SHANGHAI: Social media marketers have major opportunities in China, where users are far more engaged with online networks than the global norm, according to a new McKinsey study.

The consultancy's report showed that China has the world's largest community of social networkers, with 95% of web users in large cities maintaining a social media profile of some kind.

McKinsey questioned around 5,700 Chinese internet users living in tier 1-3 cities for its report.

The survey indicated that 91% of respondents had visited a social media site at least once in the past six months, a far higher proportion than in Japan (30%), the US (67%) and even highly-wired South Korea (70%).

Time spent on the networks is also unusually high in China, where the typical user devotes 46 minutes per day for this purpose. In the US, the average falls to 37 minutes, while the Japanese total is just seven minutes.

"The eager adoption by Chinese consumers of homegrown social-media sites has created unique opportunities for companies that want to gain insights about, and engage with, a vast and increasingly affluent market," the report added.

Figures cited by the consultancy suggest that China has 513m internet users, making it the world's largest digital nation. By contrast, the US has only 245m people on the web.

But McKinsey also urged marketers to take heed of the "unique" nuances of the Chinese social media marketplace. The report suggested that there were six distinct cohorts of networkers – from friendship-focussed Social Enthusiasts to debate-driven Opinionated Users.

Moreover, a significant minority (21% of the total) of the user base were found to access social media sites only through their use of the popular QQ instant messaging application owned by online service provider Tencent.

McKinsey also advised marketers should be careful to set clear objectives prior to embarking on a social media marketing initiative, and should also pre-plan which role each individual social media platform will play in the brand's overall "engagement strategy".

Data sourced from McKinsey; additional content by Warc staff