Monday 2 December 2019 5:28 am

Social media lessons from TikTok, Tencent and Weibo

The average consumer would be forgiven for not knowing their Tencent from their Sina Weibo. In fact, it’s unlikely that they have heard of either platform. Yet these are two of the biggest social media companies in the world, bringing in billions in revenue each year.

From transferring money, playing games, and even booking doctors appointments, for Chinese consumers, most aspects of their lives can be controlled via a social network. And despite Whatsapp recently announcing plans to add in-app payments, the west lags behind. 

But at Hootsuite, we expect more Chinese social customs and technologies to spread globally — creating a bigger need for businesses to stay ahead of the advancements from across the Pacific. 

It’s important to understand what sets the east apart from the west: namely, its willingness to quickly experiment and learn when it comes to new technology.


Chinese social platforms are constantly being updated, with new functionality added wherever possible. Features that don’t get utilised are quickly canned, and those that flourish are then refined over time. 

And this approach is paying off. China’s traditionally closed tech market has been spreading globally. A prime example is the social media platform TikTok. The short-form video app has suddenly grown in popularity across the world, with 1.2bn downloads globally since its debut in September 2016. 

And the brands outside of China which adopted the platform early have certainly seen the benefit. 

Fashion label Guess, for example, was the first US partner for TikTok, with its #InMyDenim challenge.

The campaign had 33m users get involved, driving both reach and conversions, while also bringing the concept of a hashtag challenge to audiences worldwide. 

It is rumoured that Instagram will soon introduce a feature that could rival TikTok. Given Instagram’s history in quickly adopting popular features, western brands should already be implementing this short-form video content into their 2020 strategies. 

Over the coming years, the lines are likely to blur between eastern and western social platforms. But western brands should watch the region closely. Those that get ahead of the curve by replicating, refining, and improving upon social strategies which have seen success in the east, may well reap the benefits in their own markets, getting a foothold over slower competitors in the process.


Main image credit: Getty.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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