Messenger apps are increasingly used for business – including IR, it turns out: some Chinese companies are using WeChat to communicate with buy-side contacts
Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook’s Messenger: the world of instant messaging has come a long way since the days of dial-up – as far as messaging apps for IR, in fact. And while the concept might seem strange to readers in the US and Europe, in Asia services such as WeChat are gaining ground.
Suki Wong, head of IR at Anta Sports, has been using the Tencent-owned chat app – which passed the 700 mn monthly user mark in April – for the past three years. ‘We use it to communicate with internal staff, particularly with colleagues in mainland China as they frequently use WeChat,’ she says. ‘But my WeChat has many investors so I also use it to promote Anta products. They can see posts and even comment via the friend’s feed.’
So what does Wong see as the benefits of this kind of service? ‘It’s more private than [microblogging site] Weibo,’ she notes, pointing out that she can accept or decline friend requests, for example. WeChat also allows Anta to add a more personal feeling to its formal IR message through the comments Wong posts alongside information already published on the firm’s website. ‘It can even be used to send files, post in a friend’s feed or make a video call,’ she notes.
Importantly, it can also be used to reach investors and analysts in China where access to Facebook and Twitter is blocked, no doubt contributing to the app’s massive popularity there. Usage has grown so much, in fact, that when asked how she decides who she’ll add on WeChat, Wong says she’ll ‘usually exchange WeChat information after a face-to-face meeting’ – making it a virtual chat-based business card.
And unlike IR use of social media in the US and Europe, where there’s debatable interest from the investment community, WeChat is clearly appreciated by the Asian buy side. In fact, IR Magazine picked up on this in the Investor Perception Study – Asia 2015/2016. ‘The firm uses all available communication channels, including WeChat, to keep us up to date,’ says one Chinese buy-sider about TCL, while another from Hong Kong says: ‘All the latest technology is used by Far East’s IRO Venus Zhao: email alerts, webcasts, WeChat and conference calls.’
But is this trend likely to travel West? Neither Dix & Eaton nor Investis report take-up from their clients, with Angela Almasy, IR account executive at Dix & Eaton, noting that generational differences could have an impact. ‘The use of apps is very intuitive to millennials and may not be so easy for other generations to adopt, which could be part of the reason we haven’t seen as much use [among clients],’ she says.
Then there’s the issue of security. Wong makes sure to post only what’s already available to investors on the Anta Sports website but Almasy points out that ‘while these types of apps promise a secure platform, our understanding is that there is still risk – and in the world of IR, this will be critical to successful adoption.’
This article appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of IR Magazine