Flickr / Photo by Álvaro Ibáñez.

How WeChat grows into a huge part of our life

WeChat is one of the well-established digital platforms in China. Launched in 2011, WeChat’s active user reached 0.768 billion in 2016. ­The lifestyle changes brought by WeChat are very obvious in my generation.

Before the existence of WeChat, Weibo (Chinese version Twitter) is the social platform that people got connected and shared information with each other. People still texted to each other at that time. When WeChat just came out, I downloaded it but did not use it very often. The pain point Wechat solved at first was the trouble of texting long messages. It came out with the outstanding function of sending voice message. It was earlier than iMessage started to support voice message. Though this was a helpful function, at that time, not a lot of people were using it because it required a lot of time to be used to sending voice message to others. With the following iteration, WeChat launched the function called “Moment” in 2012. That is a sharing function just like Facebook. People share images and words in Moment. They can also like and comment on their friends’ moments. The big difference between Moment and Weibo/Facebook is that WeChat users can only see the moment and activities posted by their friends. That is to say, when one of my friends posts a moment, his friends can comment and like his moment.

However I can only see the comments and likes made by our common friends. If I don’t accept other’s friend request, then they would not be able to view my moments, likes and comments. This function makes Moment a more private sharing place compared with Weibo/Facebook. Later on, WeChat started to have more and more functions, including Official Account, Money Transfer, Service Account and etc. With Official Account, brands found a new way to promote their brands and products. Official account is a function allowing individuals and companies establish their own media platform to post articles. It works like a blog site. Everyone can follow as many official accounts as he/she wants. According to the WeChat Influence Report, there are over 12 million Official Accounts on WeChat. Not only brands can have official account, but individuals can also register official accounts if they want to run their own media. With the rise of official account, placement of advertisement is changing. More and more people who enjoy writing found a way to generate profits through official accounts. It is becoming an industry. For example there are a lot of fashion blogs on WeChat Offical Account. When they have enough followers, fashion brands will invest bloggers in order to let them write articles to promote their products. After other financial functions launched on WeChat, people can go out with only a smartphone. I didn’t realize the development of WeChat Wallet was that good until I went back to Shanghai last summer. My parents no longer brought their wallets when going to supermarket. They paid with WeChat wallet. It was really convenient and prevalent. I only need to scan a QR code and confirm with my Touch ID. This function can be used in almost every store and market.

The success of WeChat is not random. With its iteration in functions, it makes our life much easier. At the same time, its social function makes people addicted to it. According to the WeChat Influence Report, 94% of WeChat users use WeChat every single day. It becomes a part of our life. At the same time, with all those different functions, WeChat can collect a lot of data from its users for example the amount of money transferred, song/movie preference of an age range and etc.. I will imagine that WeChat can be a great database for social science research if big data is needed.

Flickr / Photo by Álvaro Ibáñez.