WeChat: a new lifestyle

the history, business model and transforamtive effect of WeChat

WeChat cupcake
"WeChat cupcake" by liewcf is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Introduction

With the popularity of smartphones, more and more people are using social applications such as WeChat. The emergence and gradual popularization of WeChat has greatly changed people’s lifestyle and social mode. This essay will first introduce what is WeChat and the history of WeChat. Then, will analyze the ownership and business module of WeChat, the internet ecology of WeChat, how WeChat changes people, the innovation and transformative effect of WeChat.

What is WeChat

WeChat is a messaging and calling application that bundles multiple social functions, making WeChat a social media platform (Tu, 2016). WeChat has a variety of functions, including moments, public accounts, group chats and so on (Tu, 2016). Users can send voice messages, messages, video calls, payments, and more via WeChat (Tu, 2016). Users can send messages and voice messages for free through WeChat, without paying the fees of Chinese operators (Harwit, 2017). As WeChat continues to develop new features, it is deeply loved by users (Sandel, Ou, Wangchuk, Ju, & Duque, 2019).

The history of WeChat

The idea of WeChat came into being in 2010 after the great success of Kiki message in Canada (Harwit, 2017). Kiki’s product manager suggested to Tencent’s founders that a similar app should be launched. The idea was approved by the founders (Harwit, 2017). In January 2011, WeChat was officially released (Harwit, 2017). But WeChat did not get off to a good start. In the first few months of WeChat’s release, user growth was slow (Harwit, 2017). But WeChat quickly rolled out new features. Users can find friends nearby and chat with strangers (Harwit, 2017). By the end of 2011, the number had reached five million (Harwit, 2017). Subsequently, WeChat allowed users to send voice messages and in 2012 introduced video calling (Harwit, 2017). All of these features have been well received by users. Nowadays, WeChat has become one of the most popular social applications in the world (Wu, Zhang, Wang, Xiong, & Du, 2016). WeChat continues to scale through the binding services it provides in a variety of large applications (Plantin & de Seta, 2019). WeChat is not only a social application but also described as a portal and mobile operating system (Plantin & de Seta, 2019). By February 2019, WeChat had 1.06 billion monthly users (Negro, Balbi, & Bory, 2020).

Ownership

WeChat is developed and owned by Tencent, one of the largest Internet companies in China (Plantin & de Seta, 2019). Since the 2000s, the concept of cultural integration has emerged gradually. Tencent quickly embraced the idea of media convergence, adopting it for all its technologies and services(Negro, Balbi, & Bory, 2020). All of Tencent’s technologies and services follow the four concepts of mobility, media convergence, social construction, and sinicization (Negro, Balbi, & Bory, 2020). Although WeChat’s initial development was not satisfactory, as Tencent continued to introduce new features, users became more and more. Tencent has built WeChat into a national communications platform. And WeChat is not just a chat tool, but an operating system. Moreover, WeChat has attracted plenty of foreign users through its constant innovation. WeChat has greatly improved the profitability and business interests of Tencent (Peng, 2017).

Tencent company
Tencent Offices” by ChrisYunker is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Business model

The business model of WeChat is a kind of attention economy. While the way to access information is plentiful, attention is scarce (Peng, 2017). WeChat grabs users’ attention with a range of features. By attracting users’ attention, WeChat allows economic behavior to occur. A large number of WeChat businesses on their WeChat moments can sell their products by establishing interpersonal relationships and gaining more people’s attention, so as to obtain economic benefits. WeChat public account through the continuous output of high-quality articles and content, attract the attention of users. Then they can get the user’s reward, so as to reap economic rewards. In the articles shared by various public accounts or moments, the product introduction related to the article is usually pushed at the end of the article. The beauty makeup and clothing categories are in the majority. Since the product is highly relevant to the content of the article, users are likely to buy the product after they get their attention.

The internet ecology of WeChat

WeChat has many partners and works closely with all kinds of applications. Most apps can be directly logged in via WeChat account binding. Plenty of the software can be paid through WeChat, such as take-out application, taxi-hailing application, travel application and so on. Most of the brands are working with WeChat to make online payments through WeChat. The development model of WeChat is no longer relying on the power of Tencent to enrich the functions of WeChat. By launching the WeChat open platform, Tencent effectively integrated social resources and formed an industrial ecosystem. WeChat introduces the WeChat payment open interface; the third party can use the payment interface.

WeChat’s competitors mainly include QQ, Weibo, and other similar social applications such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so on. Both QQ and WeChat are social software and were built by Tencent. Most of WeChat’s users were imported from QQ at the beginning. The users of these two applications have a great overlap, but there is also a competitive relationship. At present, QQ users are mostly teenagers, while WeChat users are older on average than QQ. WeChat pays more attention to privacy and its functions are relatively simple and easy to understand. The user’s interaction on QQ can be seen by all of his friends. Compared with WeChat, QQ is more like pure social software. WeChat integrates payment functions in various applications, which directly forms a competitive relationship with Weibo (Farrar, 2013). Weibo is a partnership with Alibaba, and Weibo allows users to access Alibaba’s Taobao site directly from their accounts (Farrar, 2013). However, Taobao does not support WeChat payment. The difference between WeChat and Weibo is that WeChat is a relatively closed network, while Weibo is an open platform (Tu, 2016). Most of the relationships in WeChat are real and close, making it easier to interact and communicate with friends. There is a lot of junk information on Weibo and it is scattered, which makes important information difficult to be found, and the authenticity of the content also needs to be considered. Moreover, there are a large number of advertisements on Weibo, and the increase of advertisements brings bad experiences to users. WeChat’s official account platform pays more attention to quality and originality, providing users with useful and interesting content and information (Gan & Wang, 2015). But some WeChat official account platform has the problem of plagiarism, this kind of infringement phenomenon often occurs. Too much similarity in the content will cause users to lose interest.

