Editor’s note: A version of this post first appeared on WalktheChat’s website. WalktheChat specializes in helping foreign organizations access the Chinese market through WeChat, the largest social network on the mainland.
WeChat analytics company Newrank released data from a survey of 1,032 zimeiti (自媒体 or self-media in English) in China. Some of the interesting findings include:
- most operators make less than 5,000 RMB/month, far less than the country’s average wage
- over 50% of their revenue comes from WeChat and KOL advertisement combined
- almost 50% work more than 8 hours a day on their account
- almost 71% say they are actively looking for investment, or plan to in the future
Who are they?
The survey reveals that social media account operators in China are:
- Majority male: 74.1%
- New to the job: 45% of them have been operating an account for less than a year, and only 16% for more than 3 years
We also learn that the participants of the survey are:
- Mostly young people: only 11% of them are older than 37 years old, while 42% are under 22
- Located in large cities: 66% of the account operators are located in Tier 1 or Tier 2 cities
- Highly educated: 88% of them have a bachelor degree or above
40% of the operators are doing it as a side job, or plan to go full time but aren’t quite there yet. Only 16% of the accounts surveyed were part of media agencies.
What are their prospects?
The data reveals that 71% of the operators are actively looking for investment or might do so in the future.
This reveals that “Self-published-media” is, if anything, more similar to startup culture than it is to traditional media culture.
How much money do they make?
However, these social media accounts are not making much money. 71% of them make less than 5,000 RMB per month. That’s less than the average wage for the entire country (5,169 RMB/month in 2015) and far less than first-tier cities of Beijng (9,277 RMB/month), Shanghai (8,664 RMB/month), and Shenzhen (7,728/month), according to a Zhaopin report in early 2016.
Although we have heard much about large WeChat accounts charging 30k RMB and above for each of their native ads, this represents a tiny portion of accounts; most of them are actually struggling to monetize.
The majority of accounts are using either WeChat native ads (31.7%) or KOL advertising (24.5%) as a way to monetize
What does their life look like?
Most account operators are mostly struggling with continuously producing content (47%) and defining their business model (26%, which makes sense given the trouble we saw they have monetizing).
Only a small fraction (5%) is considering finding investment as their main struggle.
“Self-media” also turns out to be a challenging job: nearly 50% of the operators work more than 8 hours per day, 18% of them more than 11 hours per day, and 41% of them do overtime every day or nearly every day.
What do they plan to do next?
Most encouragingly, most of the account operators seem content: 60.2% are happy to keep on with it next year, and 84% overall are planning to stay in the industry next year.