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New social apps gain traction at icons' expense

By He Wei in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-28 10:37
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A sign shows how to use WeChat Pay at a duty-free shop in Tokyo. The popular electronic payment method in China is now accepted abroad. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Chinese users of domestic social media apps expect to reap more benefits from them this year, a latest study has found.

But, the only major exception is WeChat, the versatile, powerful app with over 1 billion users.

Most users feel using social media apps helps relieve life pressures and in making better choices while shopping, according to consultancy Kantar.

The research report was based on a survey of 242,000 online users or families with real-name authentication. Shopping data relating to 40,000 families were analyzed.

The reason why the all-in-one killer app WeChat is no longer producing peak satisfaction for its users is, paradoxically, its high penetration rate of 97 percent.

Over three quarters of respondents now use WeChat to perform work-related tasks, the report said.

Among urban people, WeChat has become a saturated avenue for socializing and marketing. The satisfaction score has dropped to 80.6 from 83.5 a year ago, against 100 that indicates "fully positive".

Up and coming apps like short-video operator Douyin and social commerce site Pinduoduo are eating into the market shares of social media veterans like WeChat and micro-blogging service Weibo.

For example, Douyin's active penetration rate in urban China surged from 25 percent in March to 38 percent in August.

This could mean newer apps can cash in on their growing popularity and grow their advertising revenue from brands, said Zhao Chen, a mobile business analyst at media buying agency GroupM in China.

"We predict that this year, Douyin is set to become the go-to app, with more brands allocating advertising budget to the platform, thanks to its huge traffic and its ability to capture new audiences through interactive content," she said.

The app is gaining in popularity outside China through its overseas avatar called Tik Tok. The mobile app was recognized as Indonesia's best and most entertaining app of the year on Google Play, following a string of similar honors in South Korea, Mexico and Japan.

"The use of social media platforms by advertisers is no longer an option, but a 'must' as part of any wider communication strategy," said Jeff Tsui, managing director of digital data provider Lightspeed in China. "Almost every major brand across different categories would have a WeChat public account nowadays. Setting up such an account is easy, but often what has been neglected is how to make such public accounts sustainable over time."

That social media platforms are going through a transition that can be best understood by analyzing the performance of so-called key opinion leaders or KOLs, who are influencers of community opinions, choices and perceptions. On apps such as Weibo and WeChat, two of China's most well-established social media platforms, KOLs are having a tough time adjusting to changing user preferences.

For instance, KOLs on WeChat hold sway in major categories from lifestyle to travel. But in entertainment, Weibo's KOLs carry greater punch.

"Marketers need to understand how to manage KOL/celebrity price inflation, calculate real influence and measure outcomes scientifically," said Coolio Yang, China CEO of Kantar Media CIC, the consultancy's social business intelligence arm.

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