It was sad news for Durex when they found out that only less than 10% of
sexually active Chinese people were regular condom users. Moreover,
inefficient distribution systems increased costs; counterfeits worked
against their premium pricing strategy; and expensive television
advertising brought them little increase in market share. As is often
the case, things that worked elsewhere, may not work in China. However,
Durex’s sales have tripled in the last a few years, driven largely by
gaining and engaging with millions of followers on social media. This in
a country where the topic of sex is still in some sense taboo even among
young people and hundreds of sex related “sensitive words” are censored
online by Chinese government.
The benefits of effective social media management are no secret to many
businesses and their customers worldwide. Even for “old-school” formerly
state owned postal services, as a customer you can often get better
service and satisfaction via Twitter than more traditional methods such
as hotline or email. In China, however, there are additional
complexities when it comes to engaging with your target market. In China
there is no Facebook, no Twitter, and no YouTube, which makes you
wonder, how did Durex engineer this change in fortunes using Chinese
Social Media when facing such obstacles? How was the above written with
not one double entendre?
Aza Raskin from the Centre for Humane Technology said social media
companies deliberately use addictive technology in their apps in order
to lure us in to spending as much time on their platforms as possible.
Before addressing the more pertinent of these question and attempting to
identify and replicate the success of Durex when building your product
or service to China, there are two more fundamental questions to
The dominance of Google, Facebook and Amazon is bad for consumers and
人文技艺中央（Centre for Humane
• What does China’s social media landscape look like?
Aza Raskin invented the endless scroll – the app feature that means
you don’t have to click to get to the next page and can keep scrolling
for far longer than maybe necessary or healthy.
• What are Chinese netizens fond of?
Jan 18th 2018
NOT long ago, being the boss of a big Western tech firm was a dream job.
As the billions rolled in, so did the plaudits: Google,
Facebook, Amazon and others were making the world a better place. Today
these companies are accused of being BAADD—big, anti-competitive,
addictive and destructive to democracy. Regulators fine them,
politicians grill them and one-time backers warn of their power
to cause harm.
Aza says he did not intend to hook users with it but says the
business model of many social media companies is designed to maximise
user time online. He says this encourages designers to come up with
technological tricks that hook users.
How Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest Hook Users
China’s Social Media Landscape
Much of this techlash is misguided. The presumption that big
businesses must necessarily be wicked is plain wrong. Apple is
to be admired as the world’s most valuable listed company for the simple
reason that it makes things people want to buy, even while facing fierce
competition. Many online services would be worse if their providers were
smaller. Evidence for the link between smartphones and unhappiness is
weak. Fake news is not only an online phenomenon.
The tactics that the best digital brands use to stay relevant in users’
minds and lives.
In China, most Western mainstream social media platforms are blocked
through government control. Nevertheless, the growth of China’s
indigenous social networks has been staggering, particularly from 2009
onwards. China is now home to roughly 700 million netizens, with social
media household names such as QQ, Renren, Sina Weibo, WeChat and Youku.
But big tech platforms, particularly Facebook, Google and Amazon, do
indeed raise a worry about fair competition. That is partly because
they often benefit from legal exemptions. Unlike publishers, Facebook
and Google are rarely held responsible for what users do on them; and
for years most American buyers on Amazon did not pay sales tax. Nor do
the titans simply compete in a market. Increasingly, they are the market
itself, providing the infrastructure (or “platforms”) for much of the
digital economy. Many of their services appear to be free, but users
“pay” for them by giving away their data. Powerful though they already
are, their huge stockmarket valuations suggest that investors are
counting on them to double or even triple in size in the next decade.
Sandy Parakilas, who was a platform operations manager at Facebook
in 2011 and 2012, said there was definitely an awareness that Facebook
was habit-forming when he worked at the company.
Type the name of almost any successful consumer web company into your
search bar and add the word “addict” after it. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Try
“Facebook addict” or “Twitter addict” or even “Pinterest addict,” and
you’ll soon get a slew of results from hooked users and observers
deriding the narcotic-like properties of these sites. How is it that
these companies, producing little more than bits of code displayed on a
screen, can seemingly control users’ minds? Why are these sites so
addictive, and what does their power mean for the future of the web?
So what do these social network services provide and how are they used?
Some people would offer this simple answer:
There is thus a justified fear that the tech titans will use their power
to protect and extend their dominance, to the detriment of consumers
The tricky task for policymakers is to restrain them without unduly
We’re on the precipice of a new digital era. As infinite distractions
compete for our attention, companies are learning to master new tactics
to stay relevant in users’ minds and lives. Today, just amassing
millions of users is no longer good enough. Companies increasingly find
that their economic value is a function of the strength of the habits
they create. But as some companies are just waking up to this new
reality, others are already cashing in.
Renren is the Chinese Facebook; Weibo is the Chinese Twitter; Youku is
the Chinese YouTube and so on.
The less severe contest
Facebook and Instagram have told the BBC that their apps are
designed to bring people together and that they never set out to create
The social media ecosystem in China is, however, more than just the
carbon copy of the West, and in many ways is far more diverse and
evolving more rapidly. Take Tencent’s WeChat as an example. The WeChat
app has about 600 million daily active users, 93% saturation rate in
first-tier cities, over 600 million users subscribing to official
accounts, and more than 3 billion daily page views. With a strong focus
on user experience and usability, WeChat has successfully attracted
users aged from 10+ to 60+ by integrating a host of features including
chatting, friend finding, sharing of photos, videos, status, exercising
monitoring, charitable donations, payments, and many more. In China this
feature rich and accessible medium has led to so called “WeChat
lifestyle”, also known as “WeChat addiction”:
The platforms have become so dominant because they benefit from
“network effects”. Size begets size: the more sellers Amazon,
say, can attract, the more buyers will shop there, which attracts more
sellers, and so on. By some estimates, Amazon captures over 40% of
online shopping in America. With more than 2bn monthly users, Facebook
holds sway over the media industry. Firms cannot do without Google,
which in some countries processes more than 90% of web searches.
Facebook and Google control two-thirds of America’s online ad revenues.
A company that forms strong user habits enjoys several benefits to its
bottom line. For one, it creates associations with “internal triggers”
in users’ minds. That is to say, users come to the site without any
external prompting. Instead of relying on expensive marketing or
worrying about differentiation, habit-forming companies get users to cue
themselves to action by attaching their services to the users’ daily
routines and emotions. A cemented habit is when users unconsciously
think, I’m bored, and Facebook instantly comes to mind. They think, I
wonder what’s going on in the world? and before rational thought kicks
in, Twitter is the answer. The first-to-mind solution wins.
– In the morning people wake up and check chats and Moments (posting
America’s trustbusters have given tech giants the benefit of the
doubt. They look for consumer harm, which is hard to establish when
prices are falling and services are “free”. The firms themselves stress
that a giant-killing startup is just a click away and that they
could be toppled by a new technology, such as the blockchain. Before
Google and Facebook, Alta Vista and MySpace were the bee’s knees.
Who remembers them?