China’s WeChat is in a uniquely fortunate position. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and basically any other western social media or messaging service is banned in the world’s most populated country. This level of protectionism gives Chinese companies breathing room to create products of their own, with much-coveted access to a market of some 1.4 billion people. It’s the lack of serious competition that has, in part, allowed WeChat to become the innovative swiss army knife that it is.
China’s government also churns out 488 million fake social media posts a year in an effort to distract and divert attention away from sensitive issues, according to CNN. It’s onto this complex digital backdrop that China’s marketers are forced to operate. Busy social media channels and monopolized messaging apps aside, the country represents unparalleled opportunity, and all global brands should consider harnessing WeChat’s functionality to exploit the dense population. WeChat has well over 800 million monthly active users, and its features are such that even on relatively modest marketing budgets, brands can get their message out to an overwhelming number of potential customers.
WeChat’s extensive functionality is what makes it such an attractive prospect to marketers. On top of being a social messaging app, the messaging giant has commerce options, professional functions like expense tracking, and the ability to book everything from taxis to movie tickets. Its features ape that of Skype, Amazon, Slack, PayPal, Apple Wallet, Uber, and of course Facebook, all in one wildly popular package. As WeChat targets global expansion (it is estimated that 90% of its current users are in China), brands should be poised to create accounts and begin offering their services natively on the app.
Caesars Hotels, for example, have adopted WeChat to improve their customer experience. The project, which promised to create the first connected hotel room, allowed guests to control everything in their room - from the curtains to the coffee machine - from their smartphones. Currently, the move is intended to exploit the 5 million or so Chinese tourists that visit the US every year but, as similar technologies develop on western equivalents like Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp, expect to see this kind of mind-blowing functionality integrated into messaging apps more commonly.
One of WeChat’s key strengths is its ability to host quality content and share it with their audiences in a way that isn’t possible on more basic messaging apps. Top brands should first focus on getting verified - WeChat’s stamp of approval for those creating quality content - while producing content that represents their brand. Treelabs is a good example. The Bluetooth speaker brand produces daily playlists made up of music from all over the world, which is, of course, all available natively. It’s an indirect way of promoting the product, using engaging content for users to enjoy rather than methods proven to turn them off, like push messages.
Also, WeChat’s location services offer brands endless possibilities. For example, they allow food delivery services to exploit their follower base by showing them lists of local restaurants. They can do this on any service, but on WeChat they can allow users to browse menus, make orders, and pay for the food without ever leaving the app. The order is then confirmed through the app, with the user receiving a message detailing when they should expect their food. This level of integration is something that is considered to be some way down the line on services like WhatsApp and Messenger, but on WeChat it’s a reality. With all that WeChat can offer, brands across the world should be considering it as a part of their wider social media marketing strategy.
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