With the advancement of science and technology, WeChat has changed from a primitive social communication tool to a lifestyle that promotes digital sharing and consumption on a global scale. The widespread application of the WeChat platform has brought a huge impact on social culture, economy and politics. By focusing on the role of network technology, a critical analysis of the transformative impact of the social media platform led by WeChat will be conducted.
The first part of this article will outline the operations of WeChat, while the second section will study the company’s historical development and innovative reforms. The business model of WeChat and the Internet ecology examination will be in the third and fourth part. Finally, this article will discuss the impact and role of WeChat’s revolutionary Internet transformation on society.
What Is WeChat?
WeChat is a free application program that supports cross-communication operators and cross-operating system platforms to quickly send information including voice messages, videos, pictures and texts through the network (Doyle, 2016). At the same time, you can also use sharing streaming media content and location-based social plug-ins to obtain or disseminate more content such as user’s moments, mini programs and public services. However, it is Tencent’s mission to improve the quality of human life through Internet services. WeChat takes the provision of one-stop online life services for users as a strategic goal, and has created China’s largest online community to meet the needs of Internet users in communication, information, entertainment and e-commerce. This social operation mode reflects the sharing characteristics of online platforms, and its aim follows the social theory of sharing and care proposed by Nicholas, and its purpose is to improve the driving effect of the digital sharing economy on social development (John, 2016).
The Historical Development Of WeChat
WeChat was launched by Tencent Holdings Limited of China in October 2010. It was created by the product team of Guangzhou R&D Center, who has successfully developed Foxmail and QQmail Internet projects by Allen Zhang. WeChat’s release in the second year supports three Internet platforms, and three types of intercommunication and multi-person dialogue are launched, which can read mobile phone address books and establish social user relationship chains. Subsequently, the strange friend making functions including “people nearby“, “shake” and “drifting bottle” was added (Harwit, 2017). The data shows that from 15 million user audiences to the addition of the sharing function, it exceeded 200 millionwhich means that WeChat reflects the four major digital media characteristics of volume, velocity, variety and value in web 2.0 era. Therefore, social platform breaks the traditional social form and is free from restriction and distance, which shows the social sharing and continuous development of media forms. The successive upgrades of WeChat in 2012 reflect the openness and sharing of WeChat. The program supports the photo album function, establishes a personal sharing platform for Moments, and adds video chat plug-in and Web version of the WeChat interface function. The emergence of WeChat public platforms has promoted the development of digital social media forms in society. The popularization of QR code function and the mutual application of “scan” function have changed the digital business model.
Business Model After WeChat Reform Strategy Transformation
In 2013-2014, the strategic transformation of WeChat triggered the innovation and transformation of online business models through the WeChat Pay function held and launched by Tencent. Users can interact with nearby businesses and change the way of shopping through the function of bank card binding WeChat account, which improves the growth of the digital economy (Davies, Donald, Gray, & Knox-Hayes, 2017). Therefore, the business model refers to the source and structure of the value captured in the company’s operations. WeChat has broken the traditional social software development thinking in the business model reform. Through the three directions of payment, e-commerce, and life application, strategic transformation work has also increased the influence and penetration rate of WeChat in society (Zhu, 2018). The online mall launched by WeChat will strive to attract the attention of WeChat’s huge user base and become an important part of mobile e-commerce in the future, and the WeChat user base has more than 10 million overseas users in Southeast Asia, the United States and Australia.
#WeChat released their latest report this week. Users now send 38 billion messages per day. The number of WeChat Users traveling #overseas for Golden Week increased 62% from last year and the number of WeChat instore #payments saw a 280% increase YoY. https://t.co/2Al2f9tvZD pic.twitter.com/7no4vLBHxc
— Emerging Communications (@emergingcomms) November 9, 2017
In addition, WeChat services and third-party services will involve basic life services such as mobile phone recharge, taxi rides, movie tickets, and hotels to provide convenience for people’s lives. However, the important concept implicit in the theory of six degrees of separation in sociology is that any two strangers can always be connected through certain contact methods (Burger, 2011). When this view is combined with the Internet, it has also received social attention and revealed its commercial value. The information immediately disseminated on WeChat has the ability to penetrate different groups of people (Guare, 1992). When sharing through social news, it can reach every corner of the global Internet in time to establish a huge mutual trust and close social connection network. The commercial potential of this is huge. Thus, the theoretical basis of Six Degrees of Separation can also reflect that WeChat has obtained huge economic and social benefits in this business model change (“Too much information.(BAD NEWS)(research on social media and the six degrees of separation between people)(Brief article),” 2011).
Picture showing the impact of Six Degrees of Separation on digital business models, Image:“Social Software linked people and stuffs in a six degree of separation” by IsaacMao is licensed under CC BY 2.0
WeChat’s Internet Ecology
The internet ecology reflects an organized system, and reflects that subjects rely on information technology to influence and support each other to obtain social, economic and cultural development (Martin, 2019). WeChat has positioned its strategic transformation as a sharing economy and built a brand-new industry chain. It is an online commercial market for social media sharing and data economic cooperation through third-party developers, commercial WeChat platforms and personal accounts (Looi, 2001). The company is owned by the president of Tencent Group and has become a major player in China’s social application and mobile payment business, and is used by different audiences such as students, workers and the elderly (Guo et al., 2018). WeChat is promoted through Tencent and cooperated and applied with a large number of search engine companies. WeChat’s mobile payment also cooperates and supports each other through UnionPay, Visa and Apple Pay. Studies have shown that Alipay has become its most important mobile payment competitor in China, while Facebook and Line are direct competitors of WeChat in overseas markets. They provide the same services that enable users to share and deliver information in a timely manner. However, the WeChat application is also subject to the supervision of the Ministry of Public Security. It is managed and supervised by Tencent Group and follows the laws and regulations of the Chinese government on Internet application platforms and is supervised by the National Network Supervision Bureau.
