Archive | August 2013

WeChat—A New Way for SNS Marketing in China

WeChat (Chinese: 微信, Pinyin : Weixin, literally means Micro Message) is a newly fashionable mobile app in China owned by Tencent Holdings, the Chinese company has the largest worldwide community through QQ and is the third largest internet company in the world. Launched in January 2011, WeChat has already gained over 300 million users in 2 years (the last 100 million users were added in less than 4 months!), making it already a significant platform for e-marketing and SNS marketing in China.

Who are using WeChat? The dramatic increase of WeChat users is enhanced by the rapid growth of smartphone users in China—330 million in the end of February 2013 according to CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center), close to the number of WeChat users.

From a research by Search Engine Journal, China’s young, affluent and urban young contribute to the majority of WeChat users. 76.1% of the users are aged from 22-35, mainly in big cities. As for their occupations, white collars rank the first at 24.2% with a trend more and more middle and low class young people joining in.

Main Functions of Wechat: WeChat provides social media networking via photo/video/article/message sharing, which forms shared streaming content feeds for convenient viewing, and location-based social networking plug-ins to chat with and be friend with other WeChat users.

– Live chat Chat with friends in a Live Chat session like Viber in Europe or USA, both text chat and voice chat are available. Moreover, video chat feature has been added recently. You can also select contacts to form a group and initiate group chat easily. wechat1

– Add friends & QR codes Friends can be added via searching or scanning a QR code. WeChat allows users to simply create a QR Code so as to let others to do a quick scan and become a follower. Adding public account with QR codes is one of the most popular ways for users to get information outside their friends circle, which is also a very interesting tool for marketers. Nowadays, many companies like Starbucks, Microsoft and AirAsia have registered their public account and use it for marketing campaigns. Thus, WeChat QR codes are very common in many marketing materials to encourage people to follow them on WeChat. wechat starbucks Starbucks WeChat QR code, scan it with your WeChat to find out more.

– Location-based plug-ins

  • Shake: Shake your phone to find people shaking their phones as well, then you can choose from the list of “people found” and “Send Greeting” to make friends.
  • Look Around: Use “Look Around” to find people using WeChat nearby, and select to “Send Greeting” to make friends. Only user with the “Look Around” function enabled can be found.
  • Drift Bottle: Throw & pick Drift Bottle. Select “Throw” to send out your voice or text message, and then wait to see who will pick up your bottle and reply. Select “Pick” to pick a drift bottle from the sea. You can reply to it or throw it back to the sea.


– Moments See all the updates from your friends in the Moments, for it photo/video/article/message. Like or Comment on the moments, a simplified, easy to use Facebook sharing tool.


With all these convenient and interesting functions for social networking, WeChat had soon become very popular in China, and keen marketers started to study marketing on Wechat. Yet, the real marketing practice on WeChat didn’t start until August 2012 when the WeChat Public Account platform was launched. On this platform, verified public accounts have more choices for marketing: – User management: You can manage the followers of your account and categorize them by different types. – Posting messages: You can edit the message that you’d like to share with your followers and select to post to all or to specific groups. There are the five types of messages: text, voice, picture, video and text+picture. Links are allowed to be added for further actions. – QR code: You can download the QR code of your public account and can put it on your website, other social media or marketing materials for increasing followers. (See also in the Add friends & QR codes section.)


AirAsia Wechat QRcode on its official site(left), Text+picture message of promotion info from AirAsia(right)

Everyone can register a public account, however you need 1000 followers to verify the account, not too difficult considering the huge potential number of users. Up to now, WeChat has over 30,000 verified accounts, in which the corporate account accounted for 70%

Though WeChat isn’t the passkey for all marketing, no one can deny that it is an effective SNS marketing tool to build your brand community and increase sales in China, the world’s most large and competitive markets. What’s more, WeChat isn’t stopping in China. The app is now available in English, Russian, Indonesian, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, and Vietnamese. And popularity is soaring in other parts of Asia with WeChat top on Apple’s social network app in several Asian countries. It’s a good idea to tap into this for your business in China and Asia now.



By Cornelia Yan


The Chinese social media landscape

Social media are an importantWeChat—A New Way for SNS Marketing in China part of the Chinese life. They have 597 million users at the beginning of 2013. In China, 91% of the online population has an account on a social media site, as compared to 67% in the USA. 88% of Chinese social media users are active on one social network at least. This is the case for 67% of Americans only. Regarding to a 2013 study of “We are social”, the number of   social media’s users  in China today is almost the double of USA’s population. Social media is a huge phenomenon in a collectivist country as China. People like to share and being connected every times with their friends, in a much more emphasized manner than in western countries.

Because of the Chinese censure, called the “Great Firewall of China”, numerous of western social media are not allowed on the Chinese internet. To satisfy the Chinese consumer, the country has developed his own social media. Perfectly adapted to the local culture (which is totally different than the western ones), those social media are the most popular in China and most of them are owned by the local group Tencent Holdings.

