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Digital and Social Media Marketing in China and India

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Digital and Social Media Marketing in China and India

Over the last 10-15 years, the use of digital and social media marketing has exploded worldwide. As is the case in politics and economics, pundits have suggested that China and India represent two of the most important markets for future growth. Both countries have adopted social media and digital marketing with open arms but with different strategies.

China has taken a controlled and organic approach while India has seized the opportunity to create an entire service industry around IT services, digital and social media marketing. The Indian government was instrumental in creating policies that allowed the IT sector to rapidly grow within Indian, which lead to the rise of digital and social media marketing. While in China, the government allowed for a more organic and controlled growth, enacting policies that often slowed the growth rate. This article will take a look at where each country currently stands in relation to digital and social media marketing and how both countries are similar and different.

Digital and Social Media Marketing in China

Due to China’s internal policies, the digital and social media landscape has developed with little outside influence. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have not penetrated the Chinese market, which allowed for similar Chinese sites to prosper. Today, the digital and social media landscape in China is dominated by Baidu (Search Engine), Pengyou/RenRen (Facebook Clone, which has suffered from decreasing popularity for several years), Sina Weibo (Twitter Clone), WeChat (mobile messaging) and YouKu/Tudou (YouTube Clone).

These sites are responsible for a large part of  the digital and social media ad revenue in China. China’s unique market position and large internet population has created a lucrative and attractive market for foreign brands. With 618 million internet users and over 500 million mobile users, the market is attracting more foreign brands but many brands are finding the environment difficult to understand and to operate within. Many foreign brands are turning to agencies for help.

Today, China has many sites that started as clones of “Western” sites but over time have developed into unique platforms that rival their “Western” counterparts. With more money from domestic and foreign brands pouring into the Chinese internet space, many sites have received funding needed to create unique and original content tailored to the Chinese internet users.

Digital and Social Media Marketing in India

Due to English being widely spoken and internal policies, the internet developed very differently in India. China was resistant and desired control, but India was open and eager to capitalize on the opportunity to create a massive service industry around digital and social media. There are currently 164.81 million internet users in India with a penetration rate of 11.4% and roughly 91 million social media users in India.

The Indian internet has adopted many American based social media sites with Facebook being the most popular social media site. Along with Facebook and Twitter being used in India, SEO & SEM are run through Google and Google India. The high level of penetration by American based social media sites has stunted the growth of Indian based services. Despite the lack of homegrown social media sites, India has become known for its IT sector, with many companies outsourcing their needs to the knowledgeable and skilled IT experts in India.

This outsourcing has built up India’s IT sector creating many jobs, helping India to turn into a creative hub. India’s decision to embrace the IT age is now allowing the country to be a major player in digital and social media marketing.

Similar and Different


China and India have many similarities and differences within the digital and social media landscape. They both have a large base of internet users, 618 million users in China and 164.81 million users in India with low penetration rates 45.8% and 11.4% respectively. Due to the relatively low rates of PC usage, both countries have a strong mobile penetration, which is of interest to advertisers and marketers.

According to The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) “The number of Internet subscribers in India is 164.81 million as of March 31, 2013, with seven out of eight accessing the Internet from their mobile phones.” In China, the numbers are just as high according to ZDNet “China is now home to over 618 million Internet users, 80 percent of which access the Web via their smartphones.” Along with using mobile devices to access the internet, many users in both China and India are active social media users.

According to The Economic Times, India has around 91 million social media users or 55% market penetration. The penetration rate in China is 91%, according to McKinsey & Company. The low penetration rate, high usage of mobile devices, and high usage of social media all make China and India similar and attractive to potential marketers. Both economies have large and growing middle classes whose increasing consumption of everything from smartphones to degrees from overseas universities will play a large role in driving domestic and international aggregate demand.


Unlike China, India has mostly adopted “Western” social media site and search engines. According to Digital Strategy Consulting, Facebook is the most popular social media site in India, boasting 52 million users. Again, India has adopted Google (95 percent market share) as the dominate search engine were as China created Baidu (63 percent market share) to provide search services.

Another important aspect to consider when developing social media marketing strategies for both countries is language. In China, the main language is Mandarin and Business English, but most social media users will respond and engage in Mandarin. This makes social media marketing easier than India because there are less widely used local languages. In India, English is commonly used along with a localized language for specific regions. These differences will define both countries in the years to come.


China and India are the next frontiers for digital and social media marketing of consumer goods and services, but both markets have unique quirks that must be considered before entering. China has seen tremendous growth over the last decade and India is poised to explode within the next decade. The decrease in the cost of smartphones and the desire to become connected is pushing both countries into the limelight.

The low penetration rates and high uses of social media in both countries are leading to more opportunities that were not previously available to multi-national companies. Over the next decade, China is expected to reach 70-80% penetration and the penetration rate in India is also expected to increase. The opportunities are endless for companies that are willing to embrace the next wave of marketing and embrace digital and social media marketing.

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