Social Media Marketing Primer: WeChat

By: Yuyao Ji & Weizhou Wang

WeChat is not popular in the United States, but it is the most popular app in China. The app is available on Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Symbian phones. It is also available on OS X and Windows clients, but these require the user to have the app installed on a supported mobile phone for authentication. The basic use of WeChat is text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, sharing of photographs and videos, and location sharing. The reason why I said WeChat is the most popular app in China is because, up to the first quarter of 2015, WeChat is available on 90% of smartphones in China. At present, monthly active users rare 549 million, and WeChat is available in more than 200 countries and in more than 20 different languages.

The reason Tencent Company developed the WeChat app is because they wanted to connect people together. They want to remove the distance, and improve the connection and communication between people. This is Tencent WeChat’s original purpose. This is why Tencent WeChat chose the earth picture as a start screen: a lonely person on the face of the huge earth, standing there. This is the WeChat startup screen, and a lot of people are very familiar with it. Actually, this is not a picture, it is a photograph, a real photograph, and it is taken by an astronaut 40,005 thousand kilometers outside of Earth. The name of the picture is The Blue Marble. As a communication software, there is no other picture that can express better the loneliness of the human heart. With the development of China’s economy, the people who use WeChat are more concentrated on electronic commerce. More and more people sell goods on WeChat, as well as share their business information.

How are we using WeChat? WeChat has 4 kinds of chat: subscriptions, group chat, 1v1 chat, and file transfer.

The subscriptions are public and owned by a company. If you subscribe, the company will send you a message every day about their news, events, and special discounts for WeChat users. If you have any questions, you are able to chat with the public account: after you ask a question, they will answer you.

Group chat is very useful. You can create a group and name it, and then invite people who you want to be in this group. After that, everyone in this group will see the chat. You can create the group with as many people as you want. You can create one group for your family, one for friends, one for people in your company, and one for classmates.

1v1 chat is a basic feature for WeChat. You can send a text massage, voice massage, or pictures and videos.

File transfer allows you to transfer your files from your phone to your computer. People are using more smart phones in business, and the ability to transfer files between computers and smart phones is very useful.

On Discover, there are features like Moments, a QR code scanner, shake, ‘people nearby’, and drift bottle. Momentsis the most powerful feature in this app. You can post pictures or video on it, and your friends are able to view it, “like” it, or leave comment in below. After you post something on Moment, you can block someone, so they will not see it. And marketers also post advertising on Moments, and if you share their advertising and get some “likes,” you will got a special discount from their store. Some sellers sell products on WeChat, because WeChat allows people to transfer money. For example, they post a picture on Moments, and sell it in an online store. But there is no rule for those sellers. They sell goods at a lower price, but sometime they are selling fake goods or damaged products, so WeChat is now building an application called “Webusiness”.

The QR code scanner can help add friends, because everyone has their own QR code, and if you scan it you can add each other. Also, in some stores, if you scan their QR code you can pay to them through WePay.

The shake is a funny feature. If you shake your phone at the same time as someone else, you guys are able to chat with each other. Sometime when I shake it I find someone in different country, and talking with them is so interesting.

With ‘people nearby’, you can find people in the surrounding area who are using WeChat, and you can send a message to them. If your neighbor is using WeChat, you are able to find them, and if you text them that will be a surprise.

With drift bottle, you pick up a bottle from the ‘river’, and that bottle has come from other people. After you pick up someone’s bottle, you can chat with them, or you can throw it back to the ‘river’. And you are also able to create a bottle, and see who responds to you.

Why do so many people use WeChat? WeChat is created by Tencent Company. If you asked a Chinese person which software was the most popular in China ten years ago, he would answer Tencent QQ. For ten years, lots of people used to use Tencent Company’s product. The fans of Tencent Company started using WeChat. That is the reason why WeChat was so popular from the beginning. WeChat is more convenient for our life. WeChat partnered with banks. In China, banks are owned by the government, so people can pay water, electricity, or mobile fees through the WeChat. Even WeChat users can pay with it in restaurants and taxis, or buy movie tickets with it. WeChat cooperates with a lot of companies. But if people want to get these services, they must linked their WeChat with a bank account. If it is not connected with a bank account WeChat users will not get these services. Also, because there are a lot of WeChat users in China, they are influenced by nearby people. If their parents, their friends, and their teachers use WeChat, they will use it. No one wants to be isolated because they’re not using the app.

What kind of the risks does WeChat have? More and more chat application companies or instant message companies realize the benefits. More and more companies have come into the market. They do not believe WeChat should have a monopoly. Also, these companies offer a lot of benefits. Also, there are lots of entertainment apps on people’s smartphones. When people pick up their smartphones, they may not want to use WeChat. They may just want to play a game or even sing a song. WeChat is faced by challenges from these competing industries. These challenges will make WeChat stronger.

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4 thoughts on “Social Media Marketing Primer: WeChat

  1. Christina Sagarino October 27, 2015 / 6:21 pm

    I find this article written well and it was really interesting to hear about Apps that are bigger and more popular in other countries. It’s interesting to see that other countries have apps that we have never really heard of in the United States. This app reminds me of Viber which is an app that can be used to talk to friends that are traveling abroad for free of cost. These apps seem interesting because you could probably use a deactivated phone as long as you have the wifi password and text and talk to friends for no cost.

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  2. Ryan K October 27, 2015 / 6:48 pm

    I knew very little about this app before the presentation and this article. This app seems like the ultimate app, with the amount of features it offers for its users. The adaption of the app in China is intriguing, and the connection brands are making to consumers through different features in the app. For example, the way restaurants can have customers pay the check will weChat and then be able to share it on their feed. Also it might be interesting to think that this app allows for the chinese gov’t to easily track the user’s purchases, movements, and conversations. I assume there is some minimum security; but with the app being based out of China and as popular as it is, its hard to imagine that gov’t doesn’t have a backdoor into weChat.

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  3. Ziwei Feng December 10, 2015 / 6:37 am

    I am a WeChat user. Because of the Chinese government policies, some of the social media such as twitter, Facebook, Ins, etc,. are blocked in Mainland China. I used to use whatsapp and kakaotalk before WeChat. I have to say that WeChat is the most popular and innovative mobile messaging app that I have ever used. Personally, I think WeChat will not replace by any other chat apps in the next few years because its powerful features. The article mentioned 10 years ago, the most popular software is QQ by Tencent. In 2010, when iphone4 became popular in China, Tencent launched mobile app for QQ, but the number of users decrease rapidly. I am very happy that Tencent creates WeChat, it makes our life more convince. People can pay the bills simply and timely.
    The most interesting part about WeChat that the article did not mentioned is how people make money on WeChat. I have many friends are running their personal business on WeChat. They post the photos and prices of the products (clothes, shoes, makeup, cigarette, home-made food, cars, jewelry, antique, even AIRPLANE) on WeChat Moments. I think Moment is the most powerful feature for advertising.
    There is still some imperfection, for example, WeChat wallet cannot linked with bank account outside China. If this problem has solved, I think WeChat will has more global users.

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