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


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