WeChat is super popular in China and definitely the hottest channel for social marketing in China. We see more and more companies launching their official accounts on WeChat and have their 2D code printed on all sorts of materials, on brochure, site, t-shirt etc. Scan the 2D code and follow us on WeChat, has become the most common method for companies to be engaged with their users/customers.
The Embassy of Denmark understands Chinese social media very well. As the first European embassy in China, it just launched its official WeChat account. We feel super honoured to have the chance to talk to Mr. Friis Arne Petersen, the Danish Ambassador to China. The Chinese social media service, particularly for some foreign media, is always controversial as it’s often involved with the potential censorship and government control. We are very glad that Ambassador Petersen gave us an open talk and are also impressed by his understanding and insight on social media in China.
Do you have a team working on all sorts of Chinese social media? Is it easy for an embassy to get its official WeChat account approved by Tencent?
Our press and communication secretariat is handling all our Chinese social media platforms. It is mostly them who come up with the ideas for our Weibo, though I do try to be creative and come up with some of my own. It definitely took time to get our official WeChat account approved. We started the process the 10th of June 2013.
How do you think the importance of using social media in China for a foreign embassy, and what did you do before (on weibo etc)?
It is of great importance that we as a public organisation that wants to brand Denmark and Danish culture are present on the Chinese social media. There are today more than 600 million people on the Internet in China, and especially on mobile platforms the growth is huge. The explosive growth in the number of netizens has also resulted in an explosive growth in the number of users of social media. According to a study by McKinsey conducted in April 2012 based on 5,700 Internet users, 95 percent of Internet users living in major cities, registered on a social media, and 91 percent of users said that they had been using social media in recent six months. The corresponding figure for use should be compared with 67 percent in the U.S. and 70 percent in South Korea. Therefore social media is taking a more and more important role in Chinese society.
The public debates that you find on Weibo are in many cases the same that you would find in many other Western countries. There’s hate, pettiness, jealousy but also thoughtfulness, rationality and curiosity amongst the many comments. Sometimes criticism of government and corruption appears. The public debates that you find on Weibo are in many cases the same that you would find in many Western countries. The social media in China offers a quick insight into the thoughts and mindsets of Chinese citizens. In order to get a more whole picture of China today, you need to follow its social media.
We’ve been on Sina Weibo since March 2011 and today we have four Weibo channels that we maintain, where we in total have more than 350.000 followers. There we posted information about Denmark, Danish culture, the work of the Embassy, Danish cultural activities in China as well as Danish foreign policy. We try to make our news appealing so that people learn something about the aforementioned issues while also being entertained.
Why launch WeChat official account? What are you going to do with it (e.g. what information you plan to deliver through WeChat on daily basis) and what would be your expectation from this ‘new’ social media channel.
The Danish Embassy needs to be present with relevant information on Denmark where the users are. More and more Chinese netizens are starting to use WeChat as it is a more personalised platform than Weibo. Therefore the Embassy needs to be on Wechat. We hope that the information that we post on Denmark and Danish culture will hopefully be able to inspire even more Chinese netizens to get more interested in Denmark and going to Denmark as well as getting to know Danish culture. I think the intimacy that you have on WeChat allows for more lengthy and personal stories from Denmark that you won’t find on for example Weibo. On WeChat you have a one-to-one dialogue with people following you, while on Weibo you have a big virtual megaphone speaking to a large crowd. It is two distinctly different ways of communication.
You may forget about Weibo, even forget about QQ, now it’s really the era of WeChat. If you want to reach out to your Chinese users and customers, do make sure you are on WeChat.
(Photo taken by Zhang Peng)