The rapid development of mobile Internet in China is in direct response to the increasing demand and need for real-time technologies, as well as to gather and share information. In this quickly changing environment, Sina Weibo and Tencent Wechat have become the major digital platforms for marketing in China.
Weibo, which is a “microblog” service, it is the major digital platform in China. Sina Weibo was founded as a response to Twitter and Facebook censorship in China—and now boasts over 300 million users. This rapid rise in users has led many brands to see the platform for its marketing potential, where several opportunities exist, especially in the B2B space.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Thanks to Weibo, dissemination of information is incredibly convenient and easy. The structure is similar to Twitter, in that users create their own profile and send information out to the community within the 140 character limit. Weibo is also highly interactive, allowing brands the opportunity to communicate instantaneously with fans and respond to feedback and concerns in real-time. Furthermore, because Weibo is targeted, companies can utilize precision marketing tactics to reach an already-engaged audience of existing customers and interested buyers.
Of course, Weibo marketing also has some disadvantages. The most pressing is the issue of popularity. Companies need to have enough fans within the online platform in order to get impactful results from advertising and communication endeavors. That is, it is very difficult to carry out Weibo marketing without a substantial amount of popularity or brand awareness. In addition, because content is continuously and rapidly updated, posts are likely to be buried under the vast amounts of information if there is no immediate attention from followers. Moreover, the communication capability of Weibo is limited. Since there are only a few dozen words allowed in a single Weibo post, it is difficult for content to be reprinted/posted (unlike a blog post) through other social media platforms.
Why Weibo Marketing?
Given the increasing popularity of smartphones, the number of Weibo users in China is expected to break the 800 million mark within the next two years (Estimation by Sina). Mobile phone users can get information from Weibo at any time, thus allowing companies to create deeper and stronger connections with their customers’ lives. Moreover, the viral transmission of information allows the brand’s reach to exceed its number of followers. Followers are not only receiving the information from the brand, but are also spreading that information to their followers and networks. Last but not least, it is an important customer accumulation and business development platform for brands. Every user who shares information or leaves a comment on the brand’s page can be messaged directly by the company. In this way, Weibo effectively meets the requirements of digital communications in the brand-space.
Wechat is a Chinese free instant messaging application for smartphones developed by Tencent. This mobile communication tool supports the sending of voice, video, photo and text (SMS) messages. Within 14 months of its launch date, the app had over 200 million users (Source: Tencent Group). The aggressive development and growth of Wechat offers another promotional channel for enterprises.
Importance of Wechat Marketing
There are many reasons to use Wechat as a piece of your overall marketing plan. Nearly everyone in China has an account with Tencent QQ, which demonstrates the huge user base and potential of the platform. In this way, Wechat has become a gathering place for potential customers and brands to interact.
Moreover, the app is free to download and use. The only fees associated with use are the minimal data charges from the network operator. Thus, the upfront costs of a marketing campaign are very low. Thirdly, companies can forward information according to the characteristics of users to achieve that highly-desired one-to-one precision marketing effect. Compared with traditional marketing, Wechat is more diversified, allowing users to send messages with multiple forms of content—especially voice and video. This engages customers and brings them closer to brand messages and offers, creating a more vivid and interesting communication channel. Furthermore, since users can choose and edit permissions for messaging, Wechat is more user-friendly and avoids unwanted disturbances from a direct marketing perspective. In addition, each message is sent via push notification, so that every piece of information will be directly seen by the subscriber. The arrival/delivery rate of marketing messages can reach up to 100%, which is significantly higher than that of Weibo (Source: wenku.baidu.com).
Strengths and Weaknesses
There are many advantages to using Wechat as a marketing tool for businesses. One unique advantage is the voice function, which allows users to send voice messages directly to one another. The second is the location-based functionality. With the “Look Around” plug-in, users can find and connect with other users nearby. By using the search function, it is possible to see not only basic user information, but also their signature line and location-data. Upon further study, it is apparent from the official data of Wechat that active users are mainly located in first-tier cities, are mostly young people and high-end business executives (Source: www.36kr.com ). This is incredibly powerful for white collar brands and companies whose core market is young, affluent urbanites. Furthermore, it is well known that there are many of artificial followers and invalid users in Weibo, whereas this phenomenon is a non-issue in Wechat given the messaging-nature of the platform itself.
In terms of the disadvantages of Wechat, it is important to realize that the identification and verification of a public account (non-individual) requires at least 1,000 followers (Source: Tencent Group), which could be difficult for some small brands or businesses to achieve. In this way, it is much more difficult to get fans from Wechat than with Weibo for brands.
Combining the Tools—A Winning Strategy
Clearly, there are many advantages to leveraging social media for brand communication and marketing opportunities. The ultimate goal of using Weibo and/or Wechat is to build brand awareness, reputation, recognition, and loyalty among key targeted audiences in China. These platforms offer valuable assets to companies who can properly utilize them to engage and connect with an increasingly digital and mobile populace.