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China overtakes US and UK in social media uptake

China is roaring ahead of the US and UK when it comes to use of online social networks, according to new research.

Nearly half (49 percent) of Chinese social media users log on to their favourite sites while at work, compared with a quarter (24 percent) in the UK and only one in five (20 percent) in the US. In addition, 27 percent of Chinese users regularly access these sites from a mobile phone or similar device, compared with 19 percent in the UK and 14 percent in the United States.

Chinese consumers are also much more amenable to promotions and special offers provided by social media: over two-thirds (68 percent)are likely to take up these offers, as opposed to 42 percent in the US and only 40 percent in the UK.

The survey was commissioned by digital marketing agency twentysix and carried out by global research consultancy Illuminas among 900 social media users in China, the UK and the United States.

Rachel Clarke, head of social media at twentysix, comments: "Social media have caught on massively in China in the past few years, with local providers taking up most of the volume. Whereas the West has to make do with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn, China has a thriving ecosystem based around dozens of networks. Its big names are sites like QZone, Baidu and 51. "In fact, Western sites like Facebook barely crack the top fifteen in China. User behaviour is also markedly different, with many of these sites making millions of dollars through sales of virtual avatars and applications. Online advertising - the main source of income from US and UK social networks - doesn't have nearly as much impact."

The study also looked at how social media could be used to market financial services. It found that 72 percent of Chinese users would be likely to use financial comparison aggregators via social networking, compared to 29 percent of those in the US and 28 percent of those in the UK.

Rachel Clarke continues: "China is leading the way when it comes to social media-based business models. Of course there are major cultural differences, but some Western brands could learn from what their Chinese peers have done."

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