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WeChat & Weibo: Better Together?

For most companies, launching into China’s social stratosphere can seem like a daunting task. Among the ever increasing number of platforms, brands are often forced to enter the debate between China’s social goliaths, Weibo and WeChat.

How are they different? Which is better? Is one replacing the other?

To begin with let’s get this straight, you can’t link from Weibo to WeChat and the cross platform functionalities leaves something to be wanted. However, when harnessed correctly these platforms can be used in unison, not just as separate entities, but in a complementing manner to achieve marketing goals.

Weibo, with 198 million monthly active users (MAU’S), is the first stop on the social media campaign trail when it comes to brand exposure. Brands use the platform much like Twitter, actively engaging in conversation with followers and posting content on relevant topics. These methods are used  to increase reach and awareness, as well as a way to gain insight into the lifestyles and preferences of their target customers. Weibo continues to be the first port of call for Chinese netizens wishing to gain information on a brand, and the place they’re likely to be exposed to a brand that they previously knew nothing about. As Weibo encourages casual browsing with accounts that are publicly accessible users, the platform is a place where companies can turn strangers into potential customers. Brands use Weibo’s rich media functionalities, as well owning hashtags to increase brand visibility.

On Mother’s day 2015, a number of brands launched campaigns on Weibo to celebrate the holiday. New York based luxury brand Coach launched a campaign called #MyFirstCoach. Coach encouraged Weibo users to upload photos of themselves with their mothers and hashtag it with #MyFirstCoach. Those who share a photo with the hashtag have an opportunity to be featured on the Coach Website and win a coach wristlet for their mothers. The hashtag’s landing page received 45,000 discussions and over 44 million views.

On the other hand, WeChat, which currently commands 600 million MAU’s is more focused on one-to-one communication. Brands use WeChat as a way to retain their customers and further promote their products. Alongside sharing texts, videos and voice messages among close friends, users can also make mobile payments, browse e-commerce stores, book taxis and check in for flights among an array of other functions. Unlike Weibo’s publicly accessible accounts, users choose which brands to subscribe to, much like adding a friend. Due to these privacy settings, brands can communicate with consumers one-to-one, which can have a huge impact on brand loyalty if handled with care.

A way brands on WeChat have capitalised on the one-to-one nature of the platform is by promoting interaction with followers, using creative ways to capture their attention and involvement. In recent months, Mailman Group created two campaigns to promote the official GoUSA WeChat account. The campaigns involved interactive games which were fun and easy to participate in, with an added incentive for those who were successful. Both campaigns had a combined number of 927 participants over a 4 day period, actively promoting the GoUSA brand and remaining engaged with potential customers.

Whilst the aforementioned campaigns were by all means a success, careful application of both Weibo and WeChat can have an even bigger impact on reaching a specific target audience. With Chinese tourism on the rise and Australia becoming an increasingly popular destination, Singapore Airlines teamed up with Tourism Australia to launch a cross platform campaign, in a bid to attract Chinese visitors to the great down under. The Campaign combined destination education to promote travel planning, with promotional airfares to boost bookings and reservations.

On Tourism Australia’s Weibo account, posted content supported campaign activities and travel education, which was reinforced by key opinion leaders, who are an integral part of Chinese social media campaigns. On WeChat, the brands created rich content to inspire travel planning while launching a mobile mini site to allow smartphone users to participate seamlessly in campaign contests and activities. Combined, the two brands brought potential Chinese travellers through a multi-stage journey of Australia’s top seven cities, resulting in over 4 million views.

Whilst the argument may long continue on Weibo vs. WeChat, brands should not question which is better for their specific promotion. Instead they should relish in the diversity that both platforms offer, and continue to invest in ways of creating unique and innovative campaigns, forming a  bond with customers and accomplishing marketing objectives.

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