China microblog Weibo has had tremendous growth and success over the years, however increasingly a new mobile application is on the rise, and we know it as WeChat.
The main app feature is very similar to WhatsApp, a mobile text and voice messaging communication service developed by Tencent in China. The app is available on Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and Symbian platforms and the languages supported include traditional/ simplified Chinese, English, Indonesian, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Russian.
WeChat provides multimedia communication with text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, photo/video sharing, location sharing, and contact information exchange. WeChat supports social networking via shared streaming content feeds and location-based social plug-ins ('Shake', 'Look Around', and 'Drift Bottle') to chat with and connect with local and international WeChat users.
Unlike WhatsApp, WeChat has extended its “socialness” with features like “Shake” to find someone that is shaking the phone at the same time as you, “Look Around” using your geo-location to look for other WeChat users within your vicinity looking to connect, and “Drift bottle” where you put a message in a virtual bottle and throw it into the sea, awaiting for a random person to pick it up and reply to your message.
While it may be simple; it can become quite addictive especially if you have a curious mind, or always want to find out who is around you. I’m pretty convinced it’s a channel targeted at singles wanting to seek out a potential mate as well. Whatever the case, WeChat’s platform boasts features that attempt to make users more “sociable” using clever gimmicks to entice more social behavior.
This is all great fun as it taps into human nature, us wanting to reach out and connect; after all we are social creatures. However, not everything is as simple as an innocent “hello”. Indeed, the success of some of these new technologies can be attributed to darker trades in our society. Similar to how video streaming probably got popular, WeChat’s “Look Around” feature definitely has a dark side, being taken advantage of by prostitutes to upsell and even by those that assist them with training in the usage of WeChat.
Regardless, WeChat is a serious contender in the social media space with over 400 million users worldwide and 50 million overseas registered users outside of China, with 195 million active users, very close to WhatsApp 200 million active users.
In addition to its social featured applications, users trade text, audio and video messages making it very easy to communicate. A feature I particularly like is the Group Messaging and Live Chat capability that makes having mobile meetings very convenient. Not to mention it has a Facebook/Twitter-like wall called “Moments” that lets you post up your statues or photos.
Apart from being a useful social communication tool, big brands like Durex, Nike, Intel and Starbucks leverage WeChat as a social CRM platform to reach out to their consumers, offering a personal engagement experience. This is done through WeChat’s “Management Platform”.
Ultimately, you need to try WeChat yourself - you might be pleasantly surprised by its ease of use and could soon be addicted to its social functions. WeChat is here to stay and time will tell what else is up Tencent's sleeves to continue evolving how we engage online.