WeChat might be the most popular messaging app in China but new apps are more entertaining. Source: Shutterstock

How China’s Social+ model is merging business with entertainment

SOCIAL MEDIA is especially popular in China. Citizens are addicted to new-age messaging and social apps that keep them in touch with their friends and offer entertainment, all at the same time.

In fact, according to the China Daily, people in the country spend about 3 hours on smartphones every day – on average. According to data from eMarketer, more than 600 million people regularly use social media apps. Put two and two together, and you’ll quickly realize that apps have a chance to get 1.8 billion hours of attention per day in China.

Businesses have been quick to spot the opportunity and seem to have created a new type of business model that is often referred to as Social+. In this model, companies from different industries such as education, news, and e-commerce host themselves on a social pillar to drive user engagement and growth.

This model has helped several companies acquire a large number of users in a relatively short amount of time and has therefore driven them to success.

Social+ apps are often recognized for their user stickiness and incorporate social elements that incentivize users to come back day after day.

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the Social+ model typically happens in one of two ways: Chinese companies either leverage a user’s current social network to grow its user base, or they start a small community of their own, attracting users to be a part of it and contribute.

An example of the first approach is social commerce app Pinduoduo. The company managed to reach 300 million users in less than three years by tapping existing social networks and relying on word of mouth.

Like most e-commerce apps, listings on Pinduoduo specify a price for products listed on the site but offers discounts if a user shares the deal with family and friends via WeChat and starts a “group buy”.

The second approach is what was followed by social commerce app Xiaohongshu. The company merged Instagram and Amazon like fetures to build a new app.

On Xiaohongshu, users are encouraged to post photos of themselves, tagging clothes or accessories they wear or make-up products they use, to the corresponding e-commerce listings within the platform.

According to the SCMP, as a result of Social+, Xiaohongshu has become a go-to site for make-up reviews, and has attracted a number of celebrities including Chinese actresses Fan Bingbing and Maggie Jiang.

Social+ apps have also gained traction because Chinese tend to be more expressive and open online compared to in person due to the strong influence of Confucian values that minimise individualism in favour of the collective good, Tom Doctoroff, Chief Cultural Insights Officer at branding and marketing consultancy Prophet told the SCMP.