WeChat gets Bill Gates talking too
Gates is the latest celebrity to adopt China’s dominant social networking tool to reach out to fans, as Facebook and Twitter remain blocked on the mainland
WeChat, the Chinese social media tool that allows 846 million customers do everything from reading news to paying utilities bills to hailing a cab, has a new user: Bill Gates.
The billionaire philanthropist, whose Microsoft Corp. dominated and defined the era of personal desktop computing, appeared in a 30-second WeChat video on Saturday posted on the account gatesnotes.
With a nihao greeting, and a sentence in Mandarin welcoming fans to his WeChat account, Gates said in English that the account is his personal blog, where he will share thoughts about the people he meets, the books he’s reading and his learnings.
Gates is the latest celebrity to be taking to China’s dominant social networking tool to reach out to fans, as services like Facebook and Twitter remain blocked by China’s censors.
WeChat, released in 2011 by online gaming company Tencent Holdings Inc as an instant chat service, has evolved into China’s dominant phone-based utility and social networking tool, where users can do everything from electronic payments to real-time map searches to investments.
Hollywood actress Maggie Q, pop star Selena Gomez and the Backstreet Boys also operate WeChat accounts.
Gates also has an account on Weibo, the microblogging site operated by Sina.com, with over 3 million followers. Apple Inc’s chief executive Tim Cook, and physicist Stephen Hawking also provide regular updates of their lives with their legions of followers through Weibo.
Three days after unveiling the blog, Gates’ post had garnered 92,809 views and 7,311 likes. While the WeChat account is yet to verify the veracity of the platform, a look on the account’s profile shows it’s set up by a Beijing consulting firm named Boruizhi (播銳智).
According to local media reports, one of the shareholders of Boruizhi is Global Health Strategies, a US-based consulting firm that has worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – a private foundation set up by Gates and his wife Melinda to enhance healthcare and reduce poverty around the world.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation set up a Beijing office in 2007 to work on initiatives focused on developing approaches to controlling tuberculosis, programs to prevent HIV transmission and policies for reducing smoking in China.