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!!