:: in my day to day interaction with clients and brands across the different practice teams at Edelman China, I am often asked: “what’s happening online in Chinese social media around [INSERT ANY TOPIC].” When I first began researching Chinese social media, online communities, efluencers, Internet word of mouth, etc., I was skeptical about finding anything of real substance around obscure or niche topics, but it didn’t take long for me to learn my lesson. With 300+ million active users, the Chinese Internet has a place for everyone and everything. In almost all cases, robust and active interaction among netizens exists around just about any imaginable topic. As such, the opportunities for companies / brands to engage online with different target audiences is essentially endless.
I challenged myself to dig up and summarize some of the more random online communities you can find on the Chinese Internet – what didn’t make the final cut for the shortlist below, but easy could have, was lesbian fiction, UFO watching, Korean popstar fanfic, religious prayer groups, breakdance, and on and on…
graffiti & urban art ::
GCC is an intimate forum for graffiti artists across the country. It was launched late last year as the new incarnation of graffiti.net.cn, a forum that lost control of its URL, and the comments in the “resurrection” thread showed that it had been sorely missed. Cyworld, a SNS for “showing off” things, has a community devoted to graffiti in Xi’an (西美街头涂鸦社团). It links to a website devoted to Xi’an street culture, and other crews such as MiG, and a group of several in Jiangsu. Douban has a graffiti group where members contribute photos, discuss techniques, and share prospective locations for graffiti projects. One post has a helpful bilingual list of graffiti-related terms in Chinese and English. Douban also has an urban stencil art group. Crews often make use of blogs to publicize their offline projects. Beijing’s well-known 916 crew (916涂鸦社) posts frequently about their activities in and around the Communication University of China. Popil, an artist who hangs around Neocha.com (graffiti tag), also features photos of her work on her Blogbus as well. And Cherub, who posts on GCC, puts up extensive photos of her work in Shenzhen and other places in China.
comics, illustration, & animation ::
Huoshen has a well-trafficked BBS with instructional posts, boards where artists can share finished work or sketches, and an e-magazine containing members’ work as well as how-tos. ComicYou hosts original comics, classified into strips, illustrations, and longer serializations. The site is a community of artists and enthusiasts and its members have published their work in magazines and as stand-alone graphic novels, most recently an authorized adaptation of Full Band Interception (全频带阻塞干扰) by noted science fiction author Liu Cixin. Douban has a group for aspiring comics authors with links to the blogs of well-known artists and writers, including fantasy illustrator Zhang Xiaoyu and risque comics artist Demidov. For readers of comics, Dongman.Net hosts translations of foreign-language comic books and animation, and includes other aspects of comics and otaku culture such as the “Damn Couples” movement (情侣去死去死团). The Marsarea Institute of Animation hosts forums where CG animators and illustrators can trade tips and tricks, or show off their latest masterpieces. The discussions can get very involved (as in this debate comparing domestic “artist’s rendering” techniques to those used overseas), but it’s difficult for outsiders to follow because images are only displayed to logged-in users.
cosplay kids ::
Cosplay, an activity in which people dress up in the costumes of characters from video games, cartoons, or books, has ties to the comics and gaming communities. Many comics websites have cosplay sub-boards, and the ChinaJoy Digital Entertainment Expo has held a cosplay event since 2004, televised since 2007. Cosplayzone is a Facebook-like SNS for cosplayers. Fans of specific stories or characters can usually find other cosplay enthusiasts on communities devoted to particular series, as in these cosplayers bringing to life characters from the domestic fantasy series “Legend of Wings” (羽传说). Douban hosts a cosplay group with 1,036 members who share pictures, exchange information about events, and trade costume tips. More of a look, and less tied to any particular story, is Douban’s “Gothic & Lolita” group, whose 564 members discuss gothic lolita-style clothing and post links to online shops (such as Taobao outlets) that have the “Alice gone bad” look for sale.
X-Kicks (新新球鞋网) is THE place to go for sneaker discussion. The forum receives upwards of 10,000 comments a day about sneakers and sneaker culture. The Club Shoes BBS is a similar discussion forum whose No Fake board is the most popular sub-forum. Netizens post photos of sneakers and ask for opinions on whether they are genuine or fake. Slightly less organic is the Kicks.cn BBS , which is associated with the People’s Sports Publishing House-sponsored 鞋帮 kicks.cn magazine. One of the interesting sub-boards it hosts is devoted to scans and etext versions of articles and ads about name-brand shoes. Further along the corporate axis is the Sina Sports Shoe board “I’m crazy about shoes.” Nike is involved, so practically all of the shoes featured on the front page are Nike branded, even though group members discuss other brands. Douban has a number of groups devoted to shoe lovers, but the most popular ones are nostalgia-based: the FeiYue group and the Warrior Shoes group each have over 1,000 members who are fans of the classic state-owned athletic brands. [More on 56minus1 regarding Chinese retro sneakers: here, here, here, and here.]
body modification ::
360Quan, a generic youth-oriented social networking website has a channel especially for tattoos and other body art that distills the top posts from 360Quan groups such as Tattoo Lovers. China Tattoo Net is a social network for tattoo lovers, offering space for photo uploads and for discussion of techniques. Many tattoo parlors have their own websites providing galleries of their work and other related information. Hell Tattoo has a MySpace page whose friends list forms an ad-hoc community of tattoo artists and body art enthusiasts. China Body Art List has a handy list of a lot of other tattoo parlor websites. Douban has a large forum devoted to tattoo and body piercing, which hosts discussions of various piercings and the potential pain and awkwardness they may bring (with parents, for example). Less mainstream forms of body modification are still sensitive enough that their forums try to stay off the radar: Douban’s BME group is members-only, for example. Often, body mod forums are found as sub-boards on BBSs devoted to the rock music scene.
[Friday 5 is the product of my work at Edelman Digital (China). Link here for the full Friday 5 archive. If you'd like to be added to the bilingual (English & Chinese) Friday 5 email distribution list, please send me an email at: adam DOT schokora AT edelman DOT com.]