China’s stronghold over the internet is well known, limiting citizens’ access to major networking / social-sharing sites the rest of the world is on – just over the weekend several digital content accounts on Weibo and WeChat were shut down as reported here on Sixth Tone, as content on these accounts were getting out of control. The tight regulations for international platforms had paved the way for Chinese social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo to gain popularity. China’s international seclusion has hindered foreign markets from gaining interest in it. The country’s progressive developments, however, are proving just how valuable the Chinese market is, also towards international businesses and end-consumers.
So, more foreigners use WeChat than locals
The company published a report recently, revealing that “foreign users” are even more active on WeChat than the most active of locals. WeChat did a comparative analysis of its non-Chinese interface users to the typical users in China, and it showed that non-Chinese users aka foreigners are sending 60% more messages, are making 42% more voice calls and are engaging in 13% more video chats. WeChat usage is becoming more and more ‘global’ within China and the company has spread its wings recently to international markets following this success.
The reason behind WeChat being the app of choice for foreigners in China is the app’s pivot in to a broader user experience that is friendlier for foreigners than previous platforms like QQ and Weibo. WeChat presents an all-in-one place for effective communication, networking, payment transactions, advertising through business accounts and so forth- making it impossible for foreigners not to integrate into the local way of doing things. Despite a skeptical start foreigners in China have now fully embraced this new way of doing things, proving the huge influence the Chinese market holds over the status quo.
WeChat Pay is used for food deliveries and online shopping, or simply transferring money to friends on the spot. Those living in China barely carry actual cash on them any more. Foreigners are reported to send an average of 10 virtual hongbaos (red packets) a week. Upon receiving a hongbao the recipient clicks on it to receive the designated amount sent; or a group of people can receive random amounts of money making up the sum total. Hongbaos are exciting to receive due to the fun concept and surprise factor coupled with the cultural reference behind the word.
Running on mass (man)power
Oh, don’t underestimate the noise Chinese netizens can make, even on international news. The recent United Airlines scandal proved them to be a force to be reckoned with. The video of a United flight attendant dragging an Asian man off the plane inspired over 14,000 individual posts on Weibo alone.
In 2013, a Chinese lawyer uploaded a post about the airline’s discrimination towards Chinese people. This resulted in 2000 shares and almost 6 million impressions.
The airline industry is just one example of PR mishaps causing costly damage, considering the Chinese are the biggest spending group of travelers in the world. Similarly, not being able to address these types of outrage by large populations with big opinions is the kind of mentality that will hurt businesses big time. Brands and businesses still tend to underestimate China mainly due to the lack of understanding of the market. This leads to the market being overlooked due to the misconception that businesses struggle in elusive markets. The importance of brands being present and strategic in China’s social media platforms can’t be stressed enough.
If its 1.4 billion citizens aren’t enough to convince brands of the republic’s importance, the collective impact of the people might.