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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

Why Do Chinese Social Media Platforms Have A Ranking System?

Updated: Jun 4, 2019

This question popped into my mind when I first came to China 7 years ago. I saw my Chinese teacher logging in to her Xiaonei and QQ as soon as she turned on her laptop, something she did every day. I said to myself: “Geez, relax there. What would happen if you chose not to login one day?”

She then told me to find her whenever I needed to buy something from Taobao (China’s largest and most used online shopping site). Okay…she’s weird (is what I thought to myself). Blame me for being skeptical, but I wondered why she would want to deal with the extra fuss of helping others with online payments and tracking down packages.

Several months later, I found out that a ranking system is applied on most Chinese social media platforms. Daily logins on SNS and messaging platforms, purchases on shopping sites, reviews on Dianping (Chinese version of Yelp), and comments on discussion pages are all scored. Which means, not logging on for a day directly affects your ability to gain upgrades.

To say that the ranking system is one of the ways to “push” and motivate netizens to use these platforms is plainly too general. Western social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat and Instagram don’t have a similar system but are still very much used and loved worldwide. So, I tried to make sense of this by looking into why this ranking system exists in China. Here’s what I found:


Verification of authenticity is needed here in China (no offense). With Weibo MAU (Monthly Active Users) mounting to 198 million, the extra “V” on the side of verified official accounts username is very helpful for users. It’s one way to cut down fake famous accounts and a way to prevent cybercrime.

Competitive society

I walked around our office and asked my Chinese colleagues if they consider Chinese to be competitive towards each other, and the answer was an overwhelming yes. In fact, you can see and feel their competitive spirit in the virtual world too. Offline or online, Chinese need their achievements to be acknowledged. They need some way to gauge their own personal development within a community. This is why a tangible measurement of their own accomplishments is highly needed.

If you’re a Weibo user, you might be familiar with the medals and merits available for you to get. All the medals you own will be shown on your profile. Although this sounds like an act of show-off, users do actually enjoy responding to opportunities to collect and display awards.

Gold mine

Given the above two points, it’s more likely that this ranking system was made and first thought of by app & web developers in attempts to earn some extra cash. In the West, netizens pay on Netflix to subscribe and to skip the annoying advertisements. This goes slightly different in the East.

Taking advantage of Chinese competitive spirit, developers built a “highway” for Chinese who crave virtual social presence. Trading cash for “trophies” and level ups sounds fair for some Chinese netizens.

Now we know that Chinese love to compete. This is another hint for foreign brands who wish to win Chinese hearts. Create campaigns in the form of competitions and remember to prepare a gift or two as Chinese highly values rewards from accomplishment.

Has it ever crossed your mind why Chinese social media platforms have ranking system? Why do you think so? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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