WeChat Businesses

WeChat Businesses and
How Chinese College Students get their Side-Hustle on

“I sell socks.”

I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised when one of my students revealed what kind of widgets he was peddling to make money, but I wasn’t expecting that.

“Okay, you sells socks,” I said, “but who buys them? And do you reap an income big enough to make it worth the time you spend selling?”

He wouldn’t give me an exact figure, but my suspicion is still no. I’m pretty sure the time vs. money exchange is very much skewed in someone else’s favor (like so many things these days), but I still thought that WeChat Businesses were worth investigating.

wechat-business-2
If you live in China, you’ve probably already seen this phenomenon in mobile app culture. After adding an acquaintance, you might find that instead of personal updates, they share pictures of products in their moments feed.

When I starting seeing too many images of sneakers and beauty products from one person, I just went to their settings page and opted out from seeing their posts. I imagine this is what most people do when they realize they’re being sold.

But some users are craftier than that. They might sneak in a personal photo along with the pack of nine other images of products. When a girl adds a cute selfie into the mix, some people might think twice before opting out. These are people you know in real life after all. Some of their posts are like personal updates, only laced with commercialism. The social manipulation is real; it’s just another example of the way that marketers ruin everything.

Reading the comments below one post, I saw a woman leave her friend business recommendations. She wrote, “The lighting and the positioning on the first photo needs an adjustment.” I realized then that some of the promo shots were being taken by the individuals themselves. I thought, ‘Wow, what a sweet deal for whoever is getting these people to sell for them.’

The Truth

Despite my misgivings about the paradigm, it would appear that some people have successfully used WeChat sales to support themselves. If you ask around, you might find at least one person that sells on WeChat for a living.

One student told me that her sister (cousin) feeds her son with the money she makes. When I asked the student why she didn’t participate in the system if she knew so much about it, she said, “You have to know how to self-promote and have lots of friends. You also have to spend a lot of time chatting with people to make money.”

She also said, “If you want to do good business for the long term, you also have to verify that the products are real and of quality. In many cases, that means purchasing the items for yourself.”

Taking a poll in one of my classes, I was surprised to find how many people have occasionally made a purchase from these WeChat salespeople. Most were female, and they said that they purchased clothes, but one student explained that she bought her most recent laptop from a person she’d added on WeChat.
wechat businesses
When I asked these students why they would buy from a person on social networking instead of going to a store, they gave me a few good reasons. One said, “Convenience,” of course. Another said “Quality and you know who they are.” And then I understood. Trust. Because China’s online commerce is rife with fraudsters, having a real person vouch for the authenticity of your purchases increases buyer confidence.

The Process

While I was starting to see the merits, I was having trouble reverse-engineering the sales process in my mind. So I asked my sock-dealing student, “How exactly does it work?”

He said that after adding countless people to his WeChat funnel, he would spend the day posting different images of socks. Once in a while (and I imagine once in a great while), he’d get a bite. From there he would chat with the prospect, and if they decided to buy, he would sit in front of a desktop and enter the customer’s information into an online form. The customer then would make a payment through WeChat Wallet, and after a period, the salesman collects his commissions.

Immediately, this triggered an image in my mind of a Chinese businessman idly scrolling through his WeChat feed on his phone at lunch while chowing on noodles. He scrolls past a photo of socks with his thumb, then quickly swipes back. Socks! I need socks!

In case you would like to see all the platforms that are available, you can run a search on Baidu for the word “Weidian” (Wēi diàn = 微店). As you’ll find, so many platforms have popped up. All of them work in about the same way.

The Future

After having a chance to think about it, this kind of experience could be beneficial for a student to develop business skills before graduation. It really runs the gamut of prospecting, marketing, sales, and administration.

To make a prediction, perhaps this will be the future of income for society after all the jobs are either too specialized or lost to automation. I imagine that this trend will not only be in China but everywhere in the industrialized world.

