A Quick Look on Chinese Social Media Used in Canada
When we moved back to Toronto in late 2012, my husband and I had a strong feeling that Toronto was not that far from Beijing as it physically looks on the earth. We were shocked by what we met and heard here. It seems that Chinese is everywhere in Canada now, and they are from everywhere in China. In 2010, China Towns in GTA were still dominated by Cantonese language and Cantonese cuisines. But in 2012, almost 2/3 of new Chinese restaurants were owned by Mandarin speakers and all 8 famous styles of cuisines could be found in Toronto. (You can Google that 8 famous styles or email me for answers if you are interested in Chinese gourmets. :))
What shocked us more was the way they connected with each other. I clearly remembered the day my husband reunited with his classmates in college after more than 20 years. After the lunch in a Japanese All You Can Eat restaurant , the couple invited us to their home. They asked me if I used WeChat so that they could sent me the address. They told me they had been using WeChat for a certain while and liked it very much. A few days later, in a talk with my banking account manager, the lovely lady, too, asked for my WeChat account. My marketer sense drove me to look deep into the Chinese social media and apps used by Chinese living in Canada. I did some study on two most influencing social platforms, Sina Weibo and WeChat. Surprisingly, they both have high penetration in Chinese living in Canada.
There were more than 2 million accounts in Sina Weibo (http://weibo.com) were signed up from Canada by end of July, 2015. The number is still growing. Through Sina Weibo, Chinese living in Canada not only keep themselves updated on what’s going on in China, but also share and obtain local news and living tips. Many upload their daily footprints and share with friends in Canada, China and all over the world. Some of them are well known for their dedicated efforts on certain fields, like cooking, baking,menu testing, baby care etc. There are many more log into Weibo to follow public accounts providing local news and living tips. For example, “多伦多吃喝玩乐” (http://weibo.com/lifeinca) is an account actively broadcasting breaking news in Toronto and recommending hot spots around GTA. It has 88 thousand+ followers. When it initiated a topic on #Toronto Summerlicious# on Sina Weibo this summer, the topic attracted more than 797k views. Many of her followers uploaded their Summerlicious photos and left comments on restaurants they visited. These words-of-mouth extended their impacts even after the summerlicious was over. People keep visiting there for advises on fine dining restaurants. This account also plays a role as a help desk, where people can ask for public help in living, working or studying. For example, a mother once posted a help for shopping baby’s DHA products and @ “多伦多吃喝玩乐” in her post. “多伦多吃喝玩乐” retwittered the post and shortly many moms offered their advices under the post. Similar accounts are serving Chinese living in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, and St. John’s as well.
Given its influence in Chinese Communities, many Canadian businesses, government services and politicians signed up to Weibo to get closer into Chinese communities. HoltRenfrew (http://weibo.com/holtrenfrew) started its first post on Sina Weibo on September 2, 2012 and has more than 15 thousand followers by now. Justin Trudeau(http://weibo.com/JustinTrudeau ) is doing even better than HR. The leader of Liberal Party so far has about 58000 followers. His Chinese team keeps updating his itinerary, sharing his political opinions, and his personal stories on Weibo, same as what he has been doing on Twitter. Gregor Robertson (http://weibo.com/gregorrobertson), the mayor of Vancouver, is another winning politician in Weibo. With more than 90 thousand followers, he is tightly connected with the Chinese in Vancouver and that helped his 3rd winning of the mayor election in early this year. Should he have promoted his party in his Weibo, NDP might have a bigger advantage against its competitors in the coming federal election. However, all these Canadian organizations or politicians have not explore the potential of Weibo enough. It is used mainly as a bulletin board. Instead, it is a media complex and an open think tank. (Let’s talk about it in another time.)
WeChat (http://www.wechat.com/en/) , though launched later than Sina Weibo, gained its shares with its free IM and talk services among overseas Chinese. I don’t have the exact number of WeChat users in Canada. However, almost every Chinese family I know in Canada has at least one WeChat account. At the first beginning, it was mainly used to replace the phone call and other IM tools to connect to China. Later, with the developing of Moments, news push-up, games and payment, WeChat becomes a complex of social tools. And since it gives users more privacy protection, WeChat is used more than Weibo on sharing personal stories and social networking. It also helps many small businesses owners to promote their businesses. In early 2013, I hired a contractor to renovate our bathrooms. He asked me to add him as a friend so that I could visited his personal page where he uploaded the photos of projects he has done. And later, he kept me updated of the progress of the renovation on WeChat.
Similar to that in Weibo, WeChat also attracts lots Canadian businesses, government services and politicians there to touch down Chinese communities in Canada. When searching “加拿大“ under official accounts, the long listing results seemed that it would never turn to the last page. Almost all names we mentioned above in Weibo can be found on WeChat. With WeChat public platforms(https://admin.wechat.com/), these organizations and persons share more details and customized information with their followers, and thus more interaction between account owners and subscribers are encouraged. They have two choices to show off themselves on WeChat. One is called Subscription Account, the other is Service Account. The latter has more customized services to its followers like customer services, in-apps purchase etc..
Though WeChat takes part of users’ on-line time away from Weibo, it doesn’t mean Weibo is ignored in communication. Either individuals or organizations are using both platforms. And with the increasing privacy protection and online shopping functions on Weibo, more users have been coming back since 2014. And It helps those public accounts detour more qualified followers to its sales outlets. Strategically mixing of Weibo and WeChat helps Canadian businesses, government agencies and politicians to win better relationships with the growing Chinese community in Canada.