The terms ‘ social media’ and ‘web 2.0’ have in the past two decades become popular for shaping and transforming online platform — social media platform as ‘social media butterflies’ stimulus user creates intimate relationship with information contents rather interacting with other in reality. WeChat platform interact expression of lifestyle with media convergence, and complementary relationship to its fellow first-tier social networking sites. WeChat, which launched in 2011, is China’s most popular mobile messaging and social media application, with the largest user base of any smartphone app globally. (Negro, 2020). Not only evoke people’s expression of lifestyle, but it is also as domain host integrated into political, economy and the culture/ social realms. Fuchs (2017) illustrated that to understand social media one needs to focus on an irreplaceable role between culture and the economy, which must include the political sphere. WeChat have seen as explosion transformative platform shift social software to self-expression of lifestyle.
Borak, 2020, WeChat WeChat now lets you report information on the Wuhan coronavirus, copyright holder
This essay argues WeChat as a transformative platform that engaging user share self-expression of lifestyle and embedded digital payment service into daily life. Following analysis WeChat platform bring unique business model of economic and political of censorship affect next action for WeChat.
What is WeChat?
WeChat was developed by Tencent Holdings as a lightweight mobile communication and private social networking app in 2011, multi-purpose messaging, transmit voice, video/photo/location sharing and a wide variety of emoticons and mobile payment application. (Wu & Wan, 2014). To some extent, it is a mobile app with features of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all in one. (Figure 2) In addition, WeChat embedded a constant stream of new services and features onto online platform, as well as designed to appeal to a broad range of consumers and businesses. A range of features and service embedded into WeChat, reconnecting to the network via mobile device action, is becoming increasingly ubiquity in Chinese people’s daily lives. Designed for minor life updates within small personal network, WeChat initially shifted only peer-to-peer conversations to message sharing-platform. In 2010, Tencent and government establish ultimate relationship supported e-commerce market integrated into WeChat platform, including wide range of function with its popular wallet feature linked third party providers to easily pay their fees.
WeChat has been described as “WeChat for everything” and “WeChat as Lifestyle”.
Meanwhile, WeChat had 1.2 million active monthly users those who used it no less than once during the month. (Digital In 2020 Report). WeChat strategy combine information platform with life tool, absorbing the weakness shift them to competitive advantages under China’s sharing economy.
The Historical beginnings of WeChat:
In the 2011, WeChat was founded by the Tencent Holding Limited as message app. Before the launch of WeChat, QQ platform had basically monopolized the social media platform in China digital landscape. Meanwhile, the QQ social media platform with its MSN-style instant messenger and accompanying Qzone social media network with 780 million active users. (Millward, 2018) By contrast, the early users of WeChat group were generally focus on adults and middle-aged. Mostly of the new generation is ‘rooted’ in QQ’s social software to share their daily’s moment. While, WeChat platform shift basic feature: text messaging, creating voice clips and sending pictures, as well as promote shake function with discover people nearby in order to increased existed between people. (Harwit, 2016) About 14 months after launching, Tencent reposted that WeChat platform hit a major milestone with the 100 million registered users. (Figure 3)
In the beginning of open WeChat camp up with “WeChat is a way of life, rather than only a chat tool” regard as new stage. (Dong, p.7, 2016). Following WeChat as lifestyle, for the Chinese New Year, WeChat released a feature for distributing virtual red envelopes with WeChat pay, interacted with the Chinese tradition of exchanging packets of money between friends and family member. The red ‘Luck Money’ not only win sponsored cash prized from red envelopes but also unique feature and service has successfully embedded into people’s daily life, even as lifestyle. Whereas, with the introduction of WeChat Pay and the red ‘Luck Money’ function, the user group was not mainly middle-age group. A majority of young people and old people also enjoyed ‘cashless’ lifestyle in their life, not only make new friends through the shake function of “Moment” also created family reunion time by the online social media platform.
