There are any number of social platforms in China that can be used for marketing. But if you live in China, have a business in China, or are simply interested in how Chinese people communicate online, then QQ is one of the main social media platforms you should learn about.
Today Tencent’s QQ IM has 808 million active users. QQ IM is an instant messaging service just like Skype, MSN messenger, WhatsApp or Line. It is available on both desktop and mobile. Most people use QQ for sending messages, followed by browsing Qzone and then playing games.
According to Tencent's financial report of Q4, 2013, Qzone has 625 million monthly active users. Of these 416 million are active mobile app users. This is compared to Sina Weibo's 129 million monthly active users and WeChat's 355 million monthly active users by Q4, 2013.
On April 11, 2014, it was reported that Tencent QQ Peaking Concurrent Users (PCU) hit 200 million for the first time. Over 70% of these QQ users were mobile users.
To open a QQ account is totally free. Anyone who has a QQ account also can use Qzone. Qzone users use the Facebook like site to blog, keep diaries, send photos, listen to music, and watch videos.
In China, 70% of social media users are under the age of 35 (30% are between 26 and 30). Internet users spend five to six more hours online per week more than Americans and an average of 46 minutes per day on social networks. 38% of Chinese consumers make product purchase decisions based on recommendations they read on social networks.
It is for these reasons that QQ is used for marketing in China. Qzone, especially, has been able to leverage its huge subscribers’ base to expand into the social media environment that is geared towards sharing and spreading information.
Below I answer five frequently asked questions about how QQ can be used for marketing.
QQ is a great marketing tool if used in the right circumstances. It is a great platform for sharing information amongst a group of people who have a shared interest.
Let me use an example to explain the benefits clearly. A group of Chinese students want to study abroad at a particular university. The university in question can set up a group on QQ and invite students who are thinking of joining. This way the university is able to give all the students the same information at the same time, ultimately saving the university time and resources.
Chinese students currently at the university in question can also be added to this group. In this way the prospective students can ask current students questions about university life, university classes and the city where they might study in general, all in Chinese.
The benefits of using QQ IM in this way are clear to see. The university can moderate the group and facilitate any questions that prospective students, and even current students, may have.
The institution running the QQ group can give information to people en mass and save time having to answer individual questions. In fact, the group starts to run itself with individuals answering questions that might arise. The group owner, once the group is up and running, only has to moderate the group to make sure that the information being spread is correct.
The example above can be applied to various businesses and is an effective and efficient way to market a particular service or product that people have a shared interest in.
You can use a personal QQ IM account for marketing purposes. There are a few things to take into account if you want to do this.
A basic QQ IM account lets you have up to a maximum of 500 friends. Depending on how often you are logged into the account you can improve your ranking and push the maximum allowed limit up.
For example a ranking of 0 to 15 means you can have 500 friends. A ranking of 16 to 19 lets you increase your friend limit by 50. A ranking of 48 and above means you can have up to 900 friends.
You can also pay for QQ membership, which gives you various levels of VIP status. A three-month membership costs around US$5. An annual membership costs around US$20.
Again, the amount of time you spend logged into QQ changes the amount of friends you can have. The monthly fee at VIP1 level lets you have up to 1,000 friends, whereas VIP7 level means that you can have up to 1,700 friends.
The basic VIP1 level with an annual membership means you can have up to 1,300 friends. VIP7 level lets you have a maximum of 2,000 friends.
QQ groups allow you to add a certain amount of people together, as in the example above. There are some conditions to be met that determine the size of the group and how many groups you can have.
A basic QQ IM account lets you have up to 200 people in a group. You are only able to run one group with a basic account. Once you move up to level 4 you can have one group of 200 and another group of 500 people.
The highest level you can reach is 48 and this allows you one group of 200 and four groups of 500 people. There is no membership fee for these basic levels.
As with the personal accounts, if you pay the membership fee you are entitled to extra services. An annual fee lets you add an extra group of 1,000 people. Again, depending on how often you use the account you will get extra privileges.
VIP1 level gives you an extra four groups of 500 people. The highest level, VIP7, adds an extra four groups of 500 people and an extra two groups of 1,000 people.
Most people who use QQ IM use it to browse Qzone. This means there is massive potential to leverage the Qzone platform for marketing purposes.
It should be noted that most Qzone users come from third and fourth-tier cities and are generally under 25 with a limited spending budget. But these users will one day join the middle class and are open to clever, modern marketing.
Celebrities and organisations that are currently promoting themselves on Qzone have accumulated a total of 2.2 billion fans, 400 million of which are active users.
Oreo also pulled off a successful social marketing campaign on Qzone. At the end of 2013, Oreo launched a ‘Zone of Child Innocence’ campaign. It gathered 130 million impressions from 3.28 million participants in three days.
During Spring Festival 2013, Qzone users uploaded 2.2 billion photos to their Qzone homepages and shared 530 million status updates. More than 100 million people sent virtual gifts to friends on Qzone.
In March 2014, Xiaomi sold its Redmi smart phone on Qzone. Within seven days, 300,000 Redmi+ phones attracted 15.18 million pre-orders. On the first second the real purchasing started, 419,000 users clicked and Xiaomi's Qzone fans increased from 19 million to 26.05 million.
Tencent Weibo is one of the most used microblogs in China. Because QQ and Tencent Weibo are both part of Tencent’s social network portfolio, both can be integrated and used for marketing.
Tencent Weibo has 540 million registered users. Whereas QQ IM is better used as a direct messaging app, Tencent Weibo is more in the mould of Twitter. Because it is an open platform, brands’ messages can be spread very widely and quickly if they go viral.
Qzone and Tencent Weibo can also be integrated with QQ IM so that one platform can control all the information that you want to share.
Do you use QQ? Have you used it for marketing in China? I’d love to hear about your experiences if you have.