What is WeChat?

John Smith

With over 800 million monthly users and over one billion registered users, WeChat is China’s largest social media network and one of the most popular social apps in the world. However, it’s likely that many of you have never heard of the application that has taken China by storm.

Built by Tencent Holdings Limited, China’s first globally known internet brand, it was launched in 2011 as a free instant messaging app for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Symbian and Java.

WeChat is inclusive of all the functions of a communication tool that we’re accustomed to, including group chats, voice and video calls, sending photos as well as music files and voice notes. However, it also contains more advanced features integrated into a single digital