Let’s talk about WeChat, China’s Social Media Hub

Kierstyn Schneck
April 24, 2019

WeChat: It’s an app you probably know by name, but not by use. In China, it’s a lifestyle. But here in the U.S., you may still have questions about what WeChat is all about.

Launched in 2011, WeChat now has more than one billion users to date. Here’s what you need to know about this popular, China-based social media platform before you consider joining.

What is WeChat?

WeChat is the Walmart of social media—a so-called “super app” that is literally a one-stop shop. Whereas in the United States we have apps for different uses—to hail a ride, shop, message your friends, split a bill, date, or play games—WeChat combines all of its users’ needs into one.

Source: WeChat

As a WeChat user, you can pay your utility bills, rent a car, and meet your future partner, all without ever leaving the app. What started as a messaging service app has now expanded itself with “mini-programs”: standalone apps that all exist and are accessible through the WeChat app.

Here’s where your brand or business comes in.

Similar to other social media advertising platforms, brands can send promotional messages straight to WeChat users. And with the WeChat Pay mini-app, you can even use the app as your storefront. Almost every vendor in China accepts payments via WeChat Pay and uses the app just like any store would use a debit card.

And, even better news: as of last fall, overseas businesses can now open accounts that have access to its Chinese market. Before, the markets were split: businesses outside of China could only access users outside of mainland China. Now, global brands can access WeChat not only to target Chinese tourists overseas, but also to target people within the country.

Source: ChinaChannel.co

Now why would you want to do that? First of all, it’s a large market. In 2017, WeChat drove about $50 billion worth of business. Second, even if you aren’t looking to do business in China, WeChat has 100–200 million international users. Chinese tourists, in particular, represent an untapped audience for businesses outside of mainland China.

In 2017, Chinese tourists spent an average of $4,500 while traveling in the United States. With the prevalence of WeChat in China, it only makes sense to send your promotional messages in the app where this population spends the majority of its time. More good news? WeChat Pay may be expanding into the U.S. soon, so Chinese users in the United States could make direct, mobile payments to your business.

Sign me up!

Excited to jump on the WeChat bandwagon? Before you start an account, here are a couple of limitations to keep in mind:

1. Having a WeChat account doesn’t mean you’ll have a captive audience eating it all up.

Similar to Facebook, you are competing against quite a lot of content in your viewers’ newsfeed. Only seven percent of the 14 million official accounts reported posts with over 1,000 views. The solution? Be ready to put some budget behind your posts. Take a look at how some of these luxury global brands used promotional messaging to appeal to their audiences in time for the Chinese Valentine’s Day.

2. WeChat is still a copy-heavy platform.

Your visibility depends on offering valuable, high-quality posts (useful tips, special offers, industry news/trends, etc.) that your audience will then want to share with their friends. Keep an eye on that week’s popular trends and keywords to help decide on topics your audience cares about. Video is also growing in popularity as a way to tell stories on WeChat, as the app expands into short-video features (similar to Instagram Stories & Tik Tok).

3. It’s still a China-based app.

And with that comes some oversight from the Chinese government. This is important for two reasons: (1) your posts will need to follow WeChat’s (and by extension, China’s) rules on what is and is not a free topic to comment on, and (2), WeChat’s transparency in its reporting is reliant on governmental approval. Don’t expect quarterly reports on user numbers or the app’s worth.

All in all, there’s a lot to gain by starting a WeChat account. There might be a few bumps in the road, but with the right content strategy, it could mean opening your business up to a whole new audience that’s ready to engage with your brand.

Want to get started? Get in touch with us about adding WeChat to your social media portfolio.