Snapchat has become a hot and iconic social media of global millennials – a personal diary that disappears after 24 hours. But, if it was not banned, would Snapchat be equally popular here in China?
The answer is … No. Now to give our answer some context. The reasons Snapchat would struggle in China are psychological and cultural, rather than technical.
If Twitter and Facebook were unblocked, it is unlikely that they would ‘take the world by storm’ in China. Compared to WeChat and other local favourites, both networks would be seen as somewhat ‘backward’ in terms usability and functionality.
If Snapchat was unblocked, the interactive features would be popular, particularly with a local millennials who grew up with China’s ‘mish mash’ internet culture – known as egao. But it seems Snapchat’s 24 hour window would be a game breaker for Chinese users.
This rest on quite a profound difference that marks out Chinese digital consumers to other nations. Content is not considered trivial or dispensable, posts and their responses are held in a high level of esteem for their users. Stored away in their phone logs to be re-enjoyed an re-shared at a later date.
This behaviour is built on a different conception of ‘experience’. For an American or European millennial, 24 hours of their life does not equate to a high level of importance. But for a Chinese millennial, that 24 hours, is seen in a completely different cultural light. In the context of a fast moving society, that period is far more likely to be perceived as ‘character forming’, ‘relationship building’, ‘future creating’ and ‘nostalgia worthy’.
Even Tencent, owner of WeChat, has expressed limited interest in introducing Snapchat to China, despite investing upwards of 60 million USD in the company’s US funding rounds.
The ephemerality of Snapchat’s 24 hour cycle appears to break a fundamental rule of Chinese social behaviour – every moment is potentially valuable.