In this article I will present the main Chinese social media: QQ, Qzone,  Weibo (Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo), Renren, WeChat, Kaixin.

I.                 QQ: The Tencent’s chat.

 logo QQ

Launched in 1999, the first version of QQ was named “OICQ” (open ICQ, for reference to the previous instant messaging computer program ICQ owned by AOL). Because of a conflict with AOL for the brand’s name, the Tencent’s software was renamed “QQ” in 2000. “Q” is often use in Chinese as a translation of “cute”.
It is today the most famous social media in China, with 784 million users. Mostly of them are second tier cities teenagers.  This social media is accessible by computer or by phone. The phone version is more used for practical reasons.

QQ is a kind of MSN. Users can chat instantly, sharing mail correspondence or speak by videos with each-others. The service is free, but people can pay to obtain privileged memberships. This system is based on seven kinds of services illustrated by seven diamonds of different colours:

  • Red: QQ’ services Access (QQ show, personal avatar, clothes…)
  • Yellow: allows to personalize Qzone
  • Blue: access to basic games
  • Purple: access to famous games of Tencent
  • Pink: offers for QQpet, a game of pet farming, like a veterinary visit for free
  • Greenish: access to QQmusic
  • Black: access to DNF (game)
  • And a VIP diamond which allows to use the QQ version free of adds

QQ is also widely used in business even with foreigners have business in China.

II.               Qzone

 Q zone

Qzone is a kind of « My Space ». Owned by Tencent Holdings, this website allows the users to create their own page and to share their personal content, photos, videos and texts.

According to the, Qzone has 712 million users in 2013. To access Qzone, people must to be registered on QQ. It is the most popular platform for social sharing.

Users can listen and share music, write diaries and blogs, send photos to other members and make friends.

III.              Weibo: Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo.


Weibo means “microblogging” in Chinese. We can compare this social media as a mix between Facebook and Twitter. For example, users can write messages of 140 characters maximum, sharing photos and videos and sending messages to other users.

The landscape of Chinese social media owns two main weibo social media: Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo.

  • Sina Weibo is used by 500 million people, mostly in big cities. Its multimedia function was created before the Twitter’s one.
  • Tencent Weibo, owned by Tencent, has 507 million users who live more in smaller cities that Sina Weibo’s. But like Qzone, Tencent Weibo attracts new customers thanks to its instant messaging base: QQ.

Even if less people use it, Sina Weibo has a very important and maybe the most influence on the Chinese society. It is a source of expression and of information. The limit of 140 characters has nothing to do with the limitation in western countries: with 140 Chinese characters, people can write short novels, named “Wei Xiao Shuo”(micro novels). This high capability relative to the content allows more the circulation and the exchange of opinions. As it is really difficult to control the information on social media, Chinese people trust more information they find on Weibo than on traditional media.

IV.             WeChat: Tencent


WeChat is a mobile application which is very successful in China based on same concept as Viber. 300 million people use this micro-messaging app in 2013 in the whole world. 260 million of them are Chinese people; 40 million are from other countries.

Wechat is a big success as you can see. And analysts are convinced it will be used by 100 million people more in 2013. As a foreigner living in China I can say WeChat is a big discovery and a very useful tool to keep in touch with my family and my friends around the world. I totally understand why WeChat is the favourite way for Chinese people to stay in touch with each other. This application is free, we can chat everywhere, both writing and speaking, it works for every Smartphone from every countries. There are a lot of funny applications and emoticons. It can be used to share pictures and short texts, like on Twitter.

An application allows us to see what happen around our place, which people are connected. It is a very efficient marketing tool, as you can see more deeply in this article.

V.               Renren


This social media is a kind of Facebook. Indeed, it offers similar appearance and functions than the famous American social media. Created by students in 2005, it was called Xiaonei (means in the campus in Chinese) before.  It was recalled Renren. “Ren” means “person” in Chinese. So “Renren” means “everybody”. This social media had 172 million users at the beginning of 2013, mainly students and teenagers.

VI.             Kaixin 001


Kaixin (“happy” in Chinese) is a kind of Facebook too. Kaixin 001 has 113 million users.

The difference between Kaixin and Renren is that Kaixin’s targets and main users are white-collar workers. Thus the audience is older than Renren’s.

VII.            Conclusion

In many aspects, Chinese social media landscape is an adaptation of the western one. They answer to the same basic needs of people and adapt the platform, options, apps to the particularities of the Chinese users and culture. Those adaptations to the Chinese culture are necessary, as eBay learnt with its failure in China and the incredible success of Taobao, its local competitor (to know more about this topic, click here).

