Holmes Report 23 Jun 2014 // 6:30AM GMT
By Alice Hu Business and pleasure are intrinsically intertwined for those who work in Asia. Business deals and partnerships are done at dinners and over drinks. Trust is built during the fifth drink and cemented when both cheers to a successful partnership to come. [caption id="attachment_2533" align="alignright" width="156"] Alice Hu[/caption] More recently, mobile messengers have embedded themselves into Asia’s business culture. The important practice of exchanging business cards is supplemented and sometimes replaced by connecting on WeChat, Line or KakaoTalk. Over 90 percent of smartphone users in South Korea have KakaoTalk installed on their phones. WeChat and Line are the chosen forms of communication in China and Japan respectively. All three are expanding within Asia and globally. There is lot of speculation about which platform will overtake WhatsApp and which one is the best. But to do business with Asia, you need all three to communicate with clients and colleagues. Social capital is extremely important in Asia. Mobile messengers facilitate networking and bring people closer together. These platforms attracted users because of the simple chat features and retained them by adding social, commerce and other functions. They are now ingrained into many people’s daily lives. Social communities are more private, but through location sharing and push notifications for messages, real-time as well. WeChat only lets you see social interactions if everyone is friends with each other. On Line, there is a special note section where only group members can share posts, photos, videos, etc. It is a personalized newsfeed for the group chat. The group chat function is a simple one, but it’s also one of the most powerful features. Groups are invite only and limited in the number of people who can join. Various groups have sprung up across these apps, bringing together food bloggers to venture capitalists. Each group is different depending on the purpose of the group, members, and the moderator. Some allow a brand to engage with a group of influencers or a gym to motivate its members and share fitness tips. Just last month, a New York-based real-estate agent completed a $13 million USD apartment deal completely via WeChat. The overseas client reached out to the agent over WeChat and she was able to immediately share photos and information about the apartment. The deal was closed with the help of a group chat that brought together the necessary parties. Thousands of communities live within these platforms. There is very little visibility to those who aren’t members. When doing business in Asia, so much is often unsaid out loud, but expressed in private. As many companies look to expand within Asia, mobile messengers will be one of the key tools to unlock how to build business relationships. Alice Hu (@alicehu) is a regional manager in social & digital at MSLGROUP in Asia, based in Shanghai, China.