If reading the words, “…the power of Weixin was that it was mobile, like a “portable organ” that unlike a PC is always with the user.” does not get your attention then I think we are done here.
If you are still with me you have either heard of the social media platform Weixin and are curious for my highly opinionated take or you misunderstood and think you can get an organ here. Fingers crossed it’s not the latter.
Those “organ words” were uttered by Ma Huateng, Tencent’s chief executive and co-founder (Tecent is responsible for creating Weixin). He believed that Weixin saved the future of Tencent by being what people want – an all-in-one platform. Weixin grew from need and not the need of the people so much as a need for Tencent to remain relevant. In 2010 the head of Tencent’s research and development assembled a team to work on the next new thing. The inspiration was Kik messenger which Huateng feared would consume the market share and force Tencent into a black hole (my words, not his, I am paraphrasing here). Three months passed and Tencent released Weixin. Weixin was the response to the Kik messenger application but it was not just a response it was the biggest one-up, I’ll see your bet and raise you EVER!
Weixin can literally do it all. Do not take my word for it, a cosmetics marketer in Shanghai claims to spend at least six hours a day on the ap and Zhang Shoufeng, a food and beverage sales woman was quoted here (a pretty decent article on Weixin) saying that she uses Weixin everyday. She said that everyone from friends and co-workers to her boss is on the ap. They chat about what to do, where to go and even discuss locations for work meetings. That is not all the application can do – the company quickly forged ahead to add features allowing users to book flight, hotels and taxis without ever having to leave the application.
The company also found ways to connect with its users (predominantly in Asia) by incorporating traditions held in their culture. They have what is called “The Red Envelope” where users can present money to their friends and family. It mixes a tradition of giving money during the holidays with the fun of a lottery game. The user sends a set amount of money (for example $50.00) to be distributed among a predetermined group but no one knows how much will go to who until they open their “envelope”. As of 2014 5 million people had participated sending nearly 20 million in cash. Weixin (which I should have prefaced is pronounced way-shin) is said to be a mix of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and eBay making all the users needs easy to access in one place.
I hate to be a downer and ask out what feels like the obvious question but here I go – how successful would Weixin have been if they had not shut out YouTube and Facebook (among others)? A country that shuts out connection to the rest of the world and filters what it’s people see, do and how they interact may not have the same obstacles to contend with. They had one or two players to get ahead of because others are not allowed in, so to speak. There is even a mainland version (Weixin) and a version for people outside of that region (WeChat). They are not hosted on the same servers and will likely not connect you with people in China, keeping out noise from the “outside” (another of my snarky paraphrasing moments).
Weixin is solid and it is smart. If you want to appeal to the masses and keep their attention you have to create a need. There are other platforms even in China that were being used. Weixin pulled in the best of many platforms and made something that people not only wanted but really needed to function more efficiently. By incorporating features like the Red Envelope Campaign they personalized their offering. I think this was also a way to pull in more users. If the daily features (chatting, travel etc.) did not grab you then the Red Envelope Campaign would. Once there then Weixin had a hook in it’s users, so to speak. I personally had not heard of WeChat but if they can find a hook that speaks to different generations, regions (West Coast, North East in the North America) or interests then I think there is a space for this. It would be nice to have everything in one spot. We are settling for everything being on the phone but imagine one “master” location. Wal-Mart tried it right – they started off as a store with a little eatery (you remember you could get microwaved fries and sit in a booth on display for other shoppers) – if you forgot it was weird and not worth remembering. It changed though, at some point they offered picture taking – like Sears, a Salon was added, then you could get your nails done – a pharmacy and now groceries. It has morphed into a one stop shop. Wal-Mart evolved. I am not certain how they are doing now (I hear their less than employee centric ways have backfired a smidge) but you get the point. If you can go one place and all (or most) of you needs are met why would you need to go anywhere else?
P.S. You wouldn’t.