WeChat has banned external links that require users to invite clicks from contacts in an update to its external link policies on Friday.
Why it matters: The new rules may prove to be a heavy blow for companies that rely on WeChat for customer acquisition. However, WeChat users responding to a Weibo post about the news overwhelmingly welcomed the change, saying that they are increasingly bombarded by unsolicited spam messages.
- The high cost for user acquisition is a major pain point for Chinese internet companies. The popularity of similar WeChat-based marketing features highlights the app’s status as a major traffic source.
Details: WeChat has updated four items in its guidelines on external links concerning social sharing features and user avatars. The new adjustments will take effect on October 28, according to the statement.
- WeChat has banned posts that require users to ask contacts to repost, like, or click to open a link within the post to qualify for a discount or participate in a marketing scheme.
- Another new rule forbids companies from making unauthorized edits to user avatar and nicknames.
- Operations that require users to open another app or download a new app in order to obtain monetary rewards, physical prizes, and virtual prizes are also banned.
- The update also widens its ban on fraudulent activity to include group-buying links, including lotteries or sales of goods with an obvious disparity in price and product value.
“It’s the most annoying thing when a WeChat contact, who I haven’t talked to for a hundred years, [gets in touch] to ask a favor for a discount or to ‘like’ a WeChat Moments post” (our translation).
—Weibo user Love Avril on Monday morning
Context: WeChat, China’s most ubiquitous social media app with more than 1 billion active users, has a number of restrictions on external links, primarily concerning content or the source of the link.
- WeChat has also long been known for blocking external links to rival platforms such as Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao. Competitors frequently criticize the company for “monopolizing behavior.”
- WeChat’s extended ban on audiovisual links in May 2018 drew public outcry. The firm removed the policy just three days later.