As Icon continues to build cross-border communication with Australia’s largest trading partner, following our recent launch of Icon China, Group Account Director Richard Liistro shares his insights around the two social platforms taking China by storm.

Weibo and WeChat are the most popular and influential social platforms in China, providing unlimited opportunities for both domestic and international brands.

It is crucial for organisations to understand the nature and characteristics of both platforms in order to effectively reach their target audience. Weibo and WeChat are like the King and Queen in terms of their social influence and power. However, they have very different characteristics. Let’s look at how they shape up next to each other:

Weibo

  • Can be used on mobile or desktop 
  • An open platform with information and messages available to the public 
  • A one-to-many dissemination, which focuses on speed and openness 
  • Messages and news are quickly distributed to Weibo users 
  • Ads on Weibo are public 
  • Weibo users are not necessarily friends. However, they may have similar interests on topics such as food, travel or celebrities 
  • Weibo users mainly use the channel for getting alerts to breaking news stories and following celebrities

WeChat 

  • Mobile friendly; there is a simplistic version for desktop 
  • A selective and closed platform with information and messages only available to friends 
  • A one-to-one/ two-way communication. The platform respects privacy 
  • Messages and news are quickly shared among users’ friend circle 
  • Ads on WeChat are targeted, adding more value when shared with friends 
  • WeChat users use the platform to communicate to their friends and relatives. They don’t necessarily share the same interests but they are real friends in ‘real life’
  • WeChat users mainly use the channel to connect with friends

Weibo is open, fast and accessible. These characteristics can help brands to get messages and advertisements out quickly to the audience.

On the other hand, WeChat is private and intimate. It provides brands with the opportunity to build long-term relationships with loyal customers. 

Why Weibo and WeChat are important to brands? 

Weibo has more than 200 million active users monthly. Chinese celebrity users bring huge influences to the platform; it has also become an open forum for fans to have conversations with their favorite celebrities. As a social media platform, it is open, fast and visible, messages are delivered timely to interested users and groups. It creates great opportunities for brands to increase awareness and build interested groups. 

There are many successful examples (followers), such as Chanel (185 million), Benz (100 million), Durex (172 million) and American drama The Vampire Diaries + The Originals (864 million). Followers are interested in the particular topic and will spread relevant messages quickly for the brand. 

WeChat has 700 million active users monthly. It is a social communication platform providing one-to-one and group messaging, friend circle (Moments), and Subscription Accounts etc. It is selective and intimate platform for people to build and maintain friendships. Many brands have identified the opportunity to build a loyal costumer base and CRM within the platform. Content is more creditable and targeted in comparison to Weibo. 

Whichever platform you choose, you need to think carefully about your audience and what they want to hear and see from you on these platforms. Otherwise, it could become a costly exercise that can be much more damaging than useful.