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HP studies China’s online social networking habits, turns up interesting results

So you thought that everybody in the world uses online social networking tools for the same thing? Well, you could not have been further from the truth. Apparently, HP has, in its interest to find out just how the Chinese make use of online social media in their daily computing habbits, has conducted a study into the subject, and has managed to come up with some…interesting results in the process.

Online social networking tools may be great platforms for people to get themselves up to date with information and happenings that are taking place all over the world. After all, there is no greater source of information than an online social networking service which is constantly being updated with both shared and user-generated content to produce what is potentially an endless stream of information that is active 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

That being said, you must have at some point of time thought that the majority of people who are actively involved in such online social networking services are your average users who share the same computing habits as you, right? Well, HP has carried out a study on the trends that are currently taking place in China's micro-blogging scene, and has turned up some interesting findings that aptly demonstrate just how different Chinese social media users are as opposed to their Western counterparts.

Finding #1: Trending topics in the Chinese micro-blogging scene typically consist of non-news content

According to the study, the team has found out that most of the influential authors on China's popular micro-blogging platform, Sina WeiBo, who are responsible for the majority of "retweets" that are made tend to focus on non-news topics such as "follower-contributed jokes, movie trivia, quizzes and stories". This implies that the Chinese see the micro-blogging scene as a recreational platform which promotes user interaction in the form of contributing user-generated content, and not as one which should be used for the dissemination of news or events that are taking place globally.

Finding #2: Most authors of trending topics in the Chinese micro-blogging scene utilize non-verified accounts

Like Twitter, Sina WeiBo employs the use of two different online account types to differentiate between its gigantic user base, namely the Regular (or non-verified)  and the Verified user accounts. Any user which registers an account with Sina WenBo's micro-blogging service will be issued a regular account, while the Verified accounts are typically issued to "a well known public figure or organization in China".

And if the first finding made by HP is of any indication, it should be of little surprise that most of the top authors of trending topics on Sina WeiBo are average Joes who make use of the regular, non-verified accounts given to the majority of Sina's users. In fact, HP has even drawn up a table detailing the profiles of the top 20 authors of trending topics on Sina WeiBo, where it reveals that as many as 16 such authors are actually on non-verified accounts.

Needless to say, this is in stark contrast to how things work in Twittersville, where the top spots are "dominated by popular news sources such as CNN, the New York Times and ESPN".

Finding #3: Chinese micro-bloggers are more likely to "retweet" content

The Chinese usually tend to "retweet" online content a lot more frequently as opposed to their Western counterparts, and the numbers shown in the couple of tables shown above tell the whole story. In fact, HP claims that the six-digit retweet ratio which the top 20 authors in Sina Weibo are enjoying are "several orders of magnitude greater than the retreets for the trending topics on Twitter", where most of the top authors in the latter were only able to post double-digit and single-digit retweet ratios.

In addition, HP has suggested that the huge retweet ratios that it has managed to obtain from its studies are an indication of how the Chinese are more likely to consolidate their contributions within a small number of topics currently availble on Sina Weibo, and that it is this practice which contributes to a topic's "trending status".

Finding #4: Chinese micro-bloggers make heavy use of digital media files to convey their messages

While Twitter and Sina Weibo share one similarity in that both micro-blogging platforms only allow users to post text messages that are no longer than 140 characters in length, the latter boasts an key difference in that it also supports the use of embedded digital content, namely images and video clips. According to HP, it is this unique feature of Sina Weibo which allows Chinese micro-bloggers to express themselves in a greater variety of ways, and the Chinese are clearly making full use of this feature to get their message across. Indeed, HP's findings reveal that a huge percentage of messages that are posted on Sina Weibo are embedded with such digital media content, and the table below confirms that claim.

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