WeChat tested a new feature in a canary release of its photo-sharing function Moments that allows users to comment with stickers. This is a sign that the popular instant messaging app is trying to engage more users amid an aggressive monetization push.

Why it matters: The Tencent-owned app is vigorously working on monetizing its 1 billion daily active users with more advertisements being introduced to the popular Moments feature. On Moments, users can share texts, photos, and short videos with friends and families. The move has seen a backlash from some users.

  • Stickers are popular among Chinese social media users.
  • They are usually converted from Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) images and comprise images of celebrities, viral memes, movie clips, animals, or simply a line of text.
  • WeChat has tried to avoid cluttering up Moments’ social aspect with too much commercial activity. It hosts a relatively smaller proportion of branded ads compared to offerings like Facebook’s News Feed or Instagram.
Image credit: TechNode/Coco Gao

Details: Many users were quite happy when they found the new feature, released on Monday night. Previously, only texts were allowed.

  • The hashtag #WeChatAllowsStickerComment (our translation) became the top trending topic on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform on Monday night.
  • The hashtag has drawn over 137,000 posts associated with it and received more than 900 million views on the platform as of the time of publishing.
  • Most users expressed support for the update. “Really? What great news,” one Weibo user commented.
  • Some, however, criticized the feature for lack of visual appeal. “After the update, my Moments is full of cramped small images—it now looks like a toilet wall covered with illegal poster ads!” another complained.

Context: In January 2015, WeChat started to run ads on Moments and allowed users to interact with them.

  • The advertising campaign was restrained in the beginning. It was reported that each user would see only one ad in their Moments feed every 48 hours.
  • In January 2017, an upgrade allowed brands to advertise in more interactive ways with multimedia-enabled ads.
  • In May, WeChat added another ad slot on Moments in addition to the existing two slots, meaning that users will see three ads every day in their news feed.

Wei Sheng

Wei Sheng is a Beijing-based reporter covering hardware, smartphone, and telecommunications, along with regulations and policies related to the China tech scene. Before joining TechNode, he wrote about...

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