You may have heard the buzz by now. WeChat – launched by Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings in 2011 – is the country’s fastest-growing social-media platform. According to statistics from their website, it has over a billion registered accounts, and of that, 650 million are active users, with 70 million outside of China.
One may wonder why the level of trust in information on WeChat so great. It is ingenious really: what is spread on WeChat comes from family, friends and brands that they want communication from, and not strangers.
For official accounts, companies can customize their message and have notably more control over how and when they want to reach out to their audience. And it’s not just the big guns that are utilizing it for commercial purposes; these days, it is international schools and education marketers, both in China and abroad, taking advantage of this platform to help retain, engage and recruit students.
Serafima De Souza, mother of a 6-year old at an international school in Guangzhou, is a member of 11 WeChat groups and subscription accounts related to her son’s education and extracurricular activates. One involves parents from her son’s current class, two relate to first-graders at the school, and the rest are official subscription accounts from his school, a karate class provider and so on.
“I receive hundreds of messages in the groups every day. I have also added my son’s teachers, so often wait to see the class pictures that they post. Messages and news updates from subscription accounts are sent regularly at scheduled times, so I know when to check,” she says.
De Souza does admit that it can be quite distracting at times, but says it’s very useful, as everything – from preparation for each school day and important dates and events, to personal opinions about raising children – is discussed.
Penetrating this space to both build a relationship with a verified group and gaining valuable research data in the process appears to be the norm these days. A primary educator working at an international school in Shenzhen, who did not want to be named, said that in the past, she would stick notes in student diaries, send letters home or email them. Now, she sends up-to-the-minute information to a parent representative from her class, who in turn reposts it in the group chat, where everyone can see it.
She says that the school also uses the app to recruit new students: “Our school has an official subscription account on WeChat, where they find information about the whole school. They can even send us an enrolment application. Parents join by adding the QR code.
“On the parents’ group chat, however, it is more for engagement. They are added by the parent representative and information posted is related specifically to their kids; this makes it easier for us to receive feedback as well as communicate directly and instantly with them.”
She adds that her school plans to leverage their WeChat subscription account toward “increasing interest, spreading information and coordinating events,” and strongly feels that in due time, it will be much more effective than their website, school telephone trees and other more traditional points of contact.