Psychology of WeChat – New Thinking for Success


The ubiquitous influence of phone app WeChat has created a unique psychology in China.  Understanding this mindset is key to marketing success in China. Read on to find out why.

WeChat, perhaps best understood internationally, as a similar to Facebook messenger on steroids, that it, you can message but increasing a whole lot more, including making purchases and managing other devices remotely.  The super intuitive interface and Q-code ‘scan and go’ usability, WeChat caught on like wildfire, amassing over 650 million users since 2011.

Keen to leverage the marketing impact of WeChat, brands have been increasingly using the app as their primary platform for China-based digital strategy.   At Resonance China, it is our responsibility to provide clearly actionable insight to our clients on how to best engage with local consumers on WeChat.   In response to this challenge, we have looked at how locals engage with the platform from a psychological perspective – interviewing and observing how WeChat is used by consumers in day-to-day life.

What we have discovered, goes beyond big data, to providing an in-depth profile of the mindset created by frequent WeChat usage.  With a little bit of ‘geek power’ from our SMART Research team, we have identified what is the subjectivity by WeChat, that it, what is the psychological mindset of Chinese WeChat-ers.

While this information is provided to all our agency and research clients, I have summarised some key observations for SBW readers.  Read on, to get inside the head of WeChat users.


Resonance has identified that WeChat users exhibit specific psychological traits

Some of the psychological traits of WeChat users that we include in our unique profiling process

  1. WeChatters have a unique way of structuring their circles of relationships.  This replicates itself through WeChat and by extension in their real life, and vice versa.  WeChat encourages a very select form of socialisation focussed on specific advantages to the original user, in terms of the information, business advantage or social status the relationship could confer.   Somewhat counterintuitively, WeChat has made locals more selective and insular in the way they construct their relationships.  For brands wanting to encourage sharing of their content on WeChat, understanding this dynamic is essential to seeding information in the correct way.
  2. WeChatters have a heightened expectation of service in the real world.  Due to seamless ‘swap and pay’ feature of WeChat Wallet, WeChatters tend to place an increasingly high premium on service in the real world.  In interviews with local netizens, we were able to draw a clear link between “dissatisfaction with traditional service” and “desire for personalised service” to an expectation they had formed in their WeChat reality.  That is – WeChat has created levels of sensitivity and impatience with many aspects of traditional retail and service.   A reflection of this psychology is the growing trend of groups of people meeting for bespoke meal preparation, where they book out a restaurant and define the service themselves as a WeChat group.
  3. WeChatters have their own way of browsing and accessing information.  Like new media technologies before it, WeChat has created a new way of ‘reading’ information.  The highly uniform standard of WeChat articles can means WeChatters can seamlessly skim of a large majority of material, without any profound level of engagement – a view statistic may not really mean a “view”, but rather a “flck”.  Based on the unique reading style of WeChatters,  we have created digital media plans that focus on ‘strategic disruption’ through presenting information that means WeChatters will be provoked to ‘dig deeper’, meaning content is ‘stickier’ and catches their attention.
  4. Finally, no more secrets, Wechatters have their own communication style.   When morse code was the predominant and most reliant form of communications, operators were often recognisable by their ‘fist”- that is the speed and rhythm that they used to tap messages.   Looking at WeChat users from the same perspective, we have noticed they too have a recognisable ‘fist’, with its own particular rules and conventions.  For example the use of spaces and emoticons is a something that has a very specific connotation in WeChat versus other social platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat.

But now we might be getting into secrets of how far we have gone to understand the psychology of WeChat users.  To get the full story on how we have decoded WeChat psychology, organize a Resonance SMART presentation for your team.  We are confident no-one is looking at this as deeply as we are.


About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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