I have been a migrant for my entire life. When I was just ten months old, I migrated from Northeast China to Southern China. That’s a distance of 2,342km – quite far for a baby. Then Changchun and a few other Chinese cities you have never heard, then to Beijing during high school. Today I’m at Sydney, 11 hours away from Beijing by aeroplane. I think you’d agree that I’m an experienced migrant. The most recent migration I did, was just this year, migrating from WeChat (the Chinese social media platform) to LinkedIn. Here’s the story, and my argument on why you should too (if you are using WeChat).
Please note: all views in this article and any other article I posted anywhere in the world are personal opinions only. They don't represent the views of my employer.
1. WeChat is convenient – too convenient to be safe
For those who don’t know about WeChat, it’s a Chinese super app that resembles Facebook, WhatsApp, PayPal, Tinder (and more western apps) combined. Its functions are superb, and its user interfaces are exceptional. But among the most attractive attributes of all – it has over 1 billion ACTIVE users – mostly Chinese. It is, therefore, the default app if want to target the Chinese for marketing purpose.
It’s free to use (even the marketing platform). And we all know there’s no such things as a free lunch. Like any other “free” social media, you trade the convenience and connectivity with your sensitive personal information – including your locations – where you work, where you live, where are you when you text your wife “I stay late for work” etc.
WeChat is not alone. You give away sensitive personal information to every app you use. But the ability to combine hundreds of data points about you, all in one application – it is pretty much giving up 100% of your privacy.
I have to mention that the document transfer function on WeChat is very similar to WhatsApp. It’s so easy that most people use that for work too. This is completely wrong.
It’s OK for you to give up 100% of your privacy, but I’m very certain that using it for work-related information is against your organisation’s data security policy.
2. You don’t know who you are connected to
This is the most annoying thing and also why LinkedIn is a lot better. On LinkedIn, you get to see the profile of the person you connect to. You can trust them better when you look at your friends (who you met in real life) are also linked to them. It’s not possible on WeChat. Most WeChat users do not use their real photos on WeChat, to combat various scams popular on WeChat. e.g. someone can download your profile photo and pretend to be you and then ask for money from your friends. I’m not blaming WeChat, because I’ve seen this scam on Facebook as well.
On the other hand, most serious users on LinkedIn would include a decent professional photo and complete profile. This does help to increase transparency and reduce the risk of fraud. You can (relatively) easily identify a fake LinkedIn ID (I have not heard of one yet) by checking their study/employment history – it has to make sense.
3. You should stay away from any social media
I think in general people should stay away from any social media, including Facebook. Social media addiction is the worst kind of addition of our time. When I how much time I wasted on WeChat last year, I made a new year resolution to not post a single thing on WeChat in 2018. It’s almost the end of 2018, and I have not posted a single word. I occasionally like and comment on my friends to make them feel better about themselves. But in general, I spend 1/100 time I used to spend on WeChat. I got so much more done by staying away from these meaningless social updates.
However, we still need to be connected to people outside our physical limitations. If you have to have connections, I believe LinkedIn is the platform to use. The only things you will miss out on LinkedIn are funny cat videos and hater speech about something unimportant. You won’t miss out on anything important – not even Donald Trump news on LinkedIn. Because of the existing users on LinkedIn, we have a much better environment than most other social platforms here.
4. Your Chinese friends and customers can access LinkedIn too
The reason that you can’t market to China through Google AdWords or Facebook, is because they are not accessible from China. I don’t want to talk about the reason here – but you know why. On the other hand, Microsoft has always done a great job when it comes to maintaining the official relationship with Chinese authority. Windows systems, MS Office, Bing and now LinkedIn is still accessible from China.
The Chinese recruiters and other business people are quite active on LinkedIn. Given this, is it worth the effort and risk to use WeChat to market to the Chinese? I don’t know. It depends. For some consumer products, it may be very effective on WeChat and Weibo (the Chinese equivalent to Twitter/Instagram). For most B2B deals, I’d assume LinkedIn more effective.
Last but not least. There are a lot of “Weibo marketing experts” or “WeChat marketing experts” out there. Who has real followers appropriate age groups with real purchasing powers? And who has bought a hundred thousand fake followers from Taobao (the Chinese version of eBay) for 20 dollars? – It’s tough to find out. I’m going to do some research in my spare time to find out more. You can subscribe to my newsletters to make sure you don’t miss out on this one.