Despite the title of the Media360Summit session ('Tencent versus Twitter'), this was not a death match or even a fight. The two companies have very different business models and don't really compete (much, yet) as Twitter is largely blocked in WeChat's home country.
But have both been highly successful in developing the mobile space, and that formed the bulk of the discussion between Parminder Singh, managing director for SEA, India and MENA at Twitter, and Steven Chang, corporate vice president at Tencent.
Twitter boasts that 75 per cent of its advertising revenue comes from mobile usage, and it has recently introduced tools that allow advertisers to coordinate their messaging with TV and tailor targeting based on internet searches.
In China, Tencent's WeChat continues to move from strength to strength, recently having become a commerce platform in its own right, capitalising on CNNIC data that show more than 80 per cent of 650 million Chinese internet users access the internet with mobile.
The interview by Marcel Fenez, global leader of entertainment and media at PwC, gave delegates a look at the primary similarities and differences of the two platforms and their evolving business models.
Twitter's 140-character format comes naturally to mobile, with its development evolving in the context of mobile, said Singh. It helps that Asia Pacific, a huge market for Twitter, is a mobile-first one, with much of PVs on mobile devices.
Chang cited 600 million WeChat users and 900 million QQ users worldwide. Video consumption, especially, on mobile, has exceeded all other screens, he pointed out.
Relating Tencent's size to even more mobile opportunities, Chang's vision is for Tencent's various platforms to become the ultimate connector, with a priority on user experience.
Singh said Twitter provides the shortest connection between users and brands, especially in the mobile space. “Brands are in a space that is mobile, public and real-time," he said.
When it comes to talent, Chang confirmed the typical but true stereotype of a tech firm being full of techy guys. "We have a lot of excellent engineers," he said. "70 per cent of our staff are engineers, but there is not enough talent to 'sell' the tech in a creative way to clients," he said. Technology, relatively speaking, is easy for Tencent, but providing meaning to it to achieve efficiency is not as easy.
Singh said empowerment of talent on the client side is the issue. "Different stages of understanding and levels of comfort affect how empowered talent can be to make decisions," he said. Particularly, when a social media custodian for a brand has to go through four or five rounds of approval, the brand would have lost the moment when it comes to real-time marketing.
We will have a more complete look at this mild debate in the March issue of Campaign Asia-Pacific.