Think you’re a social media expert? Think again.
These days the world of social media goes far beyond Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. There’s a whole suite of platforms out there that are used by millions, but still have a relatively low profile.
Keep your finger on the pulse by checking out our favourite social media platforms you’ve never heard of before. Discover how to reach millions of new social users by learning what these platforms are, how they work, who uses them, and why.
TLDR: Live podcasts, but interactive.
What is it? A social audio app where users can tune in to interviews, conversations, and discussions between people on varying topics. It’s essentially like having access to thousands of live podcasts at any given time.
How does it work? Users create ‘rooms’ for you to enter where you can either listen in on the conversation or ‘raise your hand’ to chime in. When you sign up, you select your hobbies and interests so that you get served the most relevant conversations.
Who uses it? During its invite-only stage, Clubhouse had around 2 million weekly active users. As of February 2021, the platform had 10 million weekly active users. Now that anyone can join Clubhouse, we expect this number to be even higher! Among those millions of users, celebs like Oprah, Drake, Kevin Hart, and Elon Musk have gotten in on the Clubhouse action.
Why do people use it? Clubhouse is mainly used by creators as a platform to host discussions about specific topics such as influencer marketing and content creation, cryptocurrency, science, pop culture, technology, and more. Every day users will then use these discussion rooms to learn more about a certain topic and hear from experts in the industry.
TLDR: More professional than WhatsApp, but not as business-like as Slack.
What is it? A group-chatting app made for users to talk and virtually hang out with their communities and friends. Discord was primarily used by gamers as a place to build communities and talk to one another. But it has now expanded to many other online communities (more on that later).
How does it work? If you’re familiar with Slack, Discord is like a less formal version. Each community is called a “server.” Servers are filled with text channels where you can chat with the group or share videos, images, links, music, and more. There are also voice channels that allow you to voice-chat with your community. Each server usually has multiple channels dedicated to different subtopics. There’s also the option to privately DM others.
Who uses it? In 2021 it was reported that Discord had over 150 million monthly active users. Gamers are widespread on Discord, but as we mentioned earlier, more and more online communities are now using the platform. Including content creators, writers, artists, and K-Pop stans.
Why do people use it? It’s a home for many online communities to connect, discuss and share new ideas. It’s where these communities can be themselves and speak to other people who share the same interests and hobbies.
TLDR: A social posting and messaging app that’s not Facebook.
What is it? China’s largest and most popular social messaging app. But the app goes beyond just messaging. Users can video call, shop using WeChat Pay, use government services, call rideshares, play games, and post to a Story-like feature called “Moments.”
How does it work? Despite its popularity, signing up to WeChat and creating an account isn’t so straightforward. You need someone who already has an account to verify you as a user. But once you’re in, the world is your oyster and you can start connecting with friends and family and using the app’s features.
Why do people use it? While it’s used globally by users to connect with family and friends, platforms like Facebook are banned in China. So WeChat has become the standard for business and communication for Chinese users. In fact, it’s been reported that 70% of Chinese professionals rely on WeChat for work-related communications, instead of email.
TLDR: Quick flicks and disappearing chats.
What is it? Snow has been dubbed as Snapchat’s Korean clone. The social media and camera app allows users to apply filters, take photos and videos, and send them directly to their friends. Snow also offers users a GIF creation tool, a Stories feature, and a chat function.
How does it work? Features of the app include a GIF maker (similar to Instagram’s Boomerang), and 72-hour stories (as opposed to Snapchat’s stories, which disappear after 24 hours). Snow’s chat feature, which saves messages for up to 24 hours, also makes way more sense than Snapchat’s, where each message disappears after you’ve opened it.
Who uses it? In 2018, 200 million people had downloaded the app, using it as an alternative to some of the more mainstream platforms.
Why do people use it? Similar to Facebook, Snapchat is blocked in China, so Snow is the alternative. Snow is also arguably a better version of Snapchat with more filters and better messaging options.
TLDR: TikTok’s older (more advanced) sibling.
What is it? Douyin is the original TikTok. Both platforms were created by the same Beijing-based company, but Douyin was designed for the Chinese market, while TikTok was created for global consumption.
