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Faking Social Media 2.0: The Business of Buying “High-End Moments” for WeChat

Some are so eager to look picture perfect on their social media feed, that they go to extremes to create a fake online life.

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Your fake social life, delivered to your WeChat at 5 pm every day? Sounds very Nosedive, yet there are many who buy their social media contents in an attempt to appear cool, rich, and handsome.

This week, the story of a Wechat group for ‘fake rich’ women in Shanghai who pool together money to rent designer bags or share a two-person high tea at the Ritz with six people went super trending on Chinese social media.

While the ‘group buying-style’ WeChat lady socialite group is still trending on Weibo, more related stories are surfacing, with one story taking the idea of ‘faking it’ on social media to the next level. It even makes the Shanghai ‘fake rich’ girls seem authentic – at least these women actually went to the Ritz or Bylgari Hotel (although sharing the cost of one hotel room with 40 people).

On Tuesday, WeChat blog author Jiajiada (加加大) published a now-popular article about the phenomenon of “Buying WeChat Moments,” which finds its origins in the circles of young men taking PUA training (PUA stands for Pickup Artists, teaching men how to seduce women).

WeChat Moments (朋友圈) is a social feature for WeChat that allows users to share updates, photos, articles, and videos with their contacts, comparable to the Facebook timeline or Instagram feed.

In their mission to turn themselves into Mr. Perfect (高富帅), there is an online trend where male WeChat users purchase premade ‘high-end Moments’ photos to post on their timeline.

Via services offered through Taobao, people can become a paying member of a WeChat group where they get daily new photos to show off their (fake) fun, fancy, and interesting lives on social media. New photos are delivered to them every day at 5 pm.

In one of these WeChat groups joined by the author, there were a total of 138 members, mostly men. Although some people joined the group to use the daily photos for marketing purposes, the majority were members using the photos in their feed to appear more glamorous on social media, Jiajiada writes.

The daily photos provided to the members show the kind of life that would make anyone envious. Photos show a life that’s all about expensive wines, watches, and food, having Chanel shopping sprees (including photos of receipt for extra authenticity), going out to fancy KTV bars, having weekend trips out in the beautiful nature, and then some cuddle sessions with a pretty cat.

For example, one of the photos provided to members in the group joined by Jiajiada shows a setting where someone is having a cup of Phoenix Single Bush – one of the most complex and high-quality oolong teas. As verified by Jiajiada, that very same photo then indeed showed up in the several social media feeds of the group members, including the text.

Of course, the photos that are carefully selected by the WeChat group owner never show a face. They might show the legs of someone lying by the pool, or the hands of someone sipping on a glass of wine, but the photos are general enough to be used by anyone – making their friends believe these are their own authentic experiences.

 

“Does your male friend use this gay app? He’s not necessarily gay.”

 

But where does the WeChat group owner actually get all their photos of these expensive shopping sprees and exclusive wine tastings? Researching its source, author Jiajiada found out that many of the pictures are actually taken from the app Blued.

Blued is China’s most popular gay dating and lifestyle app. Since it was launched by Geng Le (see our article from 2015 about him here), it has grown into the biggest social platform for gays in China.

The app allows users to search for keywords, such as “luxury hotels” or “wine bar.” There are super topics on the app, such as “The hotels most loved by gays,” that show hundreds of photos posted by Blued users of fancy places and dinners.

Because the images posted on Blued do not have any watermarks, they are easy to steal and use for other purposes, including for people on WeChat to make money off.

“If your male friend has this guy app, he’s not necessarily gay,” Jiajiada writes, explaining that many straight men just steal content from gay guys to look better online.

Although the phenomenon of buying “high-end Moments” photos and copy-pasting them into your feed is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to appear richer and more interesting online, there are also other ways of buying “high-end Moments” on Chinese e-commerce site Taobao that require more effort.

There are agencies, for example, that offer set packages including photography, settings, and all props to make the ‘Mr. Perfect’ photos to fill up social media feeds – from posing in a race car, to pretending to lead a meeting, or reading the newspaper over breakfast in an expensive hotel room.

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On Weibo, there are not many people who sympathize with the men buying their WeChat social media content online, nor with the women who might actually fall for them. Some call the men “boring,” and the women who believe them “materialistic.” Others just laugh at how fake they all are.

“I hope these [fake] girls and boys can all find each other, so they don’t make other people unhappy,” one person writes.

