Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp are the most popular digital communication tools nowadays; but, not in China. So how does 618 million China internet users communicate? This post serves as an introduction for that.
QQ: Communications for both Personal and Business Use
Tencent’s success is built on their instant messenger, QQ. In China, it’s very widely used IM with about 800 million active users; between friends, among strangers, and for business purposes.
Every QQ account starts with a numerical number like “23443242” and the user will automatically get an email address “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
The convenience is one reason why it’s even popular among people for business use. Emailing is still not many people’s habits at work and hence QQ has become a tool for many to send and receive files.
QZone: China’s Biggest Social Network
As an extended application to QQ account, QZone has over 600 million users, allowing users to write blogs, keep diaries, share photos, listen to music, and watch videos. The users can decide who can see the posted content with privacy setting, being public, QQ friends, a specific person or self-only.
Weibo: A Public Communication Tool
Weibo started more like a Twitter equivalent in China, which soon evolve to a unique social media channel with some Facebook features and its own unique features with over 500 million users and 129 million monthly active users.
By default, posts published on Weibo are visible to all other users unless set for Weibo friends only (mutual following) before publishing. China internet users share, communicate and comment on all various information on Weibo, from personal feelings and activities to breaking news and government policies.
Government agencies, celebrities and companies also set up their Weibo accounts to communicate directly with China internet users.
Wechat: A Private Mobile Social Communication App
Wechat, or Weixin (local version in China), considered as a WhatsApp competitor from Tencent, now has over 355 million monthly active users.
Many of my Chinese friends don’t send me SMS any more; they send me messages on Wechat. So are many other post-80s and post-90s Chinese. Surprisingly, it even penetrates into the elderly group. My mother, almost 60 years old, uses Wechat who doesn’t properly use computers.
Wechat is much more than a mobile instant messaging app, with social features. Moments, a popular function on Wechat, allows users to share articles and photos among friends. Wechat has strict privacy setting, only friends will be able to see the shared posts or comments.
Advice for Communication Managers
To develop effective digital communication strategy, corporations must have a thorough understanding of the uniqueness of primary digital channels. Simply opening an account for each channel is not considered “communications”; nor is posting the same content on all channels.
Coca Cola cooperated with Sina Weibo to promote its customized “nickname bottle” incorporating internet buzzwords into its branding using Weibo Wallet, clearly targeting young consumers. It costs about 20 yuan a bottle and 300 bottles sold out in one hour on the first day.
Coca Cola recently worked with Wechat to provide pincode printed inside the Coca Cola caps which consumers can use to get discount on Wechat stores. If only 1% of 990 million bottles with pincode are used, that’s a lot of user information which will be at the same time very valuable besides enhanced branding.