Weishang

Making money has become incredibly easy—when you know what you’re doing. If you haven’t jumped on the latest e-commerce trend, you may already be too late.

face cream

Starting a business used to be very difficult. You needed to have certain resources in hand: money, connections, advertising platforms, products, an office location and so on. With the rise of mobile Internet and social media, new platforms such as WeChat and Weibo have greatly lowered these barriers, making anyone an instant salesman or trader. Those who do it full-time call themselves Weishang, or micro business/WeChat entrepreneur.

WeChat, with its impressive fan base, has been favored by tens of millions of Weishang since 2014 to start their low-cost businesses. Growing with the app, in 2015, there were over 12 million Weishang. The next year, the number soared to over 40 million. Over 80 percent of the products they sell are women-targeted goods—like facemasks and makeup—which rely on word-of-mouth reputation and fit in well with the Weishan business model. Housewives, university students, retired staff and the jobless all flock to this money-making paradise like moths to the flame.

Before the launch of domestic, cross-border e-commerce platforms, Weishang was the dominant way for Chinese to get overseas products. Overseas Chinese and Chinese international students did well selling and shipping quality overseas products to their mainland connections through WeChat.

“We must take advantage of our friends and expand our followers by adding friends’ friends, who are introduced by your friends. They are more loyal to you than strangers. If there are 10 friends who recommend you and introduce you to their friends, I don’t think you need to worry about selling your products.”

For most Weishang, Moments—WeChat’s newsfeed function—is the primary promoting tool. Scroll through your Moments and you’ll definitely find two or three, even a dozen friends, playing the Weishang game.

Xiaoxue, now a full-time Weishang, revealed her steep learning curve to be an acceptable Weishang. Joining the industry in late 2014, she was one of the early ones in her circle of friends. Later, she found out that she actually entered quite late and actually missed the tipping point.

“The boom was in 2014. Back then, no matter what you sold you would certainly make money because so few people did it,” she said.

Drawn by her favorite online celebrities (called Wanghongs), she bought shampoo and later, became a distributor.

“After I used it, I really thought it was a good product. I saw my friends selling stuff on Moments and I wanted to give it a shot, too. Just to earn some pocket money,” she confessed.

Without any preparation or research, she sold just three bottles of shampoo in the first month—all to her friends. The second month, she sold nothing. Seeing her supplier securing almost 300,000 RMB of turnover every month, she finally asked for advice.

They recommended that she ask an online celebrity to advertise the products in their channels. Xiaoxue was delighted, thinking that she had gained the “secret” of entrepreneurship.

But it didn’t go well.

First of all, she couldn’t afford even the not-so-famous wanghong, who asked at least 500 RMB. Plus, she had to distinguish the fake wanghong, who bought fans through Taobao (10,000 followers for only 100 RMB). Her supplier didn’t want to share her wanghong, either.

Finally, Xiaoxue gave up the wanghong solution and started to do her own research on how to be a Weishang. She summarized her failures and studied experiences from others.

“We must take advantage of our friends and expand our followers by adding friends’ friends, who are introduced by your friends. They are more loyal to you than strangers. If there are 10 friends who recommend you and introduce you to their friends, I don’t think you need to worry about selling your products. Copy and carry out this model, the result could be amazing,” she shared of her ideas.

Weishang can easily be annoying. How to entice people to pay attention to your products instead of blocking you is the key.

“If you are not nice enough, I don’t think you can earn money through Weishang. After all, Weishang is based on trust. People won’t buy from you if they don’t trust you.”