Last Sunday, 4 years after its release, WeChat finally introduced ads to its user’s Moments page (similar to Facebook’s news feed page).
It all started with this “What is this?” message from the WeChat Team.
The white characters in the six black blocks said,
It is everywhere
You can’t hide from it
Not that it’s evil
Just that it doesn’t understand you
We will try
To make a change
After that message, WeChat tested its first round of ads feed. It is said that WeChat ads were catered to different recipients based on big data analysis. For the initial trial, 3 ads – BMW, Coca Cola, and VIVO (an economical Chinese smartphone with strong music features) – were distributed to different groups of WeChat users.
These ads soon became viral. People started to share on their Moments page (similar to Facebook news feed page) about which ad they received, and came to the funny conclusion: the rich and successful got BMW, the funny and bubbly got Coca Cola, and those who cannot afford IPhone got VIVO. Besides, they also started to leave fun comments under the ads they received to express their feelings.
I think WeChat’s first attempt of ads feed was smart and successful in that it created fun talking points among users, generated more shares, and encouraged users to interact with the ads by leaving comments and “likes”. However, what happens after the thrill of the first trial is gone is more important. After all, it’s the clean and intimate user experience that made WeChat stand out from other social media platforms like Renren (“Chinese Facebook”) and Sina Weibo (“Chinese Twitter”) in China.
As stated in the message from the WeChat Team, WeChat clearly knows what accounts for a good online ad strategy and is seeking to distribute ads in a more personalized way that “understands” its users and “changes” tradition. In fact, you can already see some innovative attempts in its first ads feed. For example, you can hide the ad if you are not interested, by clicking on the “not interested” button, or you can “like” and comment under the ad just as what you do with your friends’ posts on your news feed. If you choose the latter, the ad will stay active for 7 days on your Moments page. However my concern is if there are too many ads showing on my Moments, then simply clicking on dozens of “not interested” button could be an annoying process itself. Besides, I do have high expectations in terms of the “voice” of WeChat ads and how they target certain groups. I hope WeChat can do something different from what we have already seen on Weibo or Facebook in order to preserve the intimate nature of WeChat. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what’s going to happen next.
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