But there are also those who seem inspired, writing: “Oh man, I might need to start using this gay app from now on!”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Olivier

    November 8, 2020 at 2:50 pm

    That s the best of the fake life of social media
    haha
    Great share

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China and Covid19

“I’m Icelandic, Please Get Me Home!” – Weibo Post by Embassy of Iceland Sparks Wave of Jokes

Wanting to get away from China’s sweeping Covid-19 lockdowns, everybody is suddenly from Iceland now.

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After the Embassy of Iceland posted about its bustling ‘post-pandemic’ travel season – suggesting the Covid-19 “gloom is over” – everybody on Weibo is suddenly from Iceland, homesick, needing to return to their country.

A Weibo post by the Embassy of Iceland in Beijing has attracted the attention of Chinese netizens for how it describes the Covid situation in Iceland, followed by a stream of online jokes.

On May 9, the Embassy of Iceland wrote on Weibo:

“Now that entry restrictions for Iceland are lifted, more and more people are preparing to travel to Iceland for the summer. Travel agency staff have indicated that in some areas, hotels and car rentals have already become harder to find and that most regions are fully booked for the peak season. The General Manager of Icelandhotels says that all hotels are fully booked across the country for July and August, and that the time that people staying for has become longer. It looks like the tourism industry is picking up again, and people seem to be getting out of the gloom.”

Within two days time, the post received over 110,000 likes and thousands of comments, with many people claiming they are also Icelandic and need to return home.

“I want to go home, when will you come and pick me up?” some said, with one popular comment saying: “I was abducted from Iceland at the age of three and taken to Henan.”

Another wrote: “I’m hard working and speak English, would you take me as a refugee?”

Over the past weeks, China has seen a tightening of zero-Covid policies across the country. Although residents in Covid-stricken Shanghai have endured particularly harsh restrictions, over 80 bigger cities across the country have seen some kind of lockdown since mid-April.

Since the chaotic lockdown in Xi’an earlier this year followed by the mismanagement of the phased Shanghai lockdown, there have been more online discussions about China’s stringent measures to control the virus as well as some social media protests against the lockdowns and online censorship.

The post by the Icelandic Embassy on Weibo is a stark reminder of the contrast between China and other countries at this time. At the same time, it is perhaps also a welcome occasion for some online banter and sarcasm.

One commenter wrote: “I will never stop loving my country, I will always love my country, that’s my unwavering belief, even if my country really doesn’t want me and I’m left behind as a global nomad, I’m still an Icelandic.”

Others also joked about the ongoing narrative regarding Western countries supposedly doing so bad, writing: “Please take me to this evil, capitalist country, I wish to experience the hell of suffering!”

Another person wondered: “Can’t you just pick a prize winner from the comment section and award them Icelandic nationality?”

The Embassy of Iceland in Beijing is just one among dozens of foreign embassies active on the Chinese social media platform. The Embassy currently has over 88,000 followers.

“Do you take in Shanghai refugees?”, one commenter asked.

Meanwhile, there are also Weibo users criticizing the thread full of jokes, saying Iceland has its own problems and calling the viral post an ‘internet spectacle’ generated by students: “Most of them are high school students or university undergraduates, they haven’t suffered from the so-called 996 [overworking] culture, nor have they really participated in the labor market or earned money, nor had children.”

But not everyone appreciates the criticism: “Can’t you all see it’s just satire?” Another person replies: “There are more ‘Icelandic people’ on the Chinese internet right now than there actually are in Iceland.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Food & Drinks

Would You Like Coffee with Your Sneakers? Chinese Sports Brand Li-Ning Registers Its ‘Ning Coffee’ Brand

Li-Ning enters the coffee market: “Will they sell sneaker-flavored coffee?”

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An unexpected competitor is joining China’s coffee market. With over 7000 stores in the country, Li-Ning has the potential to become the biggest athletic coffee chain yet.

Another player is joining mainland China’s growing coffee market. It’s not an American coffee giant, nor a coffee house chain from Hong Kong – it is China’s leading sportswear brand Li-Ning Sports (李宁体育).

Li-Ning registered its coffee brand under the ‘NING COFFEE’ trademark. As reported in an article written by ‘Investment Group’ (@投资界) and published by Toutiao News (@头条新闻), Li-Ning has confirmed on May 6 that it will provide in-store coffee services to enhance customers’ shopping experiences in the near future.