Everyone will have a store. Everyone will become a brand. Everyone will support each other, spending the money they earned from selling in their virtual stores to buy products from the virtual stores of their friends and relatives. And the cycle will perpetuate itself for as long as the commission percentages allow.

This new, emerging standard is right around the corner.

Is this a phone? No, this is a home business. This is a WeChat Business? No, this is an opportunity!
Is this a phone?
No, this is a home business.
This is a WeChat Business?
No, this is an opportunity!

How to Access Facebook in China

How to Access Facebook and other Worthless Blocked Sites in China

Some of the other authority sites covering China life for expats have long sales pages of technical comparison charts when it comes to discussions about which VPN to pick. Well, I can’t recommend any other VPN services than the one I’m going to here. I’ve only used one since I’ve come to China and it has always been enough for my needs: Strong VPN!

In case you’re confused as to why someone might require a VPN, you can read my post here describing which sites in China are blocked. If you want to access those other services, you’ve got some options, some more reliable than others.

What is a VPN?
It’s an I.P. mask that makes you appear to be somewhere you’re not. In order to run such a service on your computer, you need to either be savvy enough to create your own proxy, or you need to pay a subscription for access to a server abroad. In order to access these servers, you usually have to download a client compatible with your operating system to activate your connection.

When should you get a VPN?
You should preferably get one before coming to China. Strong VPN is pretty cool in that they have service pages even when censors have been trying to block out all commercial VPN sites. But not all services are that cunning. Strong VPN also has pretty decent customer support. Run into a problem and you can send them an email.

Why do I recommend Strong VPN?
I like the way that I have been able test their servers at various locations around the world to find the one that yields the best ping. I also like the way I can switch servers if I need to, though the number of switches I can do is limited to a certain period of time. Honestly, I haven’t needed to switch in the longest time. I have been accessing blocked content on my PC and on phone constantly, with minimal interruption. The Chinese firewall is only a minor inconvenience for me. You’ll know it’s me when you see the white guy watching YouTube videos in Starbucks on his phone.

You can use your subscription on your PC or tablet or any other mobile devices. You just have to remember that only one device can be connected per subscription at a time. That has been a thing for me sometimes, where I’ll try to connect on my desktop and I can’t, because my phone is still connected. Very minor inconvenience, and I have to plan sometimes what I’m going to get done on local or U.S. internet.

Just so you know, no Torrents over your VPN connection
You want to download the latest episode of “Walking Dead” or “Game of Thrones,” download it over local internet only. Always check to make sure you’ve turned off your VPN client when opening your file-sharing client. Otherwise you’re going to get a warning email from the VPN support that you’re in danger of getting your subscription shut down.

Fine. What’s the next step?
If you’re in China click this link.
If you’re in the U.S. or already using another VPN, click here.

Register and subscribe to their service! Download the client for your OS. Activate your client until the little shield turns green. And there you are! Ready to fap!

Which websites are blocked in China?

The Top 10 websites blocked in China

In this post, I’m going to discuss which major websites are inaccessible from mainland China and why.

Bloomberg

10. Bloomberg – This site got blocked in 2012 after writing content about the wealth of vice president Xi Jinping’s extended family. Chinese authorities dislike the possibility of outside media shaping public perception and were concerned that this kind of information might cause them to lose face. Just imagine if you were the website owner and woke up to discover that all of your readership in a major country is no longer capable of browsing your content. One interesting part of this block was that not all of Bloomberg’s services were interrupted. Economic data and news is still available for paying clients.

Also blocked: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, L’Equipe, LeMonde

flickr

9. Flickr – This site was originally blocked as a part of Yahoo’s photo sharing service in 2007. The service was blocked seemingly for good during the pro-democracy protests taking place in Hong Kong during 2014. For some, the photo sharing site might have been a platform for organizing demonstrations, with information on meeting times and locations. If that was how it was being utilized, its eventual demise in the mainland would have been inevitable. For similar reasons, Instagram also eventually went on the shit list of China’s censors.

insta

8. Instagram – It’s no surprise that this one isn’t available in China. Owned by Facebook, this is another photo-sharing site that has been “harmonized” in September of 2014. Some of the people that had been using it in tandem with Weibo (China’s Twitter) discovered that many of their posts weren’t showing up if they contained certain keywords. Seems pretty extreme that it wouldn’t be accessible anywhere in the mainland now, but it probably makes life easier for competing Chinese photo-sharing sites to make their mark.

