Along with no doubt many, many others, I am watching with fascination Shel Israel’s unfolding adventures in the Middle Kingdom.

Chinese Blogger Conference 2008 - CNBloggercon '08For those who just came in, Shel, who has an incomparable overview of social media internationally and its impact on business and culture, is currently visiting China for the first time. He is part of the China 2.0 tour and also keynoting at the Chinese Blogger Conference 2008 (Cnbloggercon ’08) this coming weekend, November 15-16.

Having visited Beijing myself for the first time in November last year, I’m taking particular interest, given that Shel is also doing the first impression exercise.

On what is obviously an activity-packed tour, he is doing his best to get some blog posts out and they make great reading.

As well as doing some regulation tourist activities such as climbing up to a section of the Great Wall, he is also gleaning information and insights into the China blogosphere and social media space and sharing those in his blog and on Twitter.

Kaiser Kuo & Shel Israel

I must admit I was quite dazzled last year by some of the numbers being thrown around, such as the number of Chinese bloggers and the number of people using bulletin boards. Being in business as a social media strategist, I naturally found myself trying to translate those numbers in terms of what they might mean for, say, social media consulting or other marketing opportunities.

I then started to listen more attentively and ask some questions. Which meant that I started to understand that such estimates could vary quite dramatically and should in any case be looked at carefully in terms of what the numbers might mean, for example how the gross number of bloggers might translate into estimating numbers of business bloggers.

From the post I read today, it looks as if Shel is having some not dissimilar experiences:

I learned that the 100-million bloggers estimate I was planning to use at my CNBloggercon talk would have drawn laughter. The real number is closer to 25 million. Bulletin Board Messages remain much more popular, with nearly 70 million people enjoying anonymity as they exchange information and opinion. Most blogs are very social. They are rarely political and almost never business related.

That bore out what I had learned last year and in subsequent observation from afar. Clearly the idea of a “business blog” has some way to go before it is as pervasive of the Chinese blogosphere as it is in, say, the USA.

Of course, the numbers in China are still huge – and there is amazing scope for growth and for new and expanding market opportunities.

I’m looking forward to more of Shel’s posts on his journeys in the Middle Kingdom. Our Marco Polo of social media.

As well as subscribing to Shel’s Global Neighbourhoods, you can keep up with his tour and impressions on a more “as it happens” basis” via Twitter.

Photo credits: Kaiser Kuo & Shel Israel – shelisrael1 via flickr – CC; Marco Polo Traveling – Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).