Their assignment was to recommend a strategy for a news organization or business that they would like to work for. They chose, among others, the Wall Street Journal, China Daily, Xinhua News Agency, Financial Times, Economic Observer, Tanzania Broadcasting Corp., Ikea, Whirlpool appliances, and Elle magazine.
Several of the marketing plans included WeChat, which is a free text- and voice-message service for cellphones. WeChat allows its 300 million users worldwide to connect with anyone in their phone's address book. It has added 100 million users since September.
The student who chose the Wall Street Journal suggested it improve its WeChat service by having some of its reporters interact with followers. "Right now, followers do not get any response to messages sent on WeChat."
Another student recommended a WeChat campaign for CCTV, China's main television network, that would include short news videos designed for viewing on smartphones. The student suggested that CCTV recruit some young people to be video reporters and allow users to upload their own videos, modeling CNN's iReport.
A student designing a campaign for an Indonesian airline chose WeChat as a platform in order to reach the potentially lucrative Chinese market, whose mainland audience can't access Facebook and Twitter.
WeChat's strength and weakness: privacy
WeChat users can broadcast messages to groups, follow brands, share photos and videos, and connect to new users through location services. The voice messaging feature is especially popular among Chinese speakers who don't want to take the time to punch in Mandarin characters or Pinyin.
The disadvantage of WeChat compared to the Twitter-like service Weibo is that messages are private. They go only to a person's address-book contacts, each one of which is linked to a particular telephone number. On the other hand, the link to an actual phone number is an advantage from an advertising perspective: WeChat doesn't have the zombie accounts that abound on Weibo.
Marketers like WeChat because messages passed among contacts on this platform are more likely to be viewed, close to 100 percent, as opposed to an estimated 15 percent of Weibo users who might see a particular message from a contact in that network. (To explain: You see virtually every text message your phone contacts send you but not every Facebook or RenRen update your friends make.)
China marketing experts compare WeChat and Weibo on this video.)
Some thoughts about the popularity of WeChat in China, article.
- Reuters news service and Xinhua News Agency both need to open accounts on RenRen, the Chinese Facebook, and share articles of interest to young readers.
- The Russian newspaper Argumenty i Fakty, which has 8 million online readers, is missing an opportunity by not allowing comments on the articles it posts to the social network vk.com, which has 43 million users a day. The newspaper has only 11,000 followers to its VK account, partly because it simply posts links to its articles and no comments are allowed.
- McKinsey & Co.'s Weibo account should have a more conversational and user-friendly tone so that it matches the tone used by the platform's audience.
- People's Daily's Weibo account, with 6 million followers, should lighten up on the politics and post some articles about entrainment and social issues to draw in young people.
- Caijing (Finance) magazine should respond to user comments on its Weibo account, especially the controversial ones and those left by well known people.
- Elle Magazine Indonesia should add Instagram to the social networks it is already using because it allows easy posting of pictures, which is perfectly suited to the visual nature of fashion.
- China Daily should reduce its four Weibo accounts to two, with one of them being the English Learning account. This account should have guest speakers engage in live chats with Weibo users. "The theme of political English learning should be highlighted. English topics relevant to current political events can be updated every day, including new words, useful sentences, etc."
Many news media are missing the point of social media by not socializing or interacting with the audience, students said.
Several proposed contests in which social media users would attach a hashtag related to a product and post related photos, videos, or comments. The user generating the most "likes" would win a prize. This encourages friends to share the posts of their friends and create a viral campaign around the product. These contests are popular among young people in Asia. Surveys and competitive quizzes could also generate buzz, several said.
Credibility is key in social networks, so several students recommended that no comments be filtered. They said the audience is more likely to trust an unfiltered thread that allows negative comments.