We Heart It Simplifies Sharing
Media Business Report recently advised our members about Wanelo.com, short for WAnt, NEed, Lo ve, a new social platform designed to convert interest, passion and community into retail sales. Another social platform marketers, media companies and agencies should add to their portfolio is We Heart It, which several experts believe may dethrone Pinterest as the leader among sharing apps. With Facebook's $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp, media and advertisers have been rallying around messaging as a marketing tool, but China's Tencent is launching WeChat in the U.S. as a viable competitor, with support from Google. Other companies and emerging technologies we've recently reported on include Server Drones, Kik Messenger, SoundCloud, Oculus Rift and Glyph, Sonic Notify and Apple's iBeacons, and The Internet of Things.
We Heart It Simplifies Sharing
Among teens, the largest We Heart It user base, the app is both loved and hated. Loved because it is a widespread sharing site, and hated because its users often repost Tumblr feeds without credit, says one teen who has opted out of We Heart It. We Heart It is an image-based social sharing website that enables the sharing of inspiring images. The simplicity of We Heart It sets it apart from Instagram or Pinterest. Users can share images without feedback, assuring there is no bullying or negative feedback, unlike Instagram and Pinterest. We Heart It was founded in 2008 —before Instagram or Pinterest – but it was originally intended simply as a sharing tool for founder Fabio Giolito and his friends and family. He enabled the ability to "heart" a photo to save and share it. Growth surged and in 2011 Giolito raised capital for expansion. Today, We Heart It has more than 25 million users, a fraction the size of Pinterest, but several industry insiders predict that advertisers will be more attracted to in-depth relationships with smaller networks of more focused and dedicated consumers. The dominant user base of We Heart It is young and female.
We Heart It advertising involves using We Heart It to invite fans and consumers to share marketing messages and images by adding a We Heart It button to images on marketers' sites, Facebook pages, etc. We Heart It will not scale to the level of networks Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. But an October 2013 Business Insider survey reports that the leading social media networks (except Instagram) are declining in user base while emerging social media sites We Heart It,KiK, SnapChat,Wanelo, Weeworld and others gain greater traction and loyalty. Unfortunately, young consumers are transient and have little brand loyalty, creating not only a challenge for marketers, but for the media properties seeking to attract and hold them. Teens especially want to find their own "space" where they can connect with friends and likeminded individuals, but as soon as this space becomes cluttered with too many people and with marketing messages, they're more likely to move on.
China's WeChat Targets Facebook's WhatsApp
China is celebrating the Year of the Horse, but the Chinese software developer Tencent Holdings Ltd. is hoping that 2014 will be the Year of WeChat in the U.S. The messaging app has become one of the most popular downloads in China, since being released three years ago. WeChat, called Weixin in Chinese, has more than 355 million registered users in China and over 100 million subscribers outside of the country, and is WhatsApp's closest competitor. The app has recently overtaken Facebook as the preferred messaging system in Indonesia, and is a popular choice for users in Latin America Tencent has now set its sight on U.S. consumers, partnering with Google to launch WeChat.
The company kicked off 2014 with an aggressive marketing campaign offering U.S. residents a $25 gift card, through Google, in exchange for signing up for the service and adding five of their Google contacts to their friends' lists. WeChat opened a representative office in the US in 2013 and expects to pick up a large number of new US users with this first major promotional campaign in the US. Neither Google not Tencent have issued data on the success of the campaign, but the recent spate of publicity suggests WhatsApp is gaining popularity and interest.
Even with their first major promotion in the US, WeChat faces stiff competition from established players in the messaging market. WhatsApp, with more than 400 million registered users and a large share of the U.S. market, has grown since its acquisition for $19 billion by Facebook. SnapChat and Facebook Messenger also offer fierce competition for the new arrival. An analysis by TheFuseJoplin.com explains the key differences. "Both apps have simple designs and are easy to navigate. WhatsApp shows your phone's whole contact list and those who are using WhatsApp in the Favorites menu. These contacts are automatically downloaded upon registering your phone number. WeChat gives you the option to choose who to add to your contact list. You can choose to accept or decline someone's invitation to add you to their list. This privacy option is an advantage for WeChat users. WeChat has more features than WhatsApp. There are games to be played between you and the person you're chatting with; stickers to be sent to them; and free calls and video calls available. You can also send photos, videos and share location. You can also discover other people using WeChat that's near you with their People Nearby and Shake features. WhatsApp has simpler features; sharing of photos, videos, and location; sending voice notes; and its main feature, free chat. As of the moment it doesn't do anything other than these but it was recently announced that free voice calls will be added to WhatsApp's features some time this year. If there's an advantage of WhatsApp over WeChat, it's the ability to set up a status. You can show someone if you're available to chat or not." Besides giving users the chance to chat with their friends for free online, WeChat allows subscribers to access online and offline payment options, social games, to post photos and public messages and to have video chats. WhatsApp charges users $.99 after one-year.
The stigma of being a Chinese import may affect the decision of Americans to use the new program. Jiang Min, an assistant professor of communication at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, pointed out, "In a post-Snowden world, Chinese information products will be treated by privacy-sensitive consumers and governments with suspicion." She then added that there is always room for a quality application in the marketplace. According to Forbes, "The Chinese social media giant has hired Victoria Wu, a 30-something, articulate Stanford MBA grad with Boston Consulting and startup smarts as its ambassador for the WeChat brand in the U.S. So serious is Tencent about creating a separate international identity for WeChat that Tencent management doesn't want WeChat to be uttered in the same sentence as the company name. Is this about appearing to be less of a Chinese brand for the Shenzhen-based company? Could be. Tencent also has recently hired a director of communications in Silicon Valley, Harvard grad Jennifer Hodges, who's worked in PR and communications exec roles at The Walt Disney DIS +0.43% Company and United Airlines."
Tencent Holdings Ltd., the company behind WeChat, is publicly traded on the main board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange under the stock code, 0700. The company's stock increased throughout 2013 and continues to add value.
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