This summary is provided by the IPR Digital Media Research Center

WeChat, the most widely used social mobile application nowadays in China. By observing the most transparent Chinese charitable foundations, this study conducted a quantitative content analysis to examine their use of WeChat for dialogic communication with publics. Particularly, this study found that Chinese foundations are not fully utilized the dialogic features of WeChat. With the popularity of WeChat and the growing prominence of the nonprofit sector in China, public relations scholars need to understand how WeChat can aid in building relationships, engaging the public, and achieving missions.

This study used a quantitative content analysis to examine the social media presence of Chinese charitable foundations, the message interface of their WeChat official accounts, and each individual WeChat post. The original sample was retrieved in November 2016 from the China Foundation Center (CFC), a public charity organization and a leading information source about Chinese charitable foundations. Ultimately, 55 foundations that had already communicated with publics regularly on WeChat were included in the sample. The most recently published 10 posts in each official account were also selected and included in the data analysis.

The coding protocol was developed based on two coding schemes: one examining the presence of dialogic features on official accounts and the other examining the public engagement functions of WeChat posts.

Key Findings
·      WeChat acts as an ideal mobile platform for fulfilling some of its dialogic potential. The unique interface design of the official accounts enables foundations to provide a wide variety of useful information toward their publics, including volunteers, donors, media correspondents, and the general public.
·      Certain communication strategies were identified in the posts to attract audience attention and to promote organizational activities, such as the incorporation of multimedia content and popular online events.
·      The WeChat posts primarily act as information sources but also perform the salient function of calling upon actions. WeChat offers critical technical support for publics to participate in philanthropy activities in a timely and convenient way.
·      The dialogic potential of WeChat has not been fully utilized by the Chinese foundations. The official accounts have been relatively successful in fulfilling the provision of useful information toward interested publics, but most of them still have not created a dialogic loop with their audience.

Implications for Practice
Chinese nonprofits need to adapt to today’s media landscape where cellphones and other mobile devices have largely reshaped people’s daily lifestyles. Given the popularity of WeChat efforts to fully utilize the platform need to be explored by Chinese foundations to provide their followers with better and easier ways of getting involved in and making contributions. Through engaged conversations on WeChat Chinese charitable foundations and their publics can work together to meet organizational goals.

Qu, Y. (2020). Engaging publics in the mobile era: A study of Chinese charitable foundations’ use of WeChat. Public Relations Review, 46(1), 101815.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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