WeChat’s internet ecology:
WeChat as non-Western of social media platform in the industry is unassailable. As expressed, Martin (2019), an internet ecology reflects an organized system where rely on information technologies to influence and help social, economic and cultural development. WeChat has positioned its strategic transformation as sharing economy, as well as WeChat platform create a self-branding chain. It is online function market for digital media sharing and data cooperation with other companies. Moreover, WeChat app through sharing-information behaviors and Tencent company bring cooperates and supports from mobile payment, such as Visa, Alipay, Apple pay and UnionPay. On the side, WeChat platform promote self-branding industry with unique feature and service as competitor of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and QQ. The Facebook and Twitter provide a similar service but specialize in public sharing platform instead of ‘circus of friends’.
The core supplier of WeChat are its users, engaging everyone into sharing-information behaviors, evoke users to enjoy lifestyle function. Also, the effective participation platform stimulus people into the communications services.
Below is a diagram of Airbnb’s internet ecology:
Behind WeChat revolutionary business model/ Economic:
• Payment Fountain
According Mikhalkina and Cabantou (2015) illustrated that the term business model refers to the sources and structures in the firm’s operations which enable it to capture value. One arguably salient catalyst for WeChat’s rising success against another platform as payment function and advertisement into mini-program. The embedded service and features were used to process 60% of all online payment. (Plant & Seta, 2019). Moreover, digital research illustrated that Tencent depend on WeChat ranked first among Top 100 Internet companies in China with $45 billion in annual revenue and 45% annual growth. (Wu & Wan, 2014). Behind this huge amount of growth number, attaching to the mind-blowing purchasing power of WeChat users. WeChat platform mostly occupied a 93% user penetration rate in first tier cities in China, as well as the strongest purchasing power users between 15 to 40 years old during WeChat. (Figure 4). In fact, 300 million users have bound their credit/ bank cards to WeChat pay and 500 million transactions occur daily during WeChat platform. (Lou, 2020). Especially, Visa and Apple pay have listed WeChat pay as competitors, WeChat of today not only includes credit card payment and scan code payment but also as marketing tools make different payment situation whenever and wherever, even borrow a book. (Rong, 2016, p.7).
On the other hands WeChat “Moment” or “Circle of Friends” similar as Facebook, text, picture and share preferred music can be published, delivery from audience familiar with and trusts each other. Based on audience circle of WeChat can easily be forwarded and received reliable source of trusted information from an individual’s close friends. Lots of useful or popular information is broadcasted from one circle to another. Thus, WeChat promote mini-program service embed into online media platform, bring western fashion brands into digital marketing in China. According Otte (2020) demonstrated that Chinses users rely heavily on information about fashion and trends from their social media platform rather than physical store. In 2020, British fashion brand Burberry has teamed up with Tencent create interactive WeChat shop, shift significant relationship between interaction and engagement from consumer to social media platform. Using a mini-program WeChat entering the online store, users create profile and given a digital avatar in the form of a cartoon fawn. (Figure 3). Also, customers can book fitting rooms, pre-select clothes and play their own music while trying them on.
Subsequently, sale in the brand store increased by 21%, promoting a new concept that will redefine expectations of retail. Overall, mini-program embedded into WeChat platform not only bring innovation shift in how brand business engage with their customers but also a large amount of advertisement into platform within higher revenue. WeChat is steadily garnering more international users or brand, and its positive impacts has now steeped deeper into daily life. The payment function and mini-program business model shift WeChat as lifestyle rather than social communication tools.
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Censored by China and next action for WeChat/ Political:
WeChat platform’s opaque censorship and surveillance practices are frequently debated, with commentators Chen indicated that most content is still subject to the Chinese Communist Party’s rules. In the rich-information social platform, WeChat adopted one of the major internets create intimate relationship between organization and government, using digital platform established online censorship for users. (Wu & Wan, 2014). Since March 2013, WeChat with the ministry of industry and information about potential charges for WeChat on its website, pushing Tencent’s shares down 1.5% and drew almost universal outrage from users. Moreover, Southern Metropolitan Daily indicated that 86% of more than 2,000 respondents would stop using WeChat if they were forced to pay for it. (Wu & Wan, 2014). With the spread of rumor, WeChat platform promote regulatory tools is to disable the sharing function of official accounts by censoring some offending and sensitive comments. (Ryan, Fritz & Impiombato 2020, p.31). Also, platform adopted strategy that reducing uncertain risk from people who subscribe to the official accounts make public moral panic. In other words, the government holds the rights of WeChat manipulation. The ‘Political interference’ in China affects social stability and public attitude to a great content.
