You may or may not be aware of the current and phenomenal growth of the WeChat social platform in China: Tencent, the company that owns WeChat, has reported that the now five-year-old WeChat social platform had some 550 million monthly active users (MAUs) by last Quarter 2015. At the end of 2014, the company had 500 million, meaning its user base had jumped up 10% percent in less than a year.
In comparison, the omnipresent Facebook Messenger platform had some 600 million MAUs around the world by end 2015. The thing is, Facebook isn’t available in China. It’s banned there. So, that makes WeChat the Facebook of China.
But WeChat is different. This social connector isn’t like Facebook or any western messaging app. Indeed, it’s not just a straightforward messaging platform at all – because WeChat contains ten million third-party apps. The crux?: On WeChat, nearly any user can make an app (known as an “official account”) – media companies, banks, celebrities, brands and start-ups all have their own accounts, allowing access to features like direct messaging, voice messaging, payments, and location…. the list of functionality grows.
So, with WeChat, you can build your own app. And do so within an app: WeChat. That’s cool because it means with WeChat you have a central hub of always converging and always evolving technical power: which empowers the individual’s potential for on-the-spot innovation and creativity (to build and activate an app within an app). That’s personal creative power at your fingertips – and WeChat delivers that in spades.
So it seems there’s maybe something to be said for hot-housing of brands in a protected market environment? WeChat and China seem to be a case-in-point and shows that in the world of social media and social brands, one size doesn’t have to fit all. As the omnipresent Facebook and Twitter come under performance and profit pressure, maybe WeChat will be waiting in the wings to spread its offer globally …ironically with what looks like an evolving one-size-fits-all proposition. Time will of course tell.