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5 Lessons Social Media Behemoths Can Learn From WeChat

By Rachel Thompson in Social Media on May 12th, 2016

WeChat app

The app WeChat, known in Chinese as Weixin (微信) [pronounced way-shin], is used by over 650 million people monthly and its active user base is growing daily. At first glance, it looks like a run-of-the-mill messaging service, similar to Viber, Kik, or WhatsApp as it serves the primitive function of sending messages.

But WeChat has evolved past that, and companies that want to be champions in the mobile space should pay attention (we’re looking at you Facebook). So what makes WeChat the savviest app in the world?

1. Multifunctional

The reason WeChat is beloved is that it can do almost anything. Within the one app it has features similar to Twitter, Venmo, Skype, Tinder, Uber, and Doctor on Demand, Shazam, Google Translate (albeit, questionably), and many other mobile tools.

2. Lightweight 

With all that functionality, it’s easy to imagine a bulky app that loads slowly and has continuous bugs. After all, isn’t that why Facebook decided to create a (woefully loathed) standalone messaging app? Instead, it operates quickly and jumps seamlessly between various features and “official accounts” which leads us to…

3. Apps within an App

Brands and influencers have an almost unlimited freedom within WeChat which allows them to program and customize their official page with little constraint. Official accounts are approved to access exclusive APIs for payments, location, direct messages, voice messages, user IDs, and more.

Where a fashion company may be limited to certain ad format and a handful of CTA’s on Facebook, within WeChat a fashion company can geo-target a consumer in real time and give them a coupon to a nearby store, all within the app. A sushi bar could give you real-time updates on the kinds of fish they got from the market, and what they’ve run out of. There are over 10 million “official accounts” and instead of being a static comment board, they operate like a third party app.

4. Moving into the Physical world 

But why stop at mobile? And no, we’re not talking about desktop sites. Around Christmas last year, parents created an uproar over Hello Barbie, the Mattel doll that records your child’s conversation about who to invite to the tea party.  In China, parents can already buy DanDanMan, a Bluetooth enabled plush toy through which they can send voice messages to their child, giving parents the opportunity to tell their sprog good night as they travel, or to kindly suggest they clean the legos off of the floor.

5. The ultimate mobile first experience

WeChat users can use the WeChat desktop component to chat with friends, but the functionality of the app is much more useful within the confines of a smartphone. After all, who wants to log onto a desktop for an Uber or download a picture onto a desktop for Twitter?

And if a person’s account is already linked to a payment for something like a cab, it’s easy to understand why over 200 million WeChat users already have credit cards attached to their accounts. With a large majority of people already researching purchases on mobile, this allows a much more seamless transition between browsing and buying.

Due to quirks like heavy government censorship, WeChat may never become prolific in the United States, but that doesn’t mean American behemoths don’t have plenty to learn from their Chinese counterparts.