The purpose of this paper is to investigate how, in China, postings on social media site Weibo reflect as well as accelerate the reshaping of traditional values. As Chinese social media extend their reach outside China, the displays of visible desire, hedonism and materialism could influence global consumption ethos.
Using interpretive content analysis, over 250 Weibo postings of 8 selected Weibo users, from the network of one of the authors, were identified, coded and interpreted. The users were selected based on their frequency, variety and expressiveness of postings.
Weibo is playing a critical role in transforming Chinese consumer values. Via Weibo, personal consumption experiences are available for public gaze. Consequently, desire for powerfully signified objects and experiences is more visible; “enjoy now” is turning out to be an appreciated life attitude, and materialism and hedonism are growing irresistibly. As a result, the traditional Chinese consumer values – suppressing desire, delaying gratification and thriftiness – are losing ground in Chinese society. Also, as Weibo makes the influence of the elite as well as electronic word-of-mouth very powerful, the values of the elite and grassroots groups are actually converging instead of being separated by substantial chasms that have existed historically.
Sina Weibo had a US initial public offering (IPO) of its stock in April, 2014, and many other China-based Internet firms were getting set for US IPOs. This paper provides unique insights for Chinese social media companies’ potential global impact. Future social media contexts would be shaped by collision as well as convergence of Asia-centric and USA-centric platforms. This paper lays the groundwork for studying such interactions.
In-depth interpretations of Weibo postings contribute to our understanding of how social media impact Chinese society now and would potentially affect global societies later. This is a pioneering study on the massive influences of social media on the macro-level consumer behavior.
The authors are grateful to Dr Yuri Seo and the reviewers for this special issue for valuable comments provided throughout the reviewing process.
Duan, J. and Dholakia, N. (2015), "The reshaping of Chinese consumer values in the social media era: Exploring the impact of Weibo", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 409-426. https://doi.org/10.1108/QMR-07-2014-0058Download as .RIS
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