Ever wonder what Chinese consumers use as their social media platform? Well, it is not Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
As of January 2017, there are over 846 million active WeChat users, making WeChat the 4th most popular mobile app in the world and 2nd most popular in China.
So what exactly is WeChat? WeChat is a free instant messaging application that provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, sharing of photographs and videos, as well as location sharing.
- Moments, a blend of Facebook and Twitter, is WeChat’s main social media feature. It allows you to maintain a user profile where you can post photos and status updates. One of the main selling points of WeChat is that it offers users an enhanced privacy experience where you can control which of your friends can see what you like and comment without having to block the user.
- Heat map allows the Chinese government to track irregular assemblies of people to determine if more security is needed. Users can also use this map to determine when they should visit a certain location based on the crowd and how busy it is.
- WeChat wallet is a convenient, secure and efficient tool that allows users to pay via their phone. Over half of WeChat’s users have linked multiple bank cards to the app. This is a huge win because China is known for fraud and cyber security issues. Like Venmo and Facebook Messenger, WeChat allows you to pay your friends while texting.
- WeChat also allows you to generate your own personalized QR code. This feature allows you to transfer money to people you are not friends with by simply scanning the code off your phone.
- Shake is another feature that WeChat offers that allows you to meet new people. You can simply shake your phone and if someone is in the same area shaking their phone, their profile will pop up and you can send him or her a greeting.
- In China, a red envelope or red packet is known as a symbolic monetary gift which is given during holidays or special occasions. The color red symbolizes good luck and is a symbol to ward off evil spirits. During the Chinese New Year of 2016, 8 billion payments occurred via WeChat.
Types of WeChat Official Accounts
There are three different types of official WeChat accounts:
- Subscription Accounts are commonly used for daily news and broadcasts. They allow businesses to send one message per day to their followers. However, users can only access the content by accessing a subscription subfolder.
- Compared to a subscription account, Service Accounts will offer advanced features and focus on providing services instead of message broadcasts. Followers will receive push notifications from the businesses once a week and businesses can build their own applications within a Service Account.
- Enterprise Accounts, also known as Corporate Accounts, are an enhanced version of how Western businesses use platforms like Slack. Companies can set up private group chats, share memos, and project management systems within the account.
International vs. Mainland China
Due to China’s business requirements, WeChat has differentiated the benefits of WeChat accounts between mainland China and the rest of the globe. If a business has a Chinese phone number, the business qualifies for a Mainland China WeChat Official Account. This allows users all around the world to access the business’s official account. On the other hand, if the business is outside of mainland China and owns an international account, then only non-China users can access the international account.
Currently, only mainland China registered businesses can have their WeChat accounts verified. There are no differences between an unverified and a verified subscription account. The main disadvantage of an unverified service account is that the business does not have access advanced features.
In the next few years, WeChat’s main focus will be on mini programs. Essentially, this feature follows a “one app rule them all” concept where users can use an app just by scanning the QR codes or searching on WeChat. Even though there are no official WeChat app stores, mini programs are directly competing against the Apple Store and Google Play App Store.
(Image Source: Chozan)
There are a couple main benefits to mini programs:
- Using an app within WeChat allows a user to skip the registration process because his/her personal and payment information is already available on WeChat. Tencent, WeChat’s parent company, will support WeChat to protect the customer’s information. With a secured wallet, users are more willing to purchase via mobile app, therefore will increase the mobile spend in the future.
- Only light apps, simplified applications, are allowed on mini programs. Therefore, the apps will be fast and easy to use. On top of that, users are more willing to try new apps as the apps take up less space on a smartphone.
As WeChat continues to grow in China, companies around the world are incorporating this app as part of their marketing campaigns. The future of WeChat remains as a leader in mobile apps and technology.