How does it work? TikTok and Douyin have almost the same user interface, allowing users to scroll through short videos that are attached to audio. The platforms look similar, with a few distinguishing factors such as in-video search capabilities on Douyin.
Who uses it? As of August 2020, the app has 600 million daily active users, most of whom are based in China.
Why do people use it? TikTok is banned in China, so people opt for its counterpart to consume trending short-form video content.
TLDR: The OG social media platform in China.
What is it? Back in 1999, when the internet was first going mainstream, QQ was born. It promised everything the Chinese audience expected from a social media platform. Including post uploads and messaging which, at the time, was iconic.
How does it work? Just like Facebook, QQ now has capabilities for online social posting, gaming, music sharing, shopping, and messaging.
Who uses it? QQ appeals to a varied demographic from Gen Z, to millennials to boomers, and is the world’s 5th most visited website, according to Alexa. QQ is a staple of Chinese digital culture, drawing in 850 million active monthly users – more than double the number Twitter claims!
Why do people use it? QQ used to be the biggest social media platform in China, however it’s now used predominantly for work tasks. WeChat is considered the “social” platform, while QQ is used for day-to-day communications.
TLDR: Microblogging site, similar to Twitter.
What is it? A microblogging and miniature insight-sharing platform, which compares to Twitter or Instagram. It’s one of the most popular social platforms in China.
How does it work? Sina Weibo is similar to Twitter in that there is a limit of 140 characters per post. You can post images, share messages, and reply to threads.
Who uses it? Sina Weibo is mostly known for being a platform for the younger generation. It’s China’s biggest social media platform after WeChat, with more than 573 million monthly active users, as of the third quarter of 2021.
Why do people use it? It is predominantly a platform for sharing information, posting social updates, commenting on news stories, and posting opinions on trending topics.
TLDR: User-generated content giant.
What is it? Youku is a platform designed to allow users to create and share UGC. It is often likened to YouTube and is a public video-sharing site.
How does it work? Similar to YouTube, users can post their videos with a click of a button. Youku is arguably more advanced than YouTube as it also allows users to stream movies, TV, comics, and documentaries from the public and licensed content producers.
Who uses it? People searching for video content in China will nearly always land on a Youku video. In June 2020, Youku Tudou’s mobile app had 381 million users per month.
Why do people use it? China enforces strict video viewing rules, meaning that only approved videos can be uploaded. Youku works within these confines, unlike sites like YouTube, making it the go-to video sharing site for the Chinese market.
TLDR: Remember Bebo? This is China’s answer to that long-lost gem.
What is it? QZone champions social posting and sharing. It allows users to write posts, keep journals, and change their background skin or layout in the same way Bebo and MySpace used to operate.
How does it work? Similar to Facebook or Twitter, QZone is for microblogging, gaming, and social sharing. QZone gains a lot of traffic from its cousin site QQ, where posts are often linked.
Who uses it? The platform has a broad audience demographic, but it appeals predominantly to a Chinese audience. On New Year’s Eve 2014, 1 billion people updated their feed. That’s 73.5% of China’s population.
Why do people use it? With Facebook and Twitter banned in China, there is ample room for social media platforms to infiltrate the market. QZone provides a more relaxed, low-key social media platform.
Kuaishou (a.k.a. Kwai)
TLDR: Similar to Douyin, but known to appeal to a more affluent audience.
What is it? A video platform that shares viral video content. Similar to TikTok, Kuaishou fills a gap in the market where TikTok might go if it wasn’t restricted by Chinese firewalls.
How does it work? Users can upload their own short videos, set to trending music and audio. It’s designed to be a real-time video network that enables users to share their life through short video snapshots.
Who uses it? Kuaishou appeals to a Gen Z demographic. It is also known to appeal to an affluent audience in the larger cities of China, known colloquially as “Tier 1” cities. But with its slogan ‘embrace all lifestyles’, the app aims not to discriminate against any particular audience and is looking to broaden its reach across China.
Why do people use it? Kuaishou was the first short video platform in China, so it has a solid reputation. People use it to share their short-form video content.