Friday, 3 October 2014

WeChat: The New Way to Connect

What is WeChat?

Official Definition:

WeChat, developed by Tencent, is one of China’s most popular mobile text and voice messaging services. After being released in January 2011, WeChat quickly made its mark on the world of mobile internet, becoming one of the main rivals for China’s most prominent social media platform - Sina Weibo.

WeChat’s Growth:

WeChat has experienced enormous growth since its launch in 2011, acquiring more than 100 million users within the first 14 months of service. After 18 months, the number of users had increased to 200 million. In comparison, it took Facebook three years to gain 100 million users. It is therefore evident that WeChat is something of a dark horse outside of S. E. Asia in the realm of social media, and carries with it a great deal of potential for marketers looking to expand the ways in which they can outreach their product to consumers.

Why WeChat has grown so fast:

WeChat can credit this recent success to numerous factors:

1)     An ambitious advertising campaign that saw the service being endorsed by football superstar, Lionel Messi.

2)     Platform innovation - the app boasts an impressive range of its own innovative features that differ from other social media platforms. Of course all of the functions that we have become accustomed to are all there: the ability to create group chats, send photos, music files and voice notes. What sets WeChat aside from other social media channels however, is something called the 'Public Platform', a feature that is unique to WeChat, and one that we will explore more in depth below.

How WeChat’s Public Platform Works for Brand Marketing:

A) Strong 1:1 relationship social tool to help bridge the gap between Online and Offline (O2O) business campaigns.

There has always been a comparison between Weibo and WeChat, but these are two completely different platforms. In a similar style to Twitter, Weibo allows brands to distribute well-timed content and get frequent updates, from a large pool of followers who do not necessarily have to give a follow back. WeChat, on the other hand, has a similar process to Facebook in terms of sending and receiving friend requests. This feature allows WeChat’s friend circle to become a relatively closed environment, where trust is more likely to be built. Therefore, WeChat is a great gateway to bridge the gap amongst your customers between the offline and online world.

Brands can only send one message per day to their groups and can also create posts on their official brand pages. Additionally, brands can offer special discounts and access to events through their WeChat groups. This strategy can strengthen a brand’s CRM project, and help to create strong customer relationships.

Super-charge your marketing campaign in WeChat.

Chief Marketer has discussed the Public Platform function as follows: “Back in August, the app launched “official” accounts, empowering companies to reach their fans and customers directly. This new functionality gives brands the opportunity to engage one-on-one with their fans in a way that feels organic to the rest of the experience. Marketers on WeChat can now interact with followers by posting content such as special offers, videos and photos, and pushing that information to users who choose to interact with their brand.” 

According to ChinaMarketing:WeChat, has been building an entire ecosystem of interrelated services and functions that can be integrated directly within WeChat."

WeChat users can now shop, book flight tickets and hotels, play games with friends, buy and sell stocks, share taxi fares and meals with the people nearby them, and do many other things without ever leaving the app.

New features are allowing brands to get rid of traditional, staid marketing tactics. WeChat QR-Codes are starting to pop-up throughout China and on the web as more businesses hope to increase their marketing potential with the channel.

The good news is most people in major cities in China are already aware of and familiar with a brand’s WeChat QR code. There is no doubt that QR codes are becoming a key part of any O2O business campaign, and many brands have been utilizing this function to create offline interactions. 

The cooperation between WeChat and the most famous shopping centre in Hong Kong – Harbour City – has achieved massive success by adopting this tactic. In front of the main gate, Harbour City set up a QR code system, which enticed customers to scan and then become a member in order to acquire the available discounts, coupons and access to other exclusive events. 

Starbucks has successfully used social media to their advantage, using Twitter and Facebook to communicate with their customers. As a result of doing this, they obtained valuable suggestions and built up a positive reputation and brand affection. In China, their most successful social media campaign used WeChat, and asked customers to share their current mood by sending one of WeChat’s 26 emoticons directly to the Starbucks WeChat account. Once they performed this action the customers were sent a song that reflected their mood. After a few months, 130,000 members had joined, having shared their emotions 238,000 times. Additionally, it also improved awareness and sales of their new fruity-iced drinks and increased Starbucks WeChat account followers by 9%.

Author: Shiyi Wu.

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