In the western world, many people think that WeChat is the Chinese version of WhatsApp, but this is a slightly simplified version of the true story: born as an instant messaging service in 2011, today Wechat is actually a multilevel platform, more and more distant from competitors direct and increasingly active in sectors far from the initial core business.
One of the activities that this app is most influencing is that of marketing in China. In fact, WeChat, known in China as Weixin, is today the key to b2b and b2c communication, the true winning marketing tool that allows Chinese and foreign companies to get in touch with their consumers.
The WeChat application, developed by Tencent, a company listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, allows you to combine the functions of WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype, Paypal, Uber, and Tinder in one platform: what does this mean? Imagine being able to write, speak, pay bills, call a taxi, buy cinema tickets, transfer money and find a partner for the evening without ever leaving the application you are using: with WeChat you could do all this and much more).
For this WeChat has been defined as an app aggregator: simplifying the user experience and providing a single tool for all the main daily activities via smartphone, which has reached one billion accounts worldwide (March 2018). Not only that, but WeChat also provides English-Chinese translations in real-time, the insight panel to control sponsorship campaigns, and all the data necessary for proximity marketing.
After the blocking of WhatsApp and the censorship of social media that we are used to using in Europe, Tencent’s strategy in China has been to respond to all the needs met by the “forbidden” tools with a single application: and the result is it was amazing.
The Internet user is the Wechat’ heart
Wechat is, therefore, emphasizing an already clear trend in the world market: consumers are increasingly independent, increasingly connected, and above all increasingly “faster”: using a single platform for different functions allows the user to save time and provides companies with a unique opportunity for loyalty. Entering the Wechat ecosystem means reaching the consumer from different directions: with products, with advertising, and with offers dedicated to individual targets, all thanks to a single company profile.
Does Wechat has rules made by the Government?
The level of internet freedom in China declined due to the new cybersecurity law. The cybersecurity law, which took effect on June 1, 2017, increased censorship requirements, mandated data localization, and codified real-name registration rules for internet companies, in addition to obliging them to assist security agencies with investigations. New regulations and guidelines that stemmed in part from the cybersecurity law were continually introduced at a rate of nearly one every two days in 2017 to further refine online restrictions. Websites and social media accounts are subject to deletion or closure at the request of censorship authorities, and internet companies are required to proactively monitor and delete problematic content or face punishment
Wechat has its own” great firewall” full of regulations
This is also true for WeChat, for its users especially when it comes to groups. Just the rules on the subject so as not to go against Chinese law. According to China Daily, the rules are intended to “better develop China’s online environment, protect the legal rights of Chinese netizens and online organizations, and safeguard national security and the public interest.”
- Wechat groups
WeChat groups are very common in China. They are used for friends chat, for organizing events, for meeting people, for sending advertisements looking for customers, for discussions about business or interests, and for a lot of different uses. The consequence of this wide range of uses is that it is easy to abuse it. Violations of Criminal Law are common; in fact, there are a lot of trials about the dissemination of obscene materials, undermining public order, assembling a crowd to disturb order at stations, public parks, or market places committed on WeChat Groups
Under the new rules, group owners are encouraged to take full responsibility for members and chat discussions. The rules apply not just to WeChat groups but to all those messaging apps such as QQ, Alibaba’s Alipay Chat, Baidu’s Tieba, Sina’s Weibo, and other social media platforms.
More specifically, admins are told to manage the conduct of all group members and make sure information posted in groups abides by the law, user agreements, and conventions.
- Wechat group platforms should build new credit rating and blacklist systems
Online group chat service providers are encouraged to verify the identities of users in all groups, clarify individual users’ responsibilities, manage online information and keep group chat logs stored for no less than six months. CAC also suggested messaging apps set up a credit rating and blacklist system, similar to the one currently in place for Alipay. Group chat services will be provided in accordance with their credit ratings, and supervision by the public is also encouraged to help better supervise the group chats.
What kind of contents are forbidden and can not be posted
In line with the regulations, even users most used by the Chinese has their own rules and there are also limits to what can be published, as some contents are illegal content
Below is a list of what content cannot be as illegal. A content should :
- Not infringe. Copyright and trademark infringement are obviously against the rules, but also under this rule’s umbrella is the banishment of fake accounts. This falls in line with Weibo’s cleanup of 60,000 “misleading” accounts last year, including celebrity impersonation and parody accounts. Plagiarism, libel, protection of corporate trade secrets, and invasion of privacy also fall under this rule.
- Not be erotic. No sending porn or sexually suggestive content in order to attract users.
- Not be violent. Torture, abuse, and killing of people and animals are off-limits. Depictions of drug use, self-mutilation, and other “disturbing content” are also no-nos. Lethal weapons, imitation or otherwise, are not allowed to be sold without proper qualifications. Guns, bows and arrows, knives, air guns, and other firearms are included.
- Not involve gamble. Organizing a poker night with your buddies? Think again. The sale of gambling equipment, organizing gambling, and teaching gambling techniques are not allowed.
- Not scam. Don’t post links to phishing sites or spread viruses. Self-explanatory.
- Not organize crime. This one includes banning “mafia-type content,” including hiring or luring users into gangs and terrorist cells.
- Not adverts counterfeit. China is full of fakes, and WeChat has specifically listed a few of the items users are not allowed to advertise. They include counterfeit money, cigarettes, stolen goods, fake IDs, credit cards, and false invoices.
- Not make false advertise. Cash-prize contests, pyramid schemes, exaggerated weight loss pills, breast enlargement, skin whitening products, and fake medicine are all listed under the fake advertising rule. Illegal goods and services are also laid out here, including ivory, drugs, prostitution, and human organs.
- Not make empty promises Posts that promise rewards for resharing links are banned. These include lotteries and pyramid schemes. Posts that attempt to bully users into spreading content – “share it or you’re unpatriotic”, or “share it if you value your safety” – are out of the question.
Chinese sensors will punish WeChat users who use language or images that describe or depict nudity, eroticism, sexual abuse, one-night stands, wife sharing, and “other harmful information,” according to a report from Reuters. Other offending material includes ads for drugs, ads about sexually transmitted diseases, voyeuristic media, and any leaked content.
Censors will close offending accounts for one week for each infraction, until the fourth. The fourth time an account is found to have been violating the new rules, the CAC will place a permanent ban on that user
Users who break the rules will face punishment
Rule breakers will be subject to punishment that could include a lower credit score and suspension or revocation of chat management rights. They will also be put on a blacklist and reported to the relevant government departments, who will keep the reports on file.
Group chats that release illegal information for example information that is vulgar, uncivilized, pornographic, terrorism-related, false, rumor-spreading or violent in nature will be suspended or shut down, and the group founder will be subject to all punishments listed above.
- Keyword censorship is hidden from users
Tencent, the $232 billion dollar giant that operates WeChat, has always practiced forms of censorship on its users that’s an inevitable part of running a popular online service in China, but at some point in recent years, it ceased informing users when their messages were blocked. In the past, the app would notify users when a message they intended to send wasn’t delivered because it was controversial, such as references to free speech groups or the Tiananmen Square massacre. Now, however, censored messages are simply not delivered with no notification for either sender or recipient.
By attempting to send messages with text related to the crackdown and the lawyers affected, Citizen Lab, a research group out of the University of Toronto, found that politically sensitive material simply does not get sent on WeChat at all. What’s more, the app does not tell users that their message has been blocked. This only affects users with accounts registered to mainland Chinese mobile phone numbers, and usually only in WeChat group chats, which allow up to 500 users to converse simultaneously.