Wednesday, April 15, 2009

China SNS, mobile internet today, a non traditional Digu user's perspective, Part 1

After three weeks of using Twitter and a week on Digu daily, I observed a distinct difference in the usage behavior between the two services. Twitter has a big community of business users embracing it as part of their marketing strategy. Digu, consistent with most Chinese SNS, is primarily used by individuals as an entertainment channel. Business and technical broadcasting are both uncommon and perhaps unwelcome by the majority SNS users.

How western SNS users use Twitter

Twitter is a three year old service which seem to me has gained explosive growth in the past year. Twitter started out as a realtime short message service that work with multiple networks to overcome the limitations of SMS. Listen for yourself from Twitter founder, Evan Williams, talked about Twitter's explosive growth on the TED show. Evolving beyond individual's chatter about what they are doing 'now', today many businesses, blog sites, trade shows, celebrities as well as TV shows use twitter in very creative and successful marketing efforts. A case in point is my earlier post of theEllenShow twitter page gaining 750K followers in a little over a month. By the way, theEllenShow as of this post has 791K followers, surpassing the twitter page itself which was started over three years ago. Glam Media is launching beta, which follows event streams and Tinker will show you relevant real-time conversations from social media sources like Facebook and Twitter. Combining the use of event twitter page and, event PR agency can generate buzz and engagement marketing opportunities to target audience who wish to follow particular events.

Digu Senior Product manager shed light on China SNS use

Tonight I met up with Mr. Bollin Lai, Digu's senior product manger, in Shenzhen. Mr. Lai received his degree from Beijing University, worked at Xiaonei and ran a web service business prior to joining Digu. I spent most part of my career in the US and only in the past few years focus in Asia Pacific. Our background and experience of the internet and mobile industry cannot be more different and the first half of our meeting you would think we speak foreign language to each other. As opposed to what one may expect that mobile internet users migrate from PC internet users, the two groups are quite separate groups with only about 10% overlap of PC internet users also use mobile internet. This is primarily the professional iPhone, smart phone group of users. The majority of the mobile internet users use simpler featured phones and lower mobile expense. SNS access are primarily from PCs and very little from mobile. GPRS (2G) instead of 3G service is the primary mobile internet access infrastructure.

No urgency for 3G in China, at least not yet

I am surprise do learn that mobile TV in China does not use the GPRS or 3G data network. Instead, mobile handset in China has additional built in hardware capability, separate from mobile operator network, and receives video content from separate broadcasting towers. Lai also commented that the GPRS performance is adequate for much of the services available today. Until larger number of innovative 3G killer applications arrive in the market and drive revenue growth, operators may not be in a hurry to roll out 3G services to every corner in China.

China mobile industry and Tomi Ahonen's Mobile as 7th Mass Media

Since social media marketing, mobile marketing are not common in China yet, it is not surprising that Lai has not heard of many of the mobile business ideas and business models widely written in Tomi Ahonen's books and in practice in the west. We agree to continue our conversation again in the near future and we will explore further how some of the social media and mobile marketing practices in the west may apply in China.

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