Social media in China is particularly important for companies. According to a McKinsey Institute study “High influence: China’s social medias boom” (January 2013), Chinese people are mere likely buying a product if it is mentioned on social media and purchasing it if it is recommended by a friend or if it has a good reputation on social medias. In a country where traditional sources of information are controlled by the government, people trust more the opinion of other users in social media. Moreover, as China is a collectivist country, people naturally like to be connected and value the other’s opinion, even more than western countries. As a phenomenon, 91% of Chinese people of this study’s respondents said they visited a social media site in the previous six month, compared to 30% in Japan, 67% in United States and 70% in South Korea.

Social media are a vital source of information in China, and having a good reputation on it is a vital criterion for brand and companies. Social media influent a lot on the customer’s buying decision. That is why each company must take care of its reputation and marketing on social media if it wants keep doing business in this country.

By Leïla Hatoum

Scam Check—Protect Your Business from Being Scammed

Scamming could happen whenever buyers go to B2B platform and look for new suppliers. One common way of scamming is when the seller asks for deposit and disappears after the buyer pays. As a matter of fact, it is not always avoidable to pay in advance when you are a new customer to the supplier. What you could do is to pay enough attention to avoid it. And how to avoid being scammed? There are many ways to avoid being scammed and is quite easy to find those tips online. Yet it’d better to use a professional agent to help you as in some cases the scamming is really complicated and is very hard for a non-experienced customer to identify. scam alert1

Unfortunately, we received a SOS recently from a buyer who seemed trapped. The buyer was urgently looking for plastic materials. He found a Chinese supplier online with B2B platforms like Alibaba, quoted and selected. He paid deposit as requested by the Chinese supplier. As the story goes, the supplier suddenly changed its terms and conditions and he couldn’t contact this supplier again after he transferred the money.

The buyer contacted SAOS via our Linkedin, as a local professional services provider. He emailed us the situation, provided all the contacts and information for our support to clarify the case.

It was too late already, but we tried our best to check. As due diligence services, we normally do:

–  Call the contacts: Ask questions to understand if they are really in that business (e.g. this time we planed to ask advices on various plastic grades and material recommendation). Scammers have low chance to demonstrate real knowledge on subject matter and will avoid answering.

Also we ask about the client case, what he understands and how he is planning to arrange the delivery. A real supplier will be able to provide more details and genuine information.

–  Check custom data: We use official sources like Panjiva, a custom data provider, to see if the supplier has been doing export business and had real transactions. If records are existed, then we consider low chance of scamming.

–  Observations: We look into their official address, website, domain name, and see if they are wired. It is subjective, I agree, however that is exactly what we call experience.

For this time, what more than regular procedure is that we work with our alliance, the Wuhan Online Chamber of Commerce. The potential scammer has their address in Wuhan and claims to be a local company there. It makes full sense that we ask if our friends in the Chamber know about them.

The Wuhan Online Chamber of Commerce, having about 100 of members, is one of the most active and organized group of the exporting industry. I was there last week in Wuhan for a speech regarding buyer behavior as a guest speaker. Learning about this case, the Chamber took serious action to check if anyone knew about this company and the person who named in registration. The case also concerned the local office of Alibaba and their head of the Mid-west China business Mr. Zheng Lei, who took immediate action even it was not their responsibility. He checked their local database on the information of the company and found that the same reg. person used to register different business in other province. That information made the case more suspicious. Both Wuhan Chamber of Commerce and Alibaba are involved since they are dedicated for a clean and safe business environment of the local industry. scam check

As a result, unfortunately, we believe the chance that the buyer is scammed is high:

–  The scammer website contains only English, which is not common for most Chinese companies based on our long sourcing history dealing with local Chinese companies. This gives a feeling that they are only interest to dealing with (or, scam with) foreign business.

–  They are existed in Panjiva as well, but with no transaction history.

–  We called all the phone numbers available and none of them successfully took us to any contact person. However, after several times of calling, we finally reached the project contact to pick up the phone. When we asked about the case, the girl on the phone said she knew nothing and hung up the phone. From the above observations, we believe the buyer is not just meeting a non-responsive supplier. He has been scammed, losing 30% of its advanced payment.

What can he do? Honestly, not much. He can call the police (in Chinese) and ask them to help handle it. However, in practice, it will be very difficult to deal oversea with this kind of crime. Some lawyers could eventually deal with this case. Still, I really want to stress on the fact that preventive measure should be taken to avoid scamming situations. Obviously, if the buyer had turned to SAOS or other professional agents to help check before the deposit, this suffering would have been prevented.

If you are not sure about your new Chinese supplier and you need to pay certain deposit to them beforehand, better to check before you do. SAOS offers a simple and small, yet professional and effective service called “Scam-Alert”, and our aim is to prevent you from being scammed. With all the checking via our local channels and even some official ways (e.g. Access the Chinese government database), we will provide you with our risk indicator index and accordingly, reduce your risk of being scammed.

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