WeChat is probably one of the most astonishing apps in the Western world. From being an app mostly unknown by Europeans to being at the same time a top 10 most popular social media network around the world. How is this possible, you may ask? According to Business Insider and Hootsuite, there are several reasons which are summarized in these 7 mind-numbing facts about WeChat.
Fact #1: it's an all-in-one app
When you use WeChat, you have a similar experience as using WhatsApp. Not only a similar design, but also similar features like sending messages, spoken messages, pictures, videos, videoconferencing and sharing your location with friends.
The main difference of being possible to create message groups of up to 500 people and send messages to all of them at once.
Next to messaging, you can also share your life moments on your feed with friends and family, via the WeChat Moments. This feature is very similar to Facebook and even lets you share your moments directly to other social media platforms as well, even though you cannot enter these social media networks from China. More about this later.
WeChat News resembles Facebook’s newsfeed, where only subscription accounts like media organizations can post and users can follow.
There is also the search feature where you can find:
- official accounts like business accounts;
- moments and hashtags;
- e-commerce platforms within the app;
- WeChat channels where you can share short videos, similar to another very popular Chinese app called TikTok.
- more stickers to use while messaging.
(source: Business Insiders)
One of the characteristics that makes WeChat so unique, is WeChat pay. This is a payment feature written into the app which makes it possible for doing groceries or buying services like a taxi and paying for them all with WeChat. No matter if you have to transfer money to a friend or a business, WeChat is the app to use. Simply scan the QR code and the payment will be made.
As you can read, WeChat is definitely an all-in-one app for its users.
Fact #2: almost 90% of the Chinese population uses WeChat
The second fact about WeChat, you probably know if you have traveled to China before. Then you might have experienced that Western apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even Google don’t work in China.
These apps are banned within Chinese borders. Meaning you can’t even connect to these websites if you are currently in China. Of course, you can download a VPN app and connect to western apps, but this takes a lot more effort than just using WeChat with all its features.
The second reason why the app is so popular is that almost everything in Chinese daily life is organized with WeChat. You cannot permit to not have the app.
Covid-19 increased WeChat’s popularity
Even with the current pandemic, WeChat helped the Chinese authorities to regulate life and do contact tracing. You need this app to even enter buildings, book your covid tests, book a doctor’s appointment and do many more activities.
And thirdly, due to Covid-19 even more people, companies and even schools relied on WeChat for sending and receiving information via the WeChat Work app.
Fact #3: the addictive IOS or Android software disappear next to WeChat
Since WeChat allows you to download apps within the WeChat app. The Apple store and Google Play store are for example no longer useful. People are only surfing one app, WeChat, and are not confronted with the IOS software and user experience anymore.
Therefore, Chinese people are less bound to one phone brand. In addition, it might be useful when doing business in China to offer your apps in WeChat than to offer them in the Apple or Google Play store. A fact about WeChat to keep in mind when you are doing business in China.
Fact #4: WeChat vs. Weixen
Both apps are known as WeChat. The difference:
- Weixen is the app for the Chinese population (see screenshot earlier in the article)
- WeChat is the app for all other citizens of the world.
Let’s say you live in Europe, you have a European phone number and you want to download WeChat. You notice pretty quickly that some features are not shown, like the WeChat mini-programmes or the payment option. These are not shown in other countries than China.
(source: Géraldine Vanlancker)
Chinese users use Weixin which has all of the features explained in fact number 1. If you are a Chinese citizen and so have a Chinese phone number, you can use your Weixin app in every country and features as pay will be available.
Fun fact, both apps are seen as one. Therefore, you can connect with friends who either use Weixin or WeChat. The app will let you be in contact together via both apps.
Fact #5: there is a big language barrier
When using the WeChat app as a Belgian citizen, you will notice that the app still uses Mandarin words. Some buttons for example are completely incomprehensible for people with other languages.
Also, many mini-programs, the apps within the WeChat app, are made in Mandarin and make it hard for other users to enjoy all the features of the app.
Fact #6: limited ads on WeChat
This fact about WeChat, makes you question why you should do business on this app? To explain, the company behind WeChat believes that user experience will decrease when confronted with ads frequently.
Therefore, they chose to only show 1 or 2 ads per day to its users.
This does not mean that WeChat is not a good app for doing business. It even offers two business solutions:
A WeChat official account
Starting an Official account via which you can share moments, news, etc. As an official account you can create QR codes in public places and people can find your information or even pay via these codes.
A WeChat service account
The second option is starting a service account. You can compare this to a customer service account on other social media channels for example.
You are very limited in what you can do with customers, but it allows you to be in direct contact with them. Customers can contact you via message but you cannot contact them first.
In addition, when customers contact your business, you can answer them within 48 hours. After those 48 hours, it will not be possible to contact those customers again.
Fact #7: other social networks should learn from WeChat
Since WeChat is the number one app in China and offers all needed features in one app, it is a good idea for other social networks to get inspiration from WeChat. Being able to do everything in daily life with one app might simplify daily activities.
The app also teaches you that an entire community can be reliable on your product or app based on what you have to offer.
Of course, the app has also been criticized in the past, but it is clear that the number of positive features of WeChat outweighs the negative side effects of the app.
What about the future?
It will be interesting to see how WeChat will further influence western lives and the future of other social networks. Want to start doing business in China or via WeChat, then keep these 7 mind-numbing facts about WeChat in mind.
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About the author
Géraldine is an enthusiastic marketeer with a can-do attitude, currently working as a Marketing Consultant at 4P square. She has obtained a master’s in International Marketing and started her career as Marketing Coordinator in the automotive sector. Here, she learned how to deal with a lot of responsibilities and to work independently. Géraldine prefers to work with transparent communication and is a firm believer of teamwork. In an assignment it is important for her to guard the brand’s identity and to keep track of customers’ needs and wishes.
Want to know more about Géraldine? Feel free to start a conversation with her on LinkedIn.