While a lot of westerners still have the stereotypes of China as a developing country under the control of communism government, China’s social network has already stepped into the future. With the unprecedented economic growth and capitalized free-market, Wechat, innovated as an instant messaging app originally, launched in 2011 by Tencent company, has evolved into more than just a social media app nowadays. The app offers everything from free texting, voice, video, group chats messages to in-app newsfeed to mobile online payments and real-world services. It’s the combination of Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, Skype, Twitter，Venmo, Uber, Instagram, Amazon and Tinder. For Chinese, Wechat has already become a necessity in life, from 5-year-old to 80-year-old, people from all ages and classes are using this app. By the end of 2016, Wechat has gained almost 800 million users in China.
Within the Wechat kingdom, one can easily book tickets, make reservations, order deliveries and services, check bank account, pay bills, book a doctor’s appointment, order a cab, share large multimedia files, and pay for goods at physical stores.
One of the significant revolutionary changes that Wechat creates is the mobile online payments that is transforming China into a cashless economy. More and more Chinese people do not bring cash or cards anymore because almost every payment in real life can be done by just scanning the QR code and entering the 6-digit password on Wechat. The digital wallets of Wechat have the information of cards and money sent from other friends. It’s quite an improvement in the distrustful Chinese society.
Image courtesy of Katherine Li
Merchants and advertisers saw the huge profits on Wechat where it provides a brand new marketing channel, an online space for gathering customers. It would cost too much if the merchant has to create an app when all can be done by creating a business account on Wechat. Also, the concept of “We- media” or “Self -media” generates from the popularity of Wechat and Weibo (Chinese twitter). It means as the social media platform is becoming more and more diverse, everyone in the society owns the ability to create his or her own media platform. For example, either a person or a group of people create something that has certain content and characteristic, by outputting their own value, information and perception in order to build its unique media and brand image. After posting on Wechat, Weibo or other platforms and fans groups formed, how to complete the commercialization become the key step. Therefore it results to the various forms of advertisements on Chinese social media nowadays. Not only self-media is thriving on Wechat, big local or international brand also has its Wechat account. One of the reasons that big brand likes about Wechat is that Tencent company does not store the terminal user data. Unlike Facebook which its main business is advertisement, requiring users information and using algorithms. What makes Wechat an “all-in-one” app is because they do not have interest in users data. This is why many banks connect their customers information to Wechat so customers could check the account information through Wechat, not on Facebook.
an example of “We-media” and accounts subscriptions. Image courtesy of Katherine Li
As for privacy, Wechat also maximizes its effort to protect users’s privacy with super easy-controlled settings. Unlike Facebook or Twitter where everyone can see one’s profile just by searching names, profiles on Wechat can be only seen within this platform. According to NYTimes, “Quite frankly, the trope that China copies the U.S. hasn’t been true for years, and in mobile it’s the opposite: The U.S. often copies China,” said Ben Thompson, the founder of the tech research firm Stratechery. “For the Facebook Messenger app, for example, the best way to understand their road map is to look at WeChat.”