Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 3.18.39 PMEarlier this week, Sina Weibo officially launched WeMeet (weimi), a social messaging app very similar in function to China’s other giant presence in the space, Tencent’s WeChat. With more than 500M registered accounts and as of this month, 54M daily users, Weibo is dominant in the Chinese social scene. The Alibaba-backed platform has been under pressure on the mobile messaging front, however, as WeChat’s impressive numbers–which come not just from China but across the world–continue to climb. WeMeet’s launch on Monday comes more than two-and-a-half years after WeChat’s debut, so despite Weibo’s huge built-in community, catch-up won’t happen overnight. For brands, building communities on Chinese-speaking WeMeet that compare with WeChat’s global audience is an additional question mark.

In our newly-released Intelligence Report: Social Platforms, we found that of the 247 prestige brands we tracked, approximately 20 percent, including Louis Vuitton, Coach, Lancôme, Neiman Marcus, and Hublot, are already present on WeChat. With WeChat the most downloaded mobile social app in India, the Philippines, Malaysia, and even Mexico, and making headway in an additional 15 markets, including Spain, Brazil, and South Africa, it makes strategic sense for brands to devote social resources to WeChat’s rapidly increasing, diverse international audience. With it out so far ahead, can WeMeet still be successful? Most likely, but there’s no question that WeChat has already shown Weibo itself to be vulnerable to competition (click chart below for greater detail) and that its established footprint in the social mobile app arena will make that success more difficult.

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The number of Sina Weibo–forwarded posts has dipped 30 percent from its peak performance in mid-2012, a direct effect of WeChat’s rise. Through loyalty programs, in particular, WeChat has redfined online-to-offline commerce. By delivering branded content and live-chat customer service, WeChat has replaced physical membership cards with an in-app experience that can also work in-store for purchase and coupon redemption. Examples of brands with the advanced WeChat loyalty features include China’s biggest jeweler, Chow Tai Fook, whose program facilitates loyalty point tracking and mobile site access through the app. Coach’s VIP Program is another standout, where members not only receive geotargeted store information and perks based on location but their membership privileges also, very conveniently, automatically increase with purchase.

We are sure to see big things from WeMeet in the coming months, but as of yet, because it only supports Chinese, it’s unclear when non-Chinese speakers will have an opportunity to catch on. Until then, WeChat, which just reached 100M users outside of China, will continue to attract users in markets all over the world.

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