WeChat is the single largest social media platform in China and has been gaining momentum across the rest of the world. What was launched in 2011 as a simple app for exchanging online messages has now grown into an 'everything app,' connecting users for personal and business purposes. Here is everything you need to know to start using WeChat.
What is WeChat?
While the primary function of a social media app is to connect people, WeChat offers a lot more than simply bringing them together. On WeChat, you can make new friends, chat with them, send and receive payments, play games, make purchases, and whatnot. Besides a personal account, it also allows you to make a public profile if you are a brand or a business. Here, you can push feeds to subscribers, interact with them, and provide them with different services. Since all of this is available on a single platform, WeChat can be the ideal app for creating an online presence for your business, marketing your services, and finally selling to your customers.
How Big is WeChat in and Outside China?
WeChat is easily one of the largest standalone mobile apps with 'multi-purpose' functionality. As of January 2019, the app had crossed 1.1 billion monthly active users, with more than 70 million outside of China. The app accounts for more than 34% of total mobile data traffic across China, consuming 30% of the users' total mobile internet time. Some credit for these numbers goes to the Chinese Government since it has played an active role in pushing the app to the masses through its five-year developmental plans. The net worth of the company as of May 2020 is $500 Billion.
Due to its support in more than 20 languages, WeChat has penetrated the U.S. and U.K. markets, causing its numbers to grow at an exponential rate. People around the world have been using it to explore business opportunities in the Chinese market or simply connect with them. In this regard, if you're looking to expand your business to a different audience, WeChat can be of great help.
How is WeChat Different from Other Social Media Platforms?
Calling WeChat as a Chinese alternate for Facebook or WhatsApp is simply unfair. WeChat is a one-of-a-kind lifestyle platform that covers a wide range of services. From making video calls to availing governmental services online, this app hasn't left anything out. You can get on the app and do almost anything. Another difference that is extremely important to discuss is that unlike other social media apps, conversations taking place on WeChat are not 100% private. There is some level of censorship when it comes to discussing sensitive topics on the app, and user data is also used for mass surveillance in China.
How do I Use WeChat as an Individual?
Making a personal account on the app is super easy. Once you've downloaded the app from the Play Store or the iOS App Store, open it up, sign-up with the required details, verify your mobile phone number, and you're all set. Since one of its primary functions is to connect with people automatically, you could sync your phone contacts to communicate with them through the app automatically. Otherwise, you'll have to send them friend requests individually by searching for their accounts.
Once you’ve set up the basics on your account, here are all the features you can enjoy.
- Communicate with Friends
The basic features for connecting with friends include text messages, audio and video calls, group chats, and broadcast messages.
- Share Files
File sharing includes the sharing of contact cards, media files, documents, and stickers.
- Maintain a Digital Wallet
WeChat also allows you to maintain a digital wallet that you can directly connect with your card. This wallet can be used to send and receive money and make payments for different services. You could also gift your friends small sums of money in the form of 'red packages.'
- Purchases & Bookings
You can shop online for various items, purchase subscription services, and even make bookings. These bookings could be ticket bookings or hotel room bookings.
- Utility Bills
You can also pay your utility bills for light, gas, etc. Simply select the city you live in and the services you want to pay for, then proceed to confirm the payment.
How do I Use WeChat as a Business?
Enterprise accounts are limited to Chinese businesses, and getting on the app as an enterprise requires you to register with the Chinese Government for any commercial activity. Still, considering the amount of traffic on the app, it can be beneficial in marketing your products and creating awareness about your brand.
To make an Enterprise account, sign-up as a business and add all the relevant details for your business. Verifying the account might require you to submit supporting documents such as a business license, copies of national ID, signed and stamped official application letter, mobile phone bills, and more. After the verification is complete, you'll need to pay 99 USD per year for your account.
Here are some ways you can use WeChat for your business.
- WeChat Store
WeChat does not allow you to connect to external eCommerce stores, but you can use its built in store to sell your products to the users. In this way, you can obtain sales directly through the app.
- Brand Engagement
By putting out images and video content, you could better engage your customers and get closer to them. You could also design a branded game that advertises your message.
- Customer Service
Since the primary purpose of the app was to connect with people, you could connect with your customers by directly talking to them. Listen to their concerns and answer their queries through the app.
The app provides several paid advertising opportunities. The two main types are banner ads and moments ads. Banner ads are displayed at the bottom of articles, whereas moments ads are similar to in-feed ads from Facebook or Instagram.
- Influencer Marketing
Influencers on WeChat are known as 'Key Opinion Leaders.' They have a decent number of followers on the app and can influence the users' opinions. You can collaborate with them on the content they create and reach a wider audience effortlessly.
Notable Business Success Stories
The growing popularity of WeChat has forced some of the most successful businesses in the world to sign-up for it since they can't afford to lose out on traffic this large. Here's how some reputable companies are using WeChat for different purposes.
- Pepsi has collaborated with a Chinese Actor Yifeng Li for an advertising campaign on the app.
- KFC has been advertising its newly launched coffee service on the app through different interactive campaigns.
- Levi's launched the digital promotion for its women's denim line with a WeChat advertising campaign featuring spokesperson Alicia Keys.
- Samsung partnered with the Chinese store JD.com to launch the Galaxy S6 on WeChat.
Has WeChat failed internationally?
WeChat has been incredibly successful in China, and a lot of people from the other parts of the world have been joining the network as well. However, there are some reasons the app hasn't been able to well in other parts of the world.
- High Competition
Due to the unavailability of any other social media platforms in China, WeChat is the only option locals are left with. Add to this the support from Government, and the app was bound to succeed. While the app itself is excellent, due to the availability of other more robust platforms in the rest of the world, people have a lot of options to choose from. WeChat has been operating in a country with zero competition and hence wasn't ready to fight this competition.
- Poor Localisation
Besides the competitive context, the app is mostly tailored for the Chinese market and fits the Chinese users' needs and wants. The company hadn't taken an active approach in adapting its product for the international market and hence failed when international users started tagging along.
- China-First Approach
Some of the features the app offers are only limited to China. An American user, for instance, can not order an Uber through the app only because it does not offer such features outside of China. While there could be many reasons for the company not expanding such features internationally, such constraints have affected its popularity quite a lot.
WeChat has been incredibly successful in China, making it appealing to international sellers. It is a great tool to create engaging content for customers. But there is also high competition, and it is heavily tailored towards a Chinese market. These are some of the elements to keep in mind when considering using WeChat for your business.