The Social Media World Forum (SMWF) Asia was hold in Singapore 2 weeks ago, I was invited to speak about Chinese social media, together in a panel with Thomas Crampton, the Asia Pacific Director of Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence.

My topic, Chinese Social Media Landscape in China: a Dead End or a Land of Opportunities, was actually given by the organizer, but I really love it. I said to the audience at the beginning of my talk:

Minutes after I started surfing the Internet in the hotel, I suddenly realized that I am able to access those representatives of the global social media, such as Facebook, Twitter etc without switching on the VPN. It’s very enjoyable! China sounds like the dead end of social media since all these leading social media sites are all not available there. Well, but my second thought is, Ha, I actually pretty much ‘survive’ and am excited about what’s happening there every day. Whether Facebook, Twitter etc are accessible or not, it does not really matter, at least for majority of Chinese internet users. With thousands of local representatives, the ‘Walled’ Chinese social media has plenty of opportunities, and it is also quite complicated.

When we talk about Social Networking, we have Renren, Kaixin001 etc; we still have Tudou, Youku, Ku6 etc for video-sharing; The early twitter clones were more or less dead, but Sina, QQ’s microblogging service are growing dramatically fast; Foursquare’s business model is still a big question, but we have Jiepang, K.ai, Play4f, Gypsii etc already there educating the market; Groupon model is quite controversial, but thousands of Chinese groupon sites keep amusing/amazing the public; Comparing the social media in the rest of world where people talk about social media, mostly everyone is thinking of Facebook, Twitter, etc. Chinese web is fast growing and entertaining.

When I walked into the exhibition area where a few good companies, such as Facetime, Brandtology are all telling people how they can help you and your business access the social media via Facebook, Twitter etc; When all the great speech in the 2-days event I’ve heard inevitably would mention Facebook, Twitter; I keep thinking of one thing, fundamental and important, it is the Loyalty, which is missing treasure in Chinese Social Media.

You might be a fan of one social network because its social game is quite interesting; Now you got bored with the new games and found microblogging is new and interesting because it is deadly easy and could make you feel so close to those celebrities; You could not find a video clip on one video-sharing site, fine, you know the others might have it; You like check-in, but you have to check in on several location-based services because they are more or less the same and you don’t know which one would be the leader. Any one of these service disappoints you for one little mistake, you will lose your patience and never check it back. That’s the reality of Chinese social media, believe or not. Painfully interesting, some people said so.

I know many international friends, they call themselves Evangelists for all sorts of technology, platforms, services. But look around the Chinese web, I don’t even know how to translate Evangelist properly into Chinese. My friend @lightyoruichi is a big fan of Foursquare, and he spent lots of time to educate people the beauty of Foursquare. I believe he is the evangelist as I believe in his passion. I seldom saw a guy at any conference in China saying xxx is a good platform for social media and he is not working for it. Evangelist, sounds like a joke title in China.

Who’s responsible for this? Six months ago, in the NTalks forum about Microblogging in China, an audience asked the panelists for the opinion of building a Twitpic-like service for Chinese microblogging service. The answer he got basically meant Don’t be naive. It’s glad to know more and more decision-makers understand the value of openness. But building an open platform is not just a technical effort and a win-win business strategy, it is also one of the keys for building up the atmosphere of the loyalty.

A company is facing a serious challenge from B company, so it copy (at least B believe so) B‘s product; To fight back, B‘s popular anti-virus product is now reporting A‘s software is vulnerable of virus and suggests users to uninstall it. It’s typical Chinese web. I don’t know and don’t even want to know which side is right, but it is definitely not helping building the loyalty in Chinese web!

Well, there are some exception which I do agree. Service like QQ, Taobao, they are so strong for some reasons among which it is their users’ loyalty.

Chinese web has too many (copy)cats which have the money, now where are the dogs?

[image via Time for Thoughts]