Also blocked: Shutterstock, iStockPhotos, WayBackMachine

soundcloud

7. Soundcloud – For audiophiles like myself, this one can be a bit of a bummer. I’m not exactly sure why. I know that Pandora is in a similar situation, but when I try to log in on that platform there is a notification that says it can’t allow access due to regional licensing issues. I take that to mean they might have concerns regarding rampant piracy were the service available in China, and that’s understandable. The most likely explanation could be public access to problematic media that the CCP wouldn’t want people to consume.

Also blocked: Pandora, Spotify

netflix

6. Netflix – In order for entertainment to be available to the public in China, it has to get a stamp of approval from the archaic bureaucrats over at the Ministry of Culture. It’s interesting that Netflix still hasn’t found a way to break into the Middle Kingdom, seeing as their original series “House of Cards” has been a massive success in China, being broadcast over the local web platform Sohu. It makes sense, “House of Cards” is an awesome show. Perhaps the main challenge for Netflix is finding a Chinese partner that is willing to allow them access to local markets without screwing them over too terribly. Like most foreign businesses coming to China, the relationship is tenuous at best. Since Netflix implemented a measure to ban VPNs from accessing their service, it is completely inaccessible from the Middle Kingdom.

pornhub

5. Pornhub – I wondered for a long time why a country with a whoring epidemic should really take issue with the availability of adult materials on the internet. You can walk down the street in any city and find a place where sexual services are provided, if you know where to look. You can also walk into sex shops and buy vibrators, blow-up dolls, and lethal doses of male virility drugs, but for some reason videos of unrestrained sexual expression on the internet seems just a little bit too extreme for their tastes.

In reality, porn censorship in China simply has to do with keeping up appearances. Porn is the government’s convenient excuse for restricting every area of the internet that they find disagreeable. If anyone questions this, they can easily start moralizing, talking about how dirty smut will desecrate the culture. But if anyone has any perspective on “morality” as it relates to Chinese society, this is actually hysterical.

Also blocked: All the other porn sites the censors have discovered. Some they haven’t.

Let’s be real here: it isn’t possible for China to block every porn site. For every one they find, two more pop up. So they’re really just playing an expensive game of whack-a-mole, wasting a ton of resources in the name of keeping up appearances.

twitter

4. Twitter – As we can tell from the above examples, anything that enables the populace to rapidly exchange ideas and information without the state’s moderation will be banned. So while the CCP fears that free speech could pose an existential threat to their party, there is also a protectionist element. Weibo is meant to be China’s premiere microblogging service. Given the choice, I believe many Chinese would prefer joining the global community on Twitters platform, and some do. In fact, some say that China’s twitter (Weibo) is now pretty much dead, due to a lack of effective privacy measures and the popularity of the WeChat mobile app.

google

3. Google – And it’s not just Google the search engine, but all of the services connected to Google are blocked in the mainland, while all still available in Hong Kong. Why, you may ask? One reason is to prevent Google from infringing on Baidu’s market share, which is China’s major search engine. Another reason is there were some failed negotiations when it came to censoring certain search results, as well as discontent regarding the CCP’s inability to secure the data of dissident users. Other companies like Microsoft and Yahoo have only been allowed to provide service to the Chinese public because they allowed the CCP a backdoor to pry into user information. Google wasn’t having that. In many ways it reflects some of the similar disputes between Apple and the U.S. Federal government, demanding a back door for iOS.

