Tag Archives: WeChat

WeChat is more than a messaging app, it’s a life style app, an ecosystem and … virtual Chinatown?




Launched in 2011 by Tencent, WeChat has evolved from a social media app to an ecosystem, an indispensable part of most Chinese consumers’ daily life. WeChat hit 1 billion monthly active user in the first quarter of 2018.  According to according to Kimberly Lee, Senior Marketing Manager at Tencent, who presented at the 2018 Asian Marketing Summit on June 6, 2018, in Los Angeles, WeChat has 93% penetration in China’s tier 1 cities and 69% penetration in tier 2 cities. People tend to associate WeChat with social media or think of it as the equivalent of Facebook or Twitter. But it’s Facebook + Twitter + LinkedIn + PayPal + Uber and so much more. You can manage your personal and business communication, personal finances, book hotels and flights, food deliveries, virtually all aspects of your life without ever leaving the app. That’s why it’s so addictive. Accordingly to Kimberly Lee, 50% of WeChat users use the app for more than 90 minutes a day.


WeChat’s relevance to U.S. based companies have increased significantly given that Chinese outbound tourists are the world’s top spender and their spending in 2016 ($261 billion)  represents 21% of total receipts in destinations worldwide, according to World Tourism Organization . 2.97M Chinese tourists visited the U.S. in 2016 and spent $33B. U.S. companies are waking up to WeChat’s tremendous power in reaching Chinese consumers in China and abroad, albeit slowly, and Tencent has made it increasingly easier for U.S. companies to target Chinese tourists who visit the U.S. and also Asian Americans of Chinese descent. Tencent set up an ad team inside its Palo Alto office in September 2017 and offers advertising products that help U.S. based clients targeting Chinese outbound tourists when they are in China and also when they reach the U.S. Additionally, according to Kimberly Lee, Tencent also offers ad services targeting Asian Americans via its powerful WeChat platform. The services targeting Asian Americans are currently in beta mode. But Tencent has successfully completed advertising campaigns for Coach, Lexus and Michael Kor targeting Asian Americans, according to Kimberly.


WeChat is no doubt a powerful lifestyle app that represents tremendous advertising potential for companies trying to reach Chinese outbound tourists as well as Asian Americans in the U.S. However, a little discussed aspect of WeChat is how the app has been used in activism among Chinese residents in the U.S. and its far reaching effects. This is the focus of another presentation on WeChat at the 2018 Asian Marketing Summit by Karthick Ramakrishnan, Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside. Prof. Ramakrishnan argues that given the amount of activism and extreme political views on WeChat, it’s important to monitor activities on WeChat and diversify political views on the platform with mainstream participation so that WeChat doesn’t become a virtual Chinatown. WeChat’s influence in the previous presidential election was well documented in an article on Wire.com, How WeChat Spreads Rumors, Reaffirms Bias and Helped Elect Trump.  A WeChat page named The Voice of Chinese America started by Chinese American Xie Bin and several others 6 months before the presidential election with content pulled from right leaning English websites and news sources gained more than 32,000 followers within months after launch. It published articles with headlines such as  “Why I Will Vote for Trump: The Issue of Illegal Immigrants Must Be Resolved!” and “Obama publicly encourages illegal immigrants to vote in the election; Virginia paroled 60,000 critics to participate in the election!” What started as an experiment by Xie Bin has proved to be a powerful political campaign tool for vocal Chinese Americans influencing political views and voting behaviors. Prof. Ramakrishnan noted that there is no right or wrong about these political views but there needs to be more participation of parties of different political views so that extreme views don’t fester in this exclusive virtual enclosure and lead to unintended results. Frustrated by the indifference and non-participation by non-Chinese organizations, Prof. Ramakrishnan started a WeChat monitoring service called CRW Strategy with two other partners to provide ethnic social media intelligence and strategies.


Be it for marketing or civic participation, one thing is clear, WeChat’s tremendous power in engaging and influencing Chinese consumers in China or the U.S. can’t be ignored. Marketers are taking notice. There are a host of agencies that specialize in WeChat marketing that have sprung up over the past few years.