Below is a diagram of WeChat’s internet ecology:
Figure showing the Ecosystem Map of WeChat, Created by Ang Li
WeChat’s Transformative And Disruptive Innovation To The Internet
WeChat is a way of life and has changed the popular culture of society, constructing innovative social concepts and social structures. Therefore, it has become a consensus to replace or even subvert the traditional promotion and marketing model through WeChat mobile promotion and marketing (Mikhalkina & Cabantous, 2015). The reform of WeChat’s social business model reflects the promotion and marketing of online products. WeChat aggregates dispersed needs into a whole, transforms individuality into customization, and based on this, uses intelligent and precise information technology capabilities to efficiently transmit information and guide supply effective production, effectively gather strength and allocate resources, and promote the efficient social cooperation.
As the biological chain of online users, WeChat has the most direct impact on material production and material exchanges is the WeChat e-commerce model, which means that the huge number of WeChat users has an important impact on the promotion of mobile payment (Sedkaoui, 2020). Data shows that the total amount of mobile payments reached 56 trillion RMB last year, of which WeChat payment accounted for 40% and became the most important financial platform in society. The business model of WeChat mobile payment has an important impact on the socio-political economy, which means that the universal and huge economic benefits of mobile payment will generate strong competitiveness in the digital economy and international finance (Winseck, 2017). For instance, the development and transformation of WeChat’s contribution to mobile payment has also played an important role in promoting the internationalization of RMB. The popularity of WeChat pay in society has also changed the payment form of Chinese tourists’ overseas consumption, which has enabled RMB to circulate overseas and established a brand new digital platform. The inconvertible characteristics of physical currency make it impossible to circulate in overseas markets (“WeChat Pay Duplicates Domestic Lifestyle Overseas Where Over 90% Chinese Still Prefer Mobile Payment,” 2018). However, WeChat Pay mobile payment will bring currency to build digital circulation channels overseas. This video created by RoyalPay Australia, which reflects the impact of WeChat Pay on the political economy of society.
The business model of the traditional Internet era is to make profits by realizing user traffic. In the mobile Internet era, users are acquired through product and service experience to enhance user stickiness and customer unit price. The changes triggered by the big data generated by a large number of users are diverse (Shaughnessy, 2016). However, WeChat has gathered a large number of users through information content sharing and communication methods. The big data brought by the large number of users can understand the real needs of consumers, carry out accurate business classification and segmentation of consumers, and provide accurate and instant decision-making basis for enterprise products. The Internet provides platforms for gathering various businesses (Houdet, Trommetter, & Weber, 2012). WeChat has built a business ecosystem of services, social networking and digital platforms, and created a “content + platform + data” business model, which has stronger core competitiveness (Krokou, 2019). The WeChat Mini Program has established a new and efficient business model for the traditional retail industry. It uses the WeChat Mini Program to build an online store for fast and convenient transaction mode. WeChat Mini Programs have made challenges and changes to consumer logic, which means that customers can form online shopping habits and establish a diversified interaction between merchants and consumers to improve consumption quality and efficiency.
Picture showing the form of building business models today, Image: “Environmental Forces – influencing competitive strategies and business models” by Alex Osterwalder is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Moreover, in the COVID-19 that affected the world this year, the WeChat interactive platform once again defined the social and cultural impact of social application reform. During the virus prevention and control period, WeChat has become the most important form of online interaction for all Chinese users. In order to reduce the risk of infection, users obtain information through the Internet at home, keep in touch with family and friends through chat tools, and establish contacts with strangers to achieve information interaction during the virus. On January 28 this year, WeChat launched the new version, which includes new discoveries in the “Public Service” function to report the epidemic situation, and it can also effectively query the local epidemic situation (Lu & Zhang, 2020). In the early stage of epidemic prevention and control, the added functions of the WeChat platform can make it easy for individual users to obtain reliable information and realize the reporting of information through standardized channels, realizing the interaction and connection between individuals and society (Liang, 2020). The WeChat platform has also realized the daily interaction of more than 1 billion users. It not only maintains close contact with relatives and friends, but also builds the timely transmission of work and technical information in the prevention and control of the COVID-19, and improves the prevention and control of social viruses, that timeliness and transparency of medical treatment. Thus, WeChat’s reform of society is reflected in its powerful interactive functions and instant interaction, and it has brought tremendous help and influence to social culture.
In summary, WeChat has become the mainstream form of Internet transformation and has influenced the development of politics, economy, and social culture. The mobile payment online business model promoted by WeChat also builds an important economic platform in today’s society and uses the Internet to promote the development of the digital economy market. In addition, WeChat has built a shared and harmonious social life environment with the society, improved the quality of life of users, and made important contributions and active epidemic prevention assistance in this year’s virus trouble.
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