Demographics of China's Twitter Users

In China, Twitter has taken an exceptional turn relative to other sites blocked by the government.

Properties like Facebook, YouTube and Flickr have languished when blocked by Beijing, but Twitter has continued to gain in popularity.

Since being blocked, Facebook usage in China has plunged from hundreds of thousands of users in mainland China to tens of thousands. Based on anecdotal evidence Twitter, on the other hand, remains a lively source of news, information and discussion from within China. (If anyone can provide reliable numbers on the growth Twitter usage in China, I will add them here.)

Microblogging itself is an interesting phenomenon in China, due to the nature of the written Chinese language: A Tweet in Chinese is almost a short blog post.

But the case of Twitter raises the question of why it has remained popular even as the inevitable government-compliant copycats proliferate.

In terms of why, for one thing Chinese users have found relatively painless ways around the Great Firewall. Having worked around the blockage, users may have developed an even stronger loyalty to the service. Some cross post using the Chinese services, while others have rigged up sites using Twitter’s API.

As to who is using it, that has been hard to say until a recent survey done by Kenengba that was picked up and translated by Oi Wan Lam in a post on Global Voices.

Sent out over Twitter, the 1,000 respondents to the survey were

…overwhelmingly male…
13% female
87% male

…in their 20s…
70% between 21-29
Youngest Twitterer 12 and oldest 55

…highly educated with interesting bump among High School students…
The majority have a bachelor’s degree and the second largest group is master degree holders followed by Twitters with tertiary education background. Interesting to note there is a bump among users in High School. If this is due to university authorities being more successful at blocking Twitter, what will happen when those High School students go to campus?

…based in wealthier Chinese regions, such as the capital and coastal regions…
More than half of the respondents come from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong followed by Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Fujian… The 6 regions constitute 67% of the respondents. They are located along the coastal line and economically more well off.

…mainly students and techies…
The data shows that about 30% of the respondents are students followed by computer software and hardware sector (15%) and then Internet related production sector (12.5%). If we group the two into I.T industry, then we can see that students and I.T professionals are the key player in Twitter community as they together constitute more than 50% of the respondents.

…why do they Tweet?
1. To know the truth and open the horizon
2. To record and share my life
3. To get information and show my concern about democracy
4. Because Fanfou has been shut down
5. To get all the gossips in order to clear information for my colleagues who live in Mars
6. Follow the planet that I like and later fall in love with everything in Twitter
7. The exchange in Twitter is very interesting
8. No censor here and we can preserve the primary mode of communication here
9. To kill time
10. To follow uncle leg (@kcome)
11. I learn about twitter from kenengba and feel that as a party member I should learn more about this world
12. I can say what I want here without considering whether I should say this or how I should say this. Whether or not I would violate any law. This is the taste of freedom that I enjoy.
13. In an army school where ideological control is very strict, Twitter allows me to keep my independent citizen conscious.
14. University teacher introduces me here
15. Less liars here
16. Job requirement
17. An inevitableness choice for journalist student
18. Passion for new technology
19. At first I come here because I have a crush with a girl who is using Twitter…
20. Why not?

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12 comments

  1. great article, how about doing a survey with western people living in Twitter. (there are many china lists on twitter, and they weren't included in the study I suppose)

  2. great article, how about doing a survey with western people living in Twitter. (there are many china lists on twitter, and they weren't included in the study I suppose)

  3. living in Twitter -> Living in CHINA…

    padron my unintentional word-joke

  4. living in Twitter -> Living in CHINA…

    padron my unintentional word-joke

  5. Jon

    Interesting information but I still love the fact that Jersey (the small island between UK and France) is more active on Twitter than China, speaks volumes about the barriers in place in China.

  6. Jon

    Interesting information but I still love the fact that Jersey (the small island between UK and France) is more active on Twitter than China, speaks volumes about the barriers in place in China.

  7. camerondegale

    I fund the film to be very relaxing and interesting.Ii almost felt I was watching a war film. It had a moment of humour when the realisation of a camera was present. your article is also very interesting. without pushing my horn too much, i was wondering how I could connect with such a large continent of such cultural diversity and interest. I wondered how much they would understand me.

  8. Interesting but…why is Hainan cut off the map?

  9. Interesting but…why is Hainan cut off the map?

  10. Pingback: Twittering Grows in China (but not on Twitter) - Thomas Crampton

  11. Anonymous

    Whether an application is blocked or not, self-control comes from within

    Ive been using http://www.timedoctor.com/2 .
    It uses a better procedure than blocking social media sites because it only monitors sites like Twitter during production hours. People/Employees still have the option to use it for a breather or during breaks .
    Sometimes they use it for work too in helping reach decisions. For me its really unnecessary to block Twitter.

  12. silverwink

    Whether an application is blocked or not, self-control comes from within

    Ive been using http://www.timedoctor.com/2 .
    It uses a better procedure than blocking social media sites because it only monitors sites like Twitter during production hours. People/Employees still have the option to use it for a breather or during breaks .
    Sometimes they use it for work too in helping reach decisions. For me its really unnecessary to block Twitter.