Because much of Western social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Google, and YouTube are blocked from Chinese servers, the country’s tech and business giants essentially developed their own networks as a way of keeping people in touch. But these social networks are more than that. It’s where people share opinions, ask for product recommendations, and connect.
To put the size of the Chinese social media market in perspective (it is the largest in the world), it’s worth noting that there are 802 million active internet users in the country, accounting for around 57.7% of the country’s population. In addition, around 98% of people in China who use the internet do so through mobile devices.
With so much online diversity among the Chinese population, one platform has come to the fore and is in the spotlight for its ability to penetrate massive segments of the Chinese market — WeChat.
In this article, we explore the case study of WeChat in China and discover some important lessons for brands seeking to enter the Chinese market.
Case study: WeChat’s dominance in China
Before we discuss what WeChat is and its implications for brands and businesses, it’s worth noting some important facts and figures about this social media platform. Here are a few highlights from this year that you need to be aware of as you embark on your journey to penetrating the Chinese market:
- 1.26 billion monthly active users (with the first 100 million users acquired in 15 months, compared to Facebook’s 54 months)
- 38 billion messages exchanged daily
- 20 million official accounts
- Over 95% of brands have a WeChat store in a mini-program
- 68 million videos are uploaded daily
- The average user spends 82 minutes per day on the platform
- There are 70 million mini-programs
- 330 million active users watch videos monthly
What is WeChat?
Developed by Tencent and released in 2011, WeChat is a major Chinese social media player. But apart from social media, it is known as the “app for everything”. Some of its numerous functions include:
- Instant messaging (including voice messaging) and communication
- Commerce and shopping
- Payment services
- Entertainment platform
- Live streaming
- Playing games with friends
- Reserving a taxi
- Downloading mini-programs within the app’s ecosystem
- Recommendations, testimonials, tips
- Video chats
- Ticket sales
Putting it into perspective, WeChat is like the equivalent of multiple Android or iOS apps merged into one. What’s more is that users do not need to leave the app to access any of the platform’s services. That’s because everything is built into one app.
Wondering how one can use WeChat? One example is to photograph one’s food to find out related information about it. Another example is at live concerts. People shake their phones and the more phones are shaken on a particular song, the higher the chance that the song will get selected and played by the band.
Despite all of these benefits and some amazing features, WeChat may be free to use but signing up for an account isn’t so simple. To create an account, you will need to find an existing user and scan a QR code they provide to you.
Lessons learned: The importance of content localization in China and implications for business
There are many lessons to be learned from observing what is taking place on WeChat. Brands seeking to penetrate the Chinese market not only need to carry out careful social listening and track and observe exchanges on a major social platform like this one but also build a deeper understanding of local perceptions and values, which is then expressed through accurate content localization.
Below are just a few lessons learned that brands should apply in their marketing strategies:
- Carry out a thorough premarket analysis before defining your marketing content localization strategy to differentiate yourself and gain a foothold in the market. Local competition should not be underestimated. A premarket analysis should start by building an ideal buyer persona to understand the expectations and needs of your users and customers.
- Choose your local Chinese platform, such as WeChat carefully. This will mean identifying a platform that aligns with your industry, audience demographic, key performance indicators (sales, branding, lead generation), and end goals. For a more close-knit community, WeChat is a good platform that can be used as a branding tool or as a source of valuable information about your brand.
- Ensure you follow the official Chinese Business Licensing protocols for setup before entering the market to ensure you are fully compliant with policy and regulatory issues related to your chosen social media channels, such as WeChat.
- All content for China needs to be in Mandarin and formatted and amended for Chinese platforms, search algorithms, and keyword sets in characters and pinyin. This means developing a wholly new marketing strategy: new keywords, banners, creatives, logos, and visuals to be considered highly relevant.
- Consider the fact that China’s largest search engine — Baidu —- has a 75% market share. It should be an important component of any web development project. This will require a website audit and optimization for Mandarin keyword searches. As such, you will most probably need to build a dedicated Chinese website.
- Use the multiple features of WeChat to reach out to your Chinese customers with local content optimized to appeal to them. Some of the steps you can take include publishing weekly post feature text, videos, and audio, or joining the WeChat channel and sharing short videos regularly. Other steps may include designing a mini-program to promote a new product and/or service.
Penetrating the Chinese market should not be done without considering the reach and implications of WeChat as a massive social media platform that has been described as a “Jack of all trades”. If this platform aligns with your target market and business objectives, it is now time to engage in content localization so that you signal to locals that your business is legitimate and that you understand the market well. However, your content localization efforts need to be a part of a holistic and comprehensive strategy as opposed to an ad hoc one, which considers the wider ecosystem of Chinese entertainment, shopping, communication, and commerce.