What’s Next For WeChat?

As mobile messaging apps become increasingly popular across the globe, China’s WeChat (the top mobile social app in China, which has reportedly surpassed 600 million users) is often compared with other mobile messaging apps, such as WhatsApp and Japan’s Line. Of all such apps, WeChat has the most complicated features; it goes beyond messaging and keeps adding new features and further evolving existing ones. Among the many possibilities, three stand out:

  • Exploring location-based business. Chinese consumers have been using WeChat’s QR code functionality for a while to get discounts and rewards from offline stores. WeChat also has an advanced scanning feature, the street view scanner (available for the Chinese version of WeChat 5.0 or higher only). The scanner not only shows street names but also nearby stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and other locations. WeChat has recently cooperated with Dianping (China’s Yelp) to upgrade its location check-in feature on Moments (WeChat’s timeline, on which users share photos and texts) from cities to specific stores. WeChat’s successful cooperation with taxi-hailing app Didi Dache has also enhanced its location-based capabilities. All of these features pave the way for WeChat to be able to provide location-based marketing.
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How To Reach Your Unique Mobile Audience In China

Does mobile mean on-the-go? That's not always the case, especially for Chinese consumers. My recent report, Chinese Mobile Consumers Are An Attractive But Unique Audience, tells how mobile marketing differs in the largest smartphone market in the world.

Marketers see great potential in Chinese mobile consumers for three reasons:

  • It's the largest smartphone market in the world, and it's growing fast. According to Forrester’s global smartphone forecast, China’s smartphone installed base will pass the 500-million mark in 2014, more than the US and Western Europe combined.
  • The number of mobile Internet users has skyrocketed in China. It surpassed the number of PC Internet users in June 2012 and is growing twice as fast as the number of overall Internet users. In 2013, the mobile Internet population accounted for more than two thirds of the total online population in the country.
  • Chinese consumers appear to be among the most sophisticated mobile users in the world. According to our Consumer Technographics® data, more than half of online metro Chinese mobile users access the Internet via their devices several times a day, and a quarter daily. These numbers are higher than those of even major metropolitan cities in the US and UK. Metro China also takes the lead in advanced mobile activities, including social networking, downloading and using apps, purchasing products, and checking finances.
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Why WeChat Is Not A Good Marketing Tool — Yet

WeChat (Weixin in Chinese), the hottest mobile social app in China, now has more than 600 million users. Because WeChat dominates mobile Internet usage, marketers are putting high expectations on its marketing potential. However, WeChat is not a good marketing tool yet for most brands, as it has several limitations:

  • WeChat has core features of privacy and one-to-one communications. User behavior on WeChat is very different from on Weibo. The information that users share on WeChat is private and can be seen only by personally approved friends; as a result, WeChat is used more as a communication tool for friends to keep in contact. Users are less likely to repost brands’ information massively, as marketers expect them to do on Weibo.
  • Branded accounts have restrictions in sending messages. There are two types of public accounts — service accounts and subscription accounts — that marketers can use to send one-to-many messages to their WeChat followers, but each type has restrictions. A service account has custom-menu functionality that works almost as a mini-site embedded in the WeChat platform, but it allows only one message per month. A subscription account allows, at most, two messages per day, but with less advanced functionalities. In addition, all subscription accounts are folded together, so it's hard for users to notice new messages.
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Are Your Social Marketing Efforts Competitive In China?

Too often, marketers wonder whether their social marketing efforts are keeping pace with those of their peers. Marketers in China are no exception. My most recent report, Benchmarking Social Marketing Efforts In China, will help them find the answer and optimize their social marketing strategies.

Overall, marketers in China show lots of faith in social media. Thirteen of 22 marketers we surveyed say they will increase their social media budget more than 25% in 2013 compared with 2012, and seven of them will increase it more than 50%.

However, they report only moderate satisfaction — on a scale of 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied), we found an average satisfaction rating of 3.4 with the social tactics they are using and an average rating of 3.27 with social platforms. Based on these adoption and satisfaction ratings, we have categorized the social tactics and platforms that marketers use in China into four groups:

  • Essential: high adoption and satisfaction. These social tactics and platforms, such as branded social profiles and Sina Weibo, are marketers’ ideal choices.
  • Promising: low adoption but high satisfaction. These social tactics and platforms, such as Douban and reviews on companies’ own websites, are emerging, and their marketing value is not yet proven, but satisfaction among marketers now using them bodes well.
  • Overvalued: high adoption but low satisfaction. These social tactics and platforms, such as Renren, while widely used, fall short of marketers’ expectations.
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How To Measure Your Social Media Efforts In China: Which Stage Are You At?

Are marketers in China measuring social media properly? Our data says NO. Marketers, if you are wondering at which stage you are for social media measurement and how you should improve it, the report “Social Media Measurement In China” is right for you.

In the report, we surveyed interactive marketers in China and found that most marketers are still at the early stage of social media measurement.

  • Social measurement is not new but very challenging. Nearly every social marketer we surveyed is measuring their social efforts. However, most consider effective measurement to be their top challenge in social marketing.
  • Marketers are measuring the wrong things. Most marketers we surveyed in China say increasing brand favorability is their primary social marketing objective, but most don’t conduct brand-impact surveys to measure it. Instead, the top three metrics that marketers use are number of fans/followers, number of comments, and number of shares.

We state in the report that marketers in China mature through three stages of social measurement:

  • Stage 1: Measure volume metrics, such as number of fans and number of shares.
  • Stage 2: Measure engagement, such as participation rate and fan activity.
  • Stage 3: Measure business success, such as brand awareness and sales contribution.
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Effectively Harnessing Chinese Video Platforms For Marketing Success

If you still consider online video advertising merely as a complement to TV advertising in China, then you are wrong. My latest report “Marketers Embrace The Power Of Digital Video In China” tells you why.

In this report, based on the analysis of Chinese online consumers’ video consumption behavior and marketers’ spending intention, we conclude that online video is becoming mainstream to both Chinese consumers and marketers.

  • Consumers embrace online video and ad-supported entertainment. Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that 95% of metro Chinese online adults watch videos on a computer at least monthly, compared with 49% in the US. Also, 72% of metro Chinese online adults prefer advertising-supported free content over pay-per-view content.
  • Marketers are shifting ad budget from TV to online video in China. Unlike in the US and Europe where online video is taking budget from print or direct mail, marketers in China begin to shift ad budget from TV to online video.
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Identify The Right Social Platform For Your Marketing Efforts In China

Greetings from Beijing! Allow me to introduce myself — my name is Xiaofeng Wang, and I’m a new analyst at Forrester, having just joined in November 2012. My coverage focuses on digital marketing, and, specifically, how marketers should harness the power of social media in China.

After working at Sina Weibo (a major Chinese social media platform) for around three years, I joined Forrester with a lot on my mind regarding social media in China. A highly fragmented platform landscape, the lightning-speed evolution of technology, and marketers’ struggle to identify the right platform to engage audiences effectively all weighed heavily as I set out to write my first report. I’m pleased to announce the outcome of my analysis, entitled “Winning Social Media Marketing In China,” is now live on our website. 

In the report, we divide the development of Chinese social media into three different dynasties: the Kaixin001/Renren dynasty, the Weibo dynasty, and the WeChat dynasty. Each social dynasty is defined by different features, which are the key reasons behind their adoption. For example, anonymity and casual connections contributed to the initial boom of Weibo, while WeChat is increasingly attracting privacy-conscious users. By tracing the rise and fall of a handful of social giants, the report helps marketers understand what features matter the most to Chinese consumers and the marketers who want to target and engage them.

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