Heard of WeChat? I had not until today, but it is HUGE in China! Let me tell you about it.
Tencent is the parent company of WeChat. WeChat is as Connie Chan said “…the one app to rule them all.” Why? Well let’s see what it offers.
This app boasts over eight hundred and eighty-nine million monthly users (889M). That is a lot of users. WeChat allows users to pretty much tap into everything from a single app instead of downloading several apps and having numerous accounts for those apps. Brilliant? I say probably yes!
WeChat began as a text-only/photo-sharing platform like the messages feature on most cell phones. It morphed into allowing video calls, a payments platform, access to e-commerce, news stories, ride-sharing, restaurant booking, and even government announcements. All of this is in a single app. Many see it as a gateway app because it has literally transformed the way the people of China work and play.
WeChat was not the first mobile messaging app in China, but post-launch the developers saw huge potential. MiTalk by Xiaomi was the leading platform prior to the introduction of WeChat. MiTalk had five million registered users (5M).
Tencent was already a big deal before launching this app and had a more cumbersome desktop chat app called QQ (2008). The trends trended toward more mobile than desktop use and a mobile version of QQ was created soon thereafter. That app was bogged down by some of the desktop-centric features that were not necessarily required on a mobile app.
Tencent put seven engineers together to figure out what could be done to either streamline the QQ mobile app or create something entirely new. They devised WeChat in a scant three months. WeChat was introduced in 2011 and gradually added more features.
Mobile QQ is still viable with younger users who want mostly entertainment and animated stickers. The market share for QQ mobile is approximately six hundred fifty-two million (652M).
WeChat caters to a more group-oriented utilitarian segment of the population much like Facebook/Meta does. Research today suggests that the typical user of WeChat spends about fifty minutes per session somewhere between nine and eleven times per day. That’s a lot of time. They also offer a feature called “People Nearby” so users can see their yet-to-be friends using the app nearby and perhaps engage with them and/or see what activities were going on.
Tencent decided to allow the WeChat users who had QQ accounts to merge the two by simply importing their features and personal information. WeChat has a fun feature that allows users to simply shake their phones and locate random users to chat with. Message In A Bottle is another feature of WeChat. This supports the exchange of random messages by tossing a virtual bottle into the sea and when a user picks it up you connect. Moments is a group photo-sharing feature based on an old Chinese philosophy called “circle cultures”. A circle culture is a small-knit group with stronger ties. The impetus is that as the group enlarges the ties weaken.
WeChat also has a version for e-commerce called WeChat Official Accounts (OA). This connects the WeChat user with celebrities, broadcast content, service providers, and businesses. It even allows for the personalization of messages sent from the business, service provider, or celebrity to the user. There is also a gaming feature that users can play on the messaging platform with other users. Users are also able to share and interact with the various ads. The first time Airbnb was shared there were 1.8 million views. That led to more than a six hundred percent (600%) increase in new sign-ups.
Does WeChat compete with all of the other apps we use on our mobile devices combined? Sure.
What’s next? Elon Musk said he is already priming Twitter to become something akin to WeChat. Let’s wait and see.
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