In 2019, WeChat attacked challenge by the United States strategy attempts to shut down WeChat and increase division in the Chinses-American, while downloads of the app have actually spiked. (Guo, 2020). Specifically, commentators Steven Chen using terms like “Virtual Chinatown”, keeping “isolated first-generation immigrants from mainland China from the rest of the country and the broader range of political view. (Guo, 2020). After 45 days have banned WeChat issue delivery in the social media platform, mostly people have turned to alternatives such as Telegram and WhatsApp. WeChat of today need to address challenge about users can easily share across other people with different viewpoint in the same groups. And WeChat should increase potential for unity as a network for social listening, that goes much further than their beginnings as a “Virtual Chinatown” networking site.
WeChat — A transformative disruptive innovation of payment function:
The transformative innovation, as defined by Clayton Christensen, refers to a new efficiency, no-frills business model grows exponentially to change original function. Here, WeChat as a disruptive innovation through payment function to delivery WeChat as lifestyle rather than online communication tools. WeChat Pay is a payment feature integrated into the platform; users can complete payment quickly with phones. And WeChat payment service including Quick Pay, QR code payment and In-App /native Web-Based payments, all features fulfil into different payment situation. In addition, WeChat pay combined with official accounts and mini program optimize consumption experiences, providing professional internet solutions for physical users.
Behind innovation of payment function, the intensive interactive communication play an irreparable role in the WeChat platform. As Facebook/ Instagram/Twitter/ Snapchat with uneven concentration in usage from different groups with different interests that are segregated but scattered at the same time. WeChat on the other hand concentrated the age groups, evoke users’ interests and fuses a common platform of interactive communication. (Digital Marketing 2020). Under the technology of WeChat, payment function extends scan QR Code to pay or collect information. By scanning activity QR not only share promotion activity also barcodes, and even words can be scanned and translated. The payment function gradually changes the WeChat framework, mostly like a group of ultimate friends surrounded in a room of mutual value discussing about their in-depth interest and hobbies. Under the media convergence platform, payment function as operating system for your life in China rather than online tools. (Matthew, 2020).
- On the social level, in the age of Covid-19, WeChat play a significant role of social responsibility, WeChat launched the new version, which includes new discoveries in the “Public Service” function interacted with QR function to report the epidemic situation, and it can also effectively query the local epidemic situation. Even a health code program that predicts your likelihood of infection, which then determines your ability to leave your home, visit mall and restaurants, or travel. Based the WeChat function not only control of the COVID-19 also improves the prevention and control of social viruses, maintains close contact with relatives and friends. (Figure 6)
- In addition, WeChat as an example of a non-western digital media service, essentially acting as its own mobile operating system to caters to all of its user’s digital need, but now also serves as a socio-cultural communication role. As sustainable development is a common challenge for all over the world. It is well known that China’s economic development cost of destroyed environment as agenda. Thus, WeChat platform and Government established intimate relationship adopted as WeChat share platform communication role to delivery protect environment topic. For example, WeChat users can share the links of public service advertisements on environmental protection or news on pollution with their friends through online share platform. More importantly, environmental information usage on WeChat platform has considerable potential in improving public’s awareness, also promoting use’s highlight WeChat social responsibility. Even the WeChat platform as ‘slacktivism’ communication tools, the power and effect of prosocial actions initiated on social media cannot be ignored.
Overall, the transparent of medical treatment and efficiency communication ability enhance people’s awareness and influence social culture level.
A final Note:
To sum up, WeChat as a transformative disruptive innovation in the social media platform. WeChat as ‘social media butterflies’ not only stimulus people share their daily life during the ‘Moment’ function but also bring unique feature and services embedded into digital landscape. The business model combined with WeChat pay function and mini-program hit a major milestone, delivery WeChat self-branding and engaging other business company into China’s social networking. Furthermore, the supervision and censorship system of WeChat is also a challenge for next action, increasing potential for social listening rather than “Virtual Chinatown” site. WeChat social media platform of today recovery responsibility and self-expression of lifestyle in platform.
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