A little over 12 months ago, a new short-form video platform was launched in China in an attempt to change how the country’s sports fans use social media. Owen Evans looks at what happened next.
While the debate around copyright infringements on Vine, Twitter’s short-form video platform, continues in the western world, the Chinese are busy making a legitimate business out of the same idea.
Weishi is a Vine-like platform run by Tencent, creator of the WeChat messaging app. Similar to Vine, it allows sports fans to create short clips – up to eight seconds – that are shared on its platform within the country.
The platform has helped change the nation’s social media behaviour, says Jenni Li, Tencent’s product development manager, as a year ago sports fans would only tend to post text and static images.
“Weishi has accumulated tens of millions of users, including thousands of celebrities in China, and tens of thousands of creative clips,” she told SportBusiness International.
Bitesize media content is quickly consumed on mobile , which is how the majority of Chinese people access the internet
“Users have been able to share their lives and express themselves in a unique and creative fashion.
“With the high-speed development of Tencent, Weishi has been able to gradually become available throughout the whole platform and has consequently seen a steady accumulation of domestic and international users. It is an important source of user-generated content.”
Six months into its soft launch, Weishi saw its first major impact on Valentine’s Day this year, when the total number of single-day video views surpassed 160 million, with users sending clips expressing their affection to loved ones. Sport has followed the romance in the last six months, with the likes of English Premier League clubs Liverpool and Tottenham and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) all launching Weishi accounts.
Andrew Collins, CEO of the Mailman Group, the agency that specialises in social media consultancy in China, says the “shareability” of the platform and the ability for football clubs in particular to tailor their content to the market is a key strength of Weishi.
“This sort of bitesize media content is growing in popularity as it is easily and quickly consumed on mobile devices, which is how the majority of Chinese people access the internet,” he told SportBusiness International. “Additionally, the platform allows fans to interact more directly with clubs, allowing them to express themselves and share their experiences in a unique fashion.
“The success of sports teams and consumption of sport on Vine makes Weishi an obvious move for sports brands interested in China, and as it’s been made clear with Weibo and WeChat, if you’re interested in growing a Chinese fanbase, you have to find them in the right place.”
One obvious factor behind Weishi’s success that Tencent neglects to mention is the actions of the Chinese government towards social media. Twitter, and subsequently Vine, is banned in the country, as well as the Facebook-owned platform Instagram. For any football clubs looking to break into the market, this is a major issue, and as a result they are having to adapt their media strategy in China accordingly.
While Vine is often used as a tool to share match highlights and breaking news, Weishi is more commonly used by clubs to drive two-way interaction with fans. Liverpool, for example, used the platform in the summer to ask its Chinese fans to post their own videos on Weishi singing You’ll Never Walk Alone in a Liverpool shirt, tagging LFC to be in with a chance to win a signed shirt.
“This is not just about sharing goals or highlights. The fans are using it to send clips of them singing the club song, dancing around in the club kit…clubs are getting fans to show their devotion in the best way possible,” says Karen Schuster, brand manager for Mailman.
Weishi alone has 430 million users and WeChat has 300 million users, and Schuster believes Tencent is putting together a strategy to keep all its social media users “in-house” whether they are consuming news, posting text or pictures or creating their own short-clips or videos.
“Tencent tries to keep most of the user experience within its own platforms by combining Weishi and WeChat, meaning the fan never has to leave its platforms,” she says.
— Robin Manigot (@robin_mng) August 3, 2014
Ahead of its launch next month, Mailman Group’s 2015 Red Card China Digital Champions League report will reveal the latest make-up of the social media market and which sports brands are cracking the Chinese code.
Key trends from the report include:
- The most discussed teams on Chinese social media in October were Real Madrid (38,860 mentions) and Barcelona (35,499 mentions)
- Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur were the first teams to open a Weishi account
- Arsenal as the first team to open an account with Chinese online retailer Tmall. Several European teams are likely to follow suit
- Last month Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur released a range of stickers in partnership with messaging service Tencent QQ
- The Bundesliga is the most engaged league on Chinese social media, with almost three times the level of engagement of the Premier League, and over 10 times the level of La Liga. This is due to a campaign by Bundesliga in China following Germany’s World Cup win this summer