What is the major difference between the online social sites for the Americans and those for the Chinese? The most popular ones in the US are SNS style, like MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. The most popular ones for the Chinese (in the US) are comprehensive BBS/Forum style, like MITBBS, Tianya, Huaren, etc.
The biggest difference of these two types of online social styles is: SNS is centered around individuals and focused on personal status updates and sharing, but BBS is topic and activity driven and focused on discussions. SNS features personal status and content sharing: blog, photos, videos, recent doing, etc. BBS features talking, discussing, debating, word of mouth, and other group activities. SNS features a rather closed socialization (with friends) while BBS is more open (with completely strangers and anonymous users). It could be a whole paper to compare the two styles.
From a developer perspective, these two are not exclusive to each other - how can we integrate the two? Forum seems like a tool that every SNS should have. At least, if SNS like FaceBook and Google+ want to succeed in China, BBS is a must-have function. From this perspective, I think LinkedIn is the best among all. Its group settings are exactly to have people with common interests to interact with discussions. Google+ just added the "community" feature (Dec 2012) and hope to integrate Google Groups into Google+. BBS like mitbbs.com also added personal profiles and blog services.
Read more in this article about "BBS: The Chinese Social Networking".