Most of the services on WeChat are provided by third-party platforms, which are in partnership with Tencent. WeChat is mainly managed by Tencent, but china also has regulations on public accounts and WeChat group. Content posted on public accounts will also be monitored. If found violations will be dealt with in accordance with the relevant provisions. Social platforms provide users with contact with each other and allow them to interact with more people (Gillespie, 2018). However, social platforms also need to strengthen the supervision of the platform and conduct content audit (Gillespie, 2018). WeChat has a huge user base, covering almost all age groups, among which there are more users in their 20s. Almost all people with smartphones have WeChat accounts.

Wechat ecology
Figure 1: the internet ecology of Wechat, created by Yuxuan Mu

The transformative effect and innovation of WeChat

The uniqueness of WeChat is the combination of other social application features and some attractive innovations (Farrar, 2013). The emergence of WeChat promotes communication between people and can expand the social circle, which is conducive to the development of interpersonal relations. The connection mode between people by WeChat has brought about a fundamental change, which makes people become an online connection state at any time. Moments allows users to show off their daily lives and to get to know each other better. Through WeChat, people can solve the social barriers in real life, will not be displayed by the space. But excessive or inappropriate use of social software will reduce social skill in real life (Hou et al., 2017). WeChat has greatly changed people’s lifestyle, and the functions of WeChat connect all aspects of daily life. WeChat’s motor function can let users see how many steps their friends take each day. Through the interaction in the moments, more and more people are willing to participate in sports, thus leading a healthy lifestyle. WeChat promotes the delivery of information and the scope of information involved. The public platform allows users to learn about relevant information according to their own interests. The appearance of WeChat payment has changed people’s payment habits. Most people only take their mobile phones to pay when they go out. Almost all stores support WeChat payment. With WeChat payment, WeChat’s official accounts are no longer just a simple information transmission platform but become a service that provides information transmission, commodity ordering and transaction payment. Users only need to bind a bank card to make payment through various apps within WeChat. It can also combine online and offline purchases. Not only young people but also older people are using WeChat more frequently. WeChat also enriches the lives of older users. By watching this video created by WeChat, can have a clearer understanding of how WeChat has changed the life of elderly users.

The core of WeChat is social, but it has evolved into something more. This has fostered many new positions and employment opportunities, such as the maintenance, development and management of WeChat, as well as the continuous mainstream of online shopping. Posts such as after-sales service, customer service and courier also have a great demand for personnel. WeChat’s business model is also highly innovative. Relying on the WeChat social platform, it provides accurate marketing information channels. At the same time, the open service platform satisfies the personalized needs of different users.

WeChat Payment
“Tencent WeChat = 400MM Mobile Active Chat Users… Increasingly Using Payments + Commerce” by caseorganic is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, WeChat is an online application that combines a variety of functions. WeChat has not been a smooth ride and has gained a large number of users in the process of continuous improvement and introduction of new features. WeChat is owned by Tencent, WeChat’s business model is primarily an attention economy, attracting users’ attention through a variety of features. And it has attracted many third-party platforms to provide services. WeChat is extremely transformative and innovative. The emergence of WeChat has changed people’s lifestyles and social styles and promoted the development of the economy and society.

 

 

References

Farrar, L. (2013). Tapping Into China’s Wechat. WWD206(33).

Gan, C., & Wang, W. (2015). Uses and gratifications of social media: a comparison of microblog and WeChat. Journal of Systems and Information Technology17(4), 351–363. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSIT-06-2015-0052

Gillespie, T. (2018). Custodians of the internet : platforms, content moderation, and the hidden decisions that shape social media . Yale University Press.

Harwit, E. (2017). WeChat: social and political development of China’s dominant messaging app. Chinese Journal of Communication10(3), 312–327. https://doi.org/10.1080/17544750.2016.1213757

Hou, J., Ndasauka, Y., Jiang, Y., Ye, Z., Wang, Y., Yang, L., … Zhang, X. (2017). Excessive use of WeChat, social interaction and locus of control among college students in China.(Research Article)(Report). PLoS ONE12(8), e0183633. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0183633

Negro, G., Balbi, G., & Bory, P. (2020). The path to WeChat: How Tencent’s culture shaped the most popular Chinese app, 1998–2011. Global Media and Communication16(2), 208–226. https://doi.org/10.1177/1742766520923008

Peng, Y. (2017). Affective networks: how WeChat enhances Tencent’s digital business governance. Chinese Journal of Communication10(3), 264–278. https://doi.org/10.1080/17544750.2017.1306573

Plantin, J., & de Seta, G. (2019). WeChat as infrastructure: the techno-nationalist shaping of Chinese digital platforms. Chinese Journal of Communication12(3), 257–273. https://doi.org/10.1080/17544750.2019.1572633

Sandel, T., Ou, C., Wangchuk, D., Ju, B., & Duque, M. (2019). Unpacking and describing interaction on Chinese WeChat: A methodological approach. Journal of Pragmatics143, 228–241. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2018.08.011

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Yuxuan Mu
About Yuxuan Mu 2 Articles
major in psychological science