OKCoin gave away 10 Million RMB and encouraged users to give it to their friends through WeChat, following a growing trend of sending traditional red envelopes through the popular chat program. The promotion awarded users with an amount between 1mBTC and 1BTC, then encouraged them to send that amount (or more from their linked OkCoin account) to their friends. The amount sent to each friend would be randomly determined.
While giving cash is sometimes seen as impersonal in the west, giving cold cash is an accepted and expected practice during the Chinese New Year. Giving out Red Envelopes full of paper money has a long tradition in not only China, but in many of the Asian countries that celebrate Chinese New Year.
During this past Chinese New Year, WeChat users sent a mind boggling 1 billion “virtual red envelopes” through WeChat, each containing real yuan while attracting 500,000 new users. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority of the envelopes included small, microtip-type amounts (Tencent, the creators of WeChat, aren't revealing dollar figures) rather than actual gift-sized transactions.
This has provided an major opportunity to showcase the power of Bitcoin. China, the most industrious nation in the world by some measures, is continuing its trend of urbanization. That means a lot of people leaving their rural hometowns for jobs in the cities. The Chinese New Year is famous for creating ghost towns out of metropolises and represents the largest annual migration of humans on earth.
For all that movement, there are still those that don't return home for the holiday and couples that originate from cities in two opposite directions. This is where an application like WeChat is useful and where a technology like Bitcoin could prove even more invaluable. Can't see your in-laws? Send them a stack of bitcoin through WeChat.
If Bitcoin can make the virtual gift giving seem more tangible than sending “yuan” through WeChat, there may be a real opportunity for Bitcoin. OKCoin’s CEO, Star Xu, explained:
“Bitcoin acts a social financial network and the success of bitcoin relies on more and more users adopting BTC and not only use it as a trading commodity. That is our core belief.”
Currently, sending virtual red envelopes is something people do with their friends as a half joke. With enough entry and exit ramps, the red envelopes could become to bitcoin what mothers day is to greeting card companies: an incredible boon.
Nearly two million dollars sounds like a nice figure, until it is compared to WeChat's total number. The critical thing Bitcoin needs is the kind of adoption that WeChat has found. Integrating into WeChat, as OKCoin has, is a great move, where now the Chinese have to be convinced that Bitcoin is a better way to receive their red envelopes. Perhaps the year of the Goat will be the year of Bitcoin.