The move means that Li-Ning could potentially become a big player in China’s coffee market, competing with major brands such as Starbucks, Luckin Coffee, Costa and Pacific. If the in-store coffee cafes would roll out in most of its shops, there could be over 7000 Ning Coffee cafes in China in the future. By the end of 2021, Li-Ning Sports had a total of 7,137 stores in China.

Starbucks has 5,400 stores in China. Leading domestic coffee chain Luckin Coffee expanded to over 6000 stores last year. Costa Coffee, although closing some of its China stores in 2021, announced that it aims to have a total of 1,200 stores open in China later this year. Looking at Li-Ning’s presence across China, its in-store coffee cafes could be serious competition for the leading coffee chains in the country.

Over the past few years, various Chinese sportswear brands, including Anta Sports and Erke, have seen a rise in popularity, but Li-Ning is still China’s most famous brand name for athletic apparel and shoes. The company was founded in the early 1990s by Chinese Olympic gymnast and business entrepreneur Li Ning (1963) and was generally seen as a Nike copycat – the original logo was even similar to the Nike swoosh. Although Li-Ning looked like Nike, the brand is more appealing to many Chinese consumers due to the fact that it is cheaper and made in China.

Li-Ning markets itself as being “deeply and uniquely Chinese” (Li Ning official website 2022), which has made it more popular in an era of “proudly made in China” (read more about that here). Moreover, it also promises to offer high-quality sportwear at a price that is cheaper than the American Nike or German Adidas.

Li-Ning’s success is also owed to its marketing strategies. Besides being the official marketing partner of many major sports events, including the NBA in China, the brand has also contracted with many household athletes and famous global ambassadors.

Over a decade ago, marketing observers already noted that despite the remarkable success of Li-Ning in China, the brand still had a long way to go in order to strengthen its image as a long-term brand, recommending Li-Ning to “create excitement around the brand” by building more associations related to lifestyle and coolness to better resonate with younger Chinese customers (Bell 2008, 81; Roll 2006, 170).

With its latest move into the coffee market, it is clear that Li-Ning is moving its brand positioning more toward the direction of lifestyle, trendiness, and luxury. Although purchasing a coffee at Starbucks or Luckin is part of the everyday routine for many urban millennials, coffee is still viewed as a trendy luxury product for many, relating to both cultural factors as well as economic reasons. As noted by Cat Hanson in 2015, the price of a single cup of coffee was equal to a month’s worth of home broadband internet (read more).

Previously, other fashion brands have also opened up coffee stores in China. As reported by Jing Daily, international luxury brands Prada, Louis Vuitton, and FENDI also opened up coffee cafes in mainland China.

Another unexpected coffee cafe is that of China Post, which opened its first in-store ‘Post Coffee’ in Xiamen earlier this year. On social media, many netizens commented that the brand image of the national post service clashed with that of a fairly expensive coffee house (coffee prices starting at 22 yuan / $3,3).

“The postal services are located in cities and in the countryside and are often used by migrant workers, and generally this demographic isn’t buying coffee,” one person commented, with another netizen writing: “This does not suit the taste of ordinary people, it would’ve been better if they sold milk tea.”

Post Coffee, via Jiemian Official.

On Weibo, Li-Ning’s journey into the competitive coffee market was discussed using the hashtags “Li-Ning Enters the Coffee Race” (#李宁入局咖啡赛道#) and “Li-Ning Starts Selling Coffee” (##李宁开始卖咖啡##).

Like with China Post, many commenters say the combination of sportswear and coffee is not something they immediately find logical. “Will they also sell sneaker-flavored coffee?” one person wondered, with others thinking selling coffee – seen as a product from western countries – does not exactly match with Li-Ning as a ‘proudly made-in-China’ brand.

“How would you feel about trying on some clothes at Li-Ning while sipping on Li-Ning coffee? I understand Li-Ning is jumping on what’s popular, and this time it’s coffee,” one Weibo user writes, with others also writing: “I think it has potential.”

“I’m willing to try it out,” various commenters write. For others, they want to see the menu first: “It all depends on the price.”

For more about the coffee and tea market in China, check our other articles here.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

References

Bell, Sandra. 2008. International Brand Management of Chinese Companies. Heidelberg: Physia-Verlag.

Roll, Martin. 2006. Asian Brand Strategy: How Asia Builds Strong Brands. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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