China / English

WeChat is “the most important channel for companies”

Gang Lu is one of the most influential social media thought leaders in China. As chief researcher at Media Lab of Hunan University (Shenzhen) and open-technology evangelist, he has frequently been invited to deliver keynote speeches and lead panel discussions at a variety of international conferences.

With his strong background in wireless communications, Gang Lu is very passionate about the Open Web concept: He initiated OpenWebAsia, the first independent work group focusing on the Chinese internet industry and played a vital role in bringing together social media experts and venture capitalists from Asia and North America. Gang Lu is a PhD holder in Wireless Communications (Sheffield University).

Your tech portal Technode has recently been featured on many European and American news sites. Could you tell our readers more about your position at Technode and what makes this website outstanding?

I am founder and chief editor of Technode (China’s leading social media and tech blog). We inform our readership about hot topics in social media and online marketing in Chinese and English. TechNode is also the official partner of TechCrunch [an American network of tech bloggers] and manages TechCrunch China. I am in charge of content management, marketing and many other tasks.

When was the first time you heard about social media?

I cannot clearly remember, but I suppose this was around the time when Facebook and Twitter were launched. Even before social media became mainstream, I was an active member of BBS [Chinese: 未名空间, Pinyin: Wèimíng Kōngjiàn; literally: “Unnamed Space”]. As predecessor of current social networks like WeChat and Weibo, it used to popular in China for long time.

Which suggestions do you give clients that want to develop and implement a successful social media strategy?

The way how Chinese social media works differs from other countries. Not just the operation, but also the products themselves are different. For instance, netizens use WeChat instead of WhatsApp, Weibo instead of Twitter and Dianping instead of Yelp. My suggestion is: Understand the differences when it comes to products and procedures and learn from companies, which successfully entered the Chinese market.

Which social media-related developments surprised you most in recent years and why?

I am not astonished that [WeChat] is so popular right now among young people, but what surprises me is that almost everyone, even those at the age of my parents, has started using it. Most recently, the Chinese internet giant Tencent has started to transform WeChat into an ecommerce platform, which is now even posing a threat to giants like Alibaba.

You have mentioned the important role of WeChat. Are there any other networks that will play in key role in the coming years?

When it comes to Chinese internet, WeChat will be the most important channel for companies to reach out to consumers online. It offers everything: messaging, shopping, mobile payment etc.

In a nutshell, what do you think are currently the most important digital trends in China?

The future will see more interaction within a smaller circle of friends. We can observe this in the current shift from Weibo to WeChat. As the number of mobile netizens is growing, mobile video will also become increasingly popular. Thirdly, augmented reality will play a more important role and technologies like object recognition or GPS will play a more significant role in our daily lives.

Thank you for the interview.

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