With parent company Tencent seeking to expand its presence outside of China, WeChat has just launched a significant new feature allowing domestic Chinese users to synchronize Moments posts to Facebook and Twitter.
Of course, China’s Great Firewall means that access to Facebook and Twitter is still blocked inside mainland China, but the new feature should be useful to Chinese users living, traveling, and studying overseas, as well as those using a VPN within the mainland. Moments synchronization was already available to WeChat users who signed up using account information from outside of mainland China, according to a recent article published in the South China Morning Post.
Currently, the feature is only available for iPhone users, but reports say it will soon be accessible for those on Android. To access Moments synchronization to overseas social media platforms while residing in China, users will need to enable a VPN, but it’s not uncommon for wealthy WeChat users to have access to VPNs, especially if they frequently travel or do business abroad. VPNs are technically illegal in mainland China, and VPN operators frequently face government crackdowns, but in practice their use is tolerated. WeChat users with a domestic account traveling or living outside of China won’t need a VPN to access the social synchronization feature.
So what does this mean for brands? Firstly, the feature may make life easier for social teams already working with WeChat alongside Facebook and Twitter, by allowing one post to be automatically shared rather than posted multiple times. More importantly, the move allows social content to flow between WeChat users and the wider Chinese diaspora, some of whom may be using Facebook and Twitter, but not WeChat. Making content easily shareable across multiple platforms means brands can benefit from extended reach as a user in mainland China shares a post to friends on Facebook in the US, for example. At the moment, it’s not clear how well certain sponsored posts designed specifically to be hosted on WeChat will translate to Facebook and Twitter, but brands will likely be keen to explore the potential of this new feature.
For Tencent, this move is clearly a step towards expanding its users outside of China. “Now WeChat is more mature in its international strategy by focusing on Chinese tourists, Chinese overseas, and working with companies outside of China who want to reach Chinese consumers in China, as well as Chinese tourists,” Wang Xiaofeng, a senior analyst with Forrester Research, told the South China Morning Post.
The tech company’s bid for growth has also recently been supported by a strong first quarter. Tencent released its quarterly report, showing that gaming boosted revenue to a record US$7.2 billion in the three months ending in March, while online ad revenue from its swelling WeChat user base also contributed to the rise.