weibo being showered with brand and media attention, it is easy to forget that despite its hot news item status and evident potential for brands, Sina Weibo is not China’s dominant social network and there are other platforms out there that brands can leverage.

Amongst these other social networking platforms, Qzone is the one that most often gets overlooked by western media and marketers despite its 500+ million members. QZone is by far the country’s largest social network compared with Sina Weibo with about 300 million users and RenRen with around 150 million users. But beyond its size, Qzone offers opportunities for brands, which may worth more attention than it is currently getting.

What is Qzone?

Qzone is one of China’s oldest social media sites, starting as an extension of Tencent’s ubiquitous online instant message service “QQ Messenger” that is used by over 700 million people in China. The service is a crossover between a blogging platform and a social networking site. Emphasis is placed on personal expression and page customization with profile pages often resemble sophisticated microsites on which members can post extensive content about the topic of their choice. Compared to sites such as Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo or even RenRen, the use of Qzone is less centered on frequent dialogue and micro-exchanges.

Why is Qzone interesting for brands?

Many factors make Qzone an appealing platform for brands. First of all, its sheer size allows for maximal market coverage. Then, Qzone offers extraordinary flexibility for brands: pages are highly customizable, integrate multimedia content and applications and brands can even create fully customizable microsites like Nestle recently did to promote its Ben Na Na ice cream. Through these microsites brands get the best of both world: the flexibility to create original experiences and the interactivity allowed for by deep social media integration. For example, by playing games on the Chips Ahoy microsite, users can directly unlock badges and medals to feature on their profile page. Qzone also offers excellent integration with Tencent’s other products such Tencent Weibo and Q-Bi virtual currency.

Chips Ahoy’s Qzone microsite

But Qzone’s value for brands lies mainly in the composition of its audience: while Sina Weibo’s user base is mainly urban, sophisticated and concentrated in T1 coastal cities and RenRen still remains mainly populated by students and young workers; Qzone enjoys a truly mass appeal beyond T1 cities and has the most evenly distributed user baser of all Chinese social networks across age groups. As the social network of the “silent majority”, Qzone presents big potential for FMCG and other mass market brands. Sina Weibo may be the darling of the LV and Chanels of the world but Qzone is mass-market territory. No wonder Oreo boasts over 1.2 million fans on Qzone despite not even being present on Sina Weibo. A quick glance at the brands most active on Qzone shows the platform’s popularity amongst mass market brands such as Chips Ahoy, Oreo, Bing Hong Cha ice tea, Colgate and more.

Oreo’s Qzone page

What place for Qzone in my digital presence?

Qzone’s relevance for brands depends mainly on their target audience. The platform is best suited to brands with a mass market message looking to achieve large coverage beyond Tier 1 cities and possessing the necessary budget and know-how to tap the full potential of the platform. Brands can integrate QZone within the framework of a multi-channel strategy with QZone reaching out to the masses via push communication messages while platforms like Sina Weibo serve to engage in a more sophisticated dialogue with more influential, higher income customers.

QZone shows us that the social media universe in China is vast and that it is important for brands to understand the characteristic of each network before jumping in. It also shows the need to go beyond the Weibo hype and objectively analyze which platform can best allow the brand to reach its objectives in terms of content and audience.

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