- Language Tips
Gao Hongchuan from Beijing has a new way to kill time on the subway; reading or listening to news on weixin, a smartphone-based social networking application developed by Tencent.
"I follow nine public accounts including magazines and famous brands. Some are audio messages, while others are like a mini e-magazine," said Gao, who works in the advertising industry.
Originally weixin subscribers used the service to send instant text or voice messages. But since August, celebrities, media outlets and businesses have begun to use the platform as a means of sharing information.
Such is the popularity of the system that Tencent recently claimed it has accumulated 200 million users in the past 14 months.
One of the system's attractions as an information source is the quality of content, according to Gao.
"It only sends news after careful selection by an editor so the quality of content is high," he said. It also has the advantages that users do not miss messages when they are offline as they go straight to their mobile phone and that feeds can be unsubscribed from at any time, he added.
Subscribers are finding a variety of ways to use Weibo. Zhang, a 26-year old Chinese student studying in Britain, has created a micro-blog on weixin to share funny things about the UK. His blog has more than 330,000 followers.
"It is a very creative and promising platform. I enjoy posting audio messages and it is easier to do that on weixin than on Sina Weibo," he said.
For pop star fans weixin has become another way to keep up with news about their idols.
Chen Zhuo, an office worker from Wuhan, Hubei province, uses the service to listen to music by her favorite musicians.
"Mavis Fan (a singer from Taiwan) often sings songs for her followers on weixin, such as a unique wake-up song or a happy birthday song. I love this so much. Other stars update their photos and write about their feelings. I like to know the latest news about them."
Li Jian, a senior digital marketing manager at Edelman, believes weixin will go from strength to strength as an increasing number of celebrities begin to realize the benefits of using it to communicate with their fans.
"I believe a growing number of celebrities and media enterprises will join weixin and this will provide greater social networking services to its users," he said.