Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Marketing in China: things you need to know about China’s social apps

As we learned in class, Tencent-owned WeChat is a “super” app in China, which tends to dominate any discussion of China’s most popular mobile apps. The platform claimed a mind-blowing 768 million daily active users in 2016.

Weibo, a microblogging platform similar to Twitter, is second to WeChat in usage, with more than 341 million monthly active users. Other Chinese social apps including QQ (92 million MAUs), Momo (70 million), Tantan (16 million) and Oppo (12 million) rounded out the top five in a survey done by eMarketer in Dec 2016.

But I would question this China’s top 10 apps list. I agree that WeChat and Weibo are definitely the dominant apps, however, social platforms such as QQ and Renren have been dying since at least three years ago.  I wonder if there are still people using them. But one thing I know for sure is, Chinese millennials have long ago abandoned those apps. Douban remains the favorite app for the “literary youth,” which makes it a perfect place to market movies or books. As for “Oppo,” “Tashequ,” “Snow,” and “Myldol,” these are platforms for very niched users.

For many of China’s social apps, the challenge has been how to carve out a “defensible” niche given the dominance of WeChat and Weibo. One approach is to focus on dating and meetup functionality, a strategy used by both location-based network Momo and Tinder-like dating app Tantan. The threat here is most of the dating and meetup apps in China have bad reputations. They are notoriously known as apps for one night stands.

Another approach is to incorporate live streaming features—a tactic which has helped boost the popularity of apps like Meipai and Inke. Live streaming has been growing rapidly in China. It has attracted a rush of investment, led by China’s tech heavyweights, Tencent Holdings, Alibaba Group Holding, and Baidu Inc. Currently, there are about 150 live streaming platforms in China, most producing entertainment shows.

The good news for China’s expanding universe of social apps is that Chinese users are very willing to try new things and enjoy variety. According to eMarketer, iPhone users in China used an average of almost 40 apps per month.  

But personally, the most popular app in China would still be WeChat within many years. Because for Chinese, “WeChat is a way of life,” and that’s the slogan they’ve had since 2012.

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