Brandigo intern Jessie Xu joined us for the summer from Melbourne, Australia, to learn more about B2B marketing here in China. She also discovered WeChat, and gives her take on the social media phenomenon China is largely keeping to itself. For now...
Jessie on Shanghai's Bund
"Upon my arrival in China, I discovered to my horror that the legends were true – Facebook, Instagram, Google (and various other Western platforms) were all blocked. It was terrifying; I mean to go without Facebook for six hours is a feat, let alone six weeks. Not to mention, how was I supposed to share my ‘look-at-me-I-just-landed-in-China’ selfies?!
I am now four weeks in and I have seen the light that is WeChat. My initial state of apprehension towards the app was soon replaced by excitement, and then an unhealthy addiction where I was checking my messages and Moments several times… an hour.
WeChat offers more than Facebook, Twitter or any single Western platform – it is the ultimate integrated lifestyle app. Aside from the standard messaging, phone call and Moments (newsfeed) features common in most communication apps, WeChat provides users with a ‘Wallet’ allowing for all kinds of transactions and services; topping up your mobile, ordering a taxi or food delivery, booking a medical appointment or a movie ticket.
All of this is in the palm of your hand; it’s not surprising that the app has accumulated over 650 million monthly users in just five years.
I have also noticed that WeChat has permeated the business sector; QR codes are plastered in virtually every store. Once their QR code is scanned, businesses are able to directly reach those customers with their Official Accounts. Promotional efforts range from a weekly personal message (service accounts) to a pricey collaboration with a Key Opinion Leader, or KOL. This open marketing aspect of the app differs from many Western platforms, which tend to emphasise privacy.
Nonetheless, Western social media has slowly but surely begun to follow the footsteps of WeChat. Facebook has recently introduced the ‘Messenger’ app, phone calls, audio messages as well as partnering with Uber and online retailers for easy mobile services. Snapchat too has launched ‘My Story’, ‘Snapcash’ and QR codes.
As much as I would like to see WeChat take over the world, I’m unsure as to whether that will ever happen due to sheer omnipresence of existing Western platforms. I’m glad to see that WeChat is inspiring many Western apps in their development, and hopefully it will continue to advance mobile commerce."