If you live in China, you have almost certainly heard of Tencent and QQ. If you don’t, and you haven’t, this post is definitely for you.
Before I even arrived in China, I was hearing from family and friends about QQ, an instant messaging system, and how popular it is in China. However, it wasn’t until I got here that I realized just how big Tencent actually is, and how important a role its platforms like QQ play in the day-to-day lives of consumers. If companies and marketers are looking to target Chinese consumers, they definitely need to be thinking about Tencent and its platforms.
Who is Tencent?
Tencent’s vision is to be the world’s most respected internet company, and their mission is to enhance people’s quality of life through internet services. Tencent was founded in 1998, and has grown to be one of China’s largest internet service portals and one of the world’s top internet firms, with revenues over $1.5 billion. Due to the size of Tencent, it’s a key player today in the new media landscape, and its goal is to provide its users with a “one-stop online lifestyle service” through internet, mobile, telecom services and online advertising. Tencent’s leading internet platforms in China are QQ Instant Messenger, QQ.com, SoSo, QQ Games, QZone, 3g.QQ.com, PaiPai and Tenpay, and they have brought together China’s largest internet community. The development of Tencent has connected the people of China and influenced the way millions of users communicate and interact with one another. It also brings a wide range of applications into China’s industries that were previously unavailable.
So What is QQ?
Tencent’s QQ instant messenger is one of its most profitable platforms in China, attracting hundreds of millions of users. China’s QQ is similar to Skype in the West. According to data on TheNextWeb.com, QQ’s active daily users has surpassed 167 million, while the actual number of users is now well over 720 million; numbers that dwarf those of the estimated 40 million daily users that Skype has peaked at.
Both services do, of course, share certain similarities – video calling, online messaging and text-messaging features – but QQ has a much greater online influence and provides more services to their users than Skype will ever offer. Tencent has many platforms, including games, instant messaging, e-commerce, online payment services, search engines, information security and many more, connecting Chinese internet users in a way that goes beyond the reach of any other global messaging company. Any QQ user has access to the services that Tencent has integrated into QQ IM. According to Alexa.com, QQ.com (China’s largest internet service portal) is ranked as the eighth most visited website in the world, and is second only to Baidu.com in China. It literally allows people from all over China to connect with a single click of a button.
If you’d like to see how many users are on QQ right now, check out Tencent’s real-time map of China, which highlights all the current QQ hotspots.
What About for Us English Speakers?
Tencent has launched QQ International (QQi) to create an instant messaging program targeted towards foreigners; the program is currently launched in English, French and Japanese. QQi “is intended for users worldwide to connect with their Chinese friends, clients, customers, or just about anyone anywhere in the world,” according to Tencent.
Tencent is also trying to exceed a foreigner’s typical web experience expectations by including other applications on top of the usual chat functions, such as news or language tools, travel deals, directories, and much more, all in order to provide all the information and tools foreigners might need while living in China. There are even groups such as “English People in China,” designed for foreigners to interact with each other and meet new people by exchanging ideas on similar topics. Whether it is staying connected with Chinese networks, meeting new people of various nationalities or using innovative applications, every user is potentially gaining something by using QQi.
While Tencent is not promoting the program beyond China, their only goal is to be known in every Chinese resident’s mind, and to be the instant message system foreigners automatically use when arriving in country. After the first year of its launch in 2010, CNET Asia noted that QQi had close to 50,000 users daily. By using QQi, foreigners are able to learn more about Chinese culture while engaging with the people of China, as it also offers access to all 720+ million users of the Chinese IM platform.
So How Are Marketers Using QQ?
A friend of mine, Rachael, interns for Plastered T-Shirts, a company that expresses the beauty of Chinese culture through fashion. She works as the marketing intern for the company, coming up with fresh, fun, creative ideas to promote the brand above its competitors. Through social media platforms such as Weibo and QQ, she tweets and comments about upcoming Plastered events, and her boss retweets her causing a chain reaction of retweets and making the brand more popular with every retweet. As a foreigner working for a Chinese company, she was required to learn the ropes on the various media outlets and first understand Chinese culture in order to successfully promote Plastered in a way that Chinese consumers would respond well to.
While social media platforms are growing tremendously across all regions of the world, one aspect of social media in China stands out: social media has greater influence on purchasing decisions for Chinese consumers than anywhere else in the world. Chinese consumers rely on word of mouth recommendations rather than information from news sources and advertisements because they do not trust formal institutions. As McKinsey China’s report shows, Chinese consumers are more likely to buy a product if they see it on a social media platform or hear about it through friends and family. The Chinese rely on reviews from opinion leaders, family and friends who share their opinions over social media and are skeptical about making purchases based on information coming from more official channels. Hence, it is essential that Rachael continues to tweet and comment about Plastered in order to promote her company’s products to Chinese consumers.
Companies are advertising on the internet in order to attract more consumers because studies show Chinese consumers spend more of their time on the internet than any other media platform. China has a younger generation of users surfing the web when compared to other countries, and they spend a large amount of time engaging in conversations and voicing their opinions about what they like and dislike through blogs and forums where they can remain anonymous and not have to worry as much about censorship. Companies need to find a way to engage with this younger generation since they will only spend their money on things that interest them. Online advertising targeted at a growing, wealthier middle-class will be increasingly effective since China is becoming a spending economy.
In China, every empty space is used for advertising, and this tends to create too much clutter, making the consumer feel numb to such advertisements through traditional media. Marketers need to appeal to consumers through the internet to break through the clutter and attract more consumers. Since 89% of Chinese mobile users use their phones to access social platforms like QQ, online marketers also need to target mobile users by creating the right interactive campaigns to engage their target audience. The companies that are able to successfully implement this will see an increase in sales from China’s middle-class.
Tencent is a leading provider of internet, mobile & telecom services in China. It is a key player in the media landscape and will only increase in size as new platforms are added to supplement its current portfolio. A close understanding of media platforms such as Tencent is absolutely essential for foreign marketers and companies. Business and social culture alike are now in many ways dependent upon platforms like QQ, and none are bigger than QQ itself.
Therefore, for those looking for new and effective ways to reach Chinese consumers, playing to the online crowd is a vital step in getting the most bang for your buck. Even if you’re unsure of how to take direct advantage of services like QQ to reach your Chinese audience, you still need to get your Chinese messages out into the digital space, so that those interested in your brand can share what they find. Of course, if you can make use of these platforms directly, you’re well on your way to reaching China’s most important demographic.
This entry was posted in 101 Things About China, Digital Content, Online Influence, Tools & Tactics and tagged 101 Things, Advertising, Instant Messaging, Online Content, Online Media, Social Media, Tencent. Bookmark the permalink.