Why WeChat should be part of your social media strategy and marketing mix, and why you should care


By Iris Yim


Although WeChat is relatively unknown in the U.S., it has close to 550 million actively monthly users and has become the default social media and a cultural and social phenomenon in China in the short amount of time since its launch in 2011.


WeChat is a messaging app developed and owned by Tencent which also owns another popular messaging service in China – QQ.  It’s essentially a messaging app with which you can make free voice and video calls and leave voice and text messages but it also has “Moments” which is similar to a Facebook wall where you can see the updates of your contacts and the content they share.  So it’s like a combination of Whatsapp + Facebook.  It’s easy to set up a group chat to interact with friends and family or a group of people with similar interests.


Here are some interesting statistics of WeChat:

– Percentage of Internet users in China that use WeChat – 65%

– Number of registered WeChat accounts – 1.1 billion

– Average amount of time Chinese adults spend on WeChat daily – over 40 minutes

– Percentage of users that open it more than 10 times a day – 55.2%


So WeChat is the default social media in China, so what?  Why and how does it concern marketers in the U.S?  You may ask.  It’s true with all its marketing efforts to expand in the U.S., WeChat has barely made a dent in the social media market in this country which is dominated by Facebook.  Latest statistics suggest only 2% mobile Internet users in the US that use WeChat on a monthly basis.  However, if you’re targeting Asian Americans, you will need to pay attention to WeChat and here is why.


– Chinese is the largest segment of the Asian American population and 70% of them are foreign born.  They have friends and family in China who all use WeChat and the immigrant himself will be enticed to sign up as well.

– There are 274,439 Chinese international students in the U.S. for the school year of 2013-2014 who all use WeChat to keep in touch with friends and family at home and fellow Chinese international students in the U.S.

– Then not to mention the tens of thousands of Chinese tourists who visit the U.S. and shopping is an essential item on the itinerary.  Last year, 1.8 million Chinese tourists visited America and spent a whopping $21.1 billion. The number of visitors from China to the U.S. is expected to rise to 3.1 million in 2019.  And they use WeChat to share information on merchandise, deals and brands with friends and family.  Many of them are on a shopping mission to not only shop for themselves but also shop for friends and family.


For Chinese who live in the U.S., WeChat provides a platform to bring the community together to share news, interests, concerns and bond with each other.  Some large group chats have hundreds of active participants.  News travels fast among these group chats and the community will be galvanized into action in a very short amount of time.


On May 15, 2015, when a coalition of Asian American groups announced a complaint against Harvard on discriminating Asian Americans for admission at a press conference, one of the attendees sent pictures, videos and reporting of the press conference to his WeChat group chat and these messages, pictures and videos were redistributed to the numerous group chat across the U.S.  The Chinese community learnt about the news of the complaint hours before mainstream media’s report on the complaint against Harvard.


Given WeChat’s influence on the Chinese community in the U.S., politicians and community organizations are taking notes.  I have seen Hilary Clinton’s ad on WeChat recruiting Chinese staff and volunteers for her campaign.  Recently, a police department in Flushing, NY, established a public WeChat account to communicate with and better serve the Chinese community in the area.  However, brands in the U.S. are largely missing in action.


Given that China is the number one source of new immigrants, the number one source of international students to the U.S. and the whopping spending power of Chinese tourists, WeChat is an effective way to reach these target groups and should part of your social media strategy and marketing mix.


Here is an example of the marketing power of WeChat

A friend of mine shared a blog post on “Moments” by an entertainment news blogger about the shoes the female lead wears in the latest Jurassic Park movie.  It has an interesting and humorous twist to it.  It comments on how the female lead miraculously outruns the dinosaurs in those shoes and why every girl should have a pair of shoes like that so that they can win the race of life.  It goes on to talk about the brand and designer of the shoes.  The result?  I went on Amazon.com to order a pair for myself!!


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