Also blocked: Gmail, Google calendar, Google Drive, Google Docs, Scribd, Xing, Android, Google News, Wikipedia, Wikileaks, and other apps on Google Play.

youtube

2. YouTube – YouTube is a subsidiary of Google, but the specific reasons the site has remained blocked since 2009 are not clear. Of course, from everything we’ve already read here, we can guess why. China has their own video sharing sites, with their own advertising services, and there might’ve been content posted on the site that censors might have found disagreeable. Actually, there most definitely would have been something they disliked.

Also blocked: Vimeo, Dailymotion.

It’s another example of how preventing outside competition makes people in the China worse off, because they’re unable to receive service from a company that may potentially be better. Keeping all the money in the country seems wise until you see how it fills the pockets of inept businesspeople who don’t have their customers’ best interests at heart.

Blocked in China

1. Facebook – Another user-generated content site that has gotten the block-a-roo. This is the one expats whine about being unable to access the most, though it’s probably for the best if we can’t obsess over it every second. If people were aware of how often their personal information gets harvested on the site, they might not be so enthusiastic about access to begin with. But I digress.

It was originally blocked in 2009 along with Twitter around the time of the protests in Xinjiang. It was said that users were using the platform to organize protests. But it seems another critical reason that these kinds of sites are blocked is that the Chinese government doesn’t want their dirty laundry to be aired out among the international community. No one wants their bad actions to be exposed; a lot of face could be lost.

Mark Zuckerberg has been courting Beijing’s propaganda chief for a while now, hoping he could get them to ease their restrictions and allow him access to China’s huge market. There are more people online in China than there are people living in the United States and the market is too big to be ignored. Sometimes I wonder; do you think it’s possible that one of the reasons Zuckerberg married a Chinese woman and learned Mandarin was to build goodwill with China and advance his ambitions in the region?

Sometimes I imagine Mark staring at a computer screen in his bedroom, assessing the number of internet users in China and rubbing his greedy hands together. Then his wife walks into the room and he quickly clicks to his tab of porn. Oops! Then something else.

Also blocked: Google+, Hootsuite, Blogspot, Blogger, WordPress.com

Remember, blocked does not mean banned. If you still want to access content behind the great Chinese firewall, there are few different methods you can employ. In my next post, I will explain how to access this blocked content in China.

Not sure if a site that you care about is no longer accessible from China? You can visit http://www.blockedinchina.net/ to check.

Marketers: No time to build your online business? Here’s a practical solution.

Stop saying you have no time.

Before you read the rest of this post, understand that the solution I’m about to propose is only for people who have no dependents. If you’re single – this is for you.

Let’s say you’re someone that has already read all of the productivity guides and have implemented all the steps. Let’s say that though you may manage to squeeze in some work here and there on your online business, the progress is incremental and it feels like there’s no way you can commit enough time to see any substantial financial rewards. I understand the feeling. I do.

It’s all a part of the Western business model: keep employees working so much that they’ll never be able to reclaim their financial futures. Westerners work so much that when they finally do have free time, they just want to rest and spend a bunch of money on things they don’t need. Hustling away on their business is the last thing they want to do.

Some entrepreneurs have claimed that simply quitting your job may be the only way to take charge of your destiny, and there are quite a few issues with this. One problem is that it leaves little room for error, when we learn most from our mistakes. We have to have room to fail if we want to succeed.

Another problem is saving up enough money to hold you over until your business takes off. And even if it does take off, it doesn’t mean it will provide enough income for you to pay your rent and all of your bills. Even if you start making an income, you may still have to go back to work again. In which case you’ll be back in the same boat, with little time to grow your business. In my experience living in the U.S., it was nearly impossible for me to keep my head above water while working part time.

Stop the Madness.

Here’s my solution: Move to a country with a lower cost of living and hustle your balls off. Teaching English abroad has to be the least demanding job you could ever possibly want. In some countries (like China) you can work part time and still have a free apartment and enough money to cover basic expenses. It doesn’t even have to be China. It just has to be a country where the cost of living is more affordable.

In this video, Tom of Red Dragon Diaries talks about the financial perks of living as a teacher in South Korea:

Can you now see some of the potential for building a business overseas? If you’re wondering where you can get started today, just click below.

Start a Life in China