The first post in this series outlined the importance of social media in China and briefly introduced WeChat. Note WeChat was selected because of its popularity in mainland China. This post will dive deeper into what makes WeChat innovative, but as with any social media tool (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc), each one of us must make an informed personal decision about whether to use these tools or not. One way to make this decision is to weigh security concerns with the ability to connect with our local community, which in mainland China uses WeChat heavily.
If you do start using any social media tools,
- Keep in mind Grandma’s adage that “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
- Don’t forget the dangers of oversharing as shown in this "Mayhem Ad" from Allstate Insurance.
What makes WeChat innovative is not only that it offers first rate messaging features, but more importantly provides easy access to other valuable services. Five of these innovations are clearly outlined in this February 2014 Tech in Asia piece, but this post will highlight two that are becoming increasingly important.
It’s a Marketing Platform…
Through subscription-based accounts users can receive the latest marketing content from brands they follow. The beauty of WeChat is that the platform is not only open to major brands – see the 3M ad below – but also local or regional players – like the Shanghai-based Mexican Grill called Salubre. Much like Twitter or Facebook in the U.S., WeChat provides both large and small companies a social platform to connect directly with consumers.
No, It’s a Payments Platform…
For China-based users, WeChat also provides convenient access to a variety of financial services. The platform covers a wide variety of services from ordering a taxi (like Uber or Lyft) to learning about group buying discounts (similar to GroupOn). Such payment services are becoming more popular as indicated by the fact that the WeChat wallet was used over 40 million times during the 2014 Chinese New Year to exchange “lucky money”. These holiday gifts are traditionally exchanged through hand-delivered red envelopes filled with cash over the holiday, but WeChat enabled users to do so virtually.
It Is Actually an Innovation Platform!
The reality is that marketing platforms – like Twitter and Facebook – and payment platforms – like Uber or GroupOn – are nothing new. However, Tencent’s key innovation is their ability to respond to the demand from WeChat users to do both in one place. Tencent has successfully integrated numerous platforms into a single app so that its 468 million users have an increased number of value added services they can access – without every leaving the app.
That's Interesting, But How Do I Use It!?
The final post in this series will focus on specific tips for leveraging WeChat’s platform (or any social platform) to connect more deeply with your local community members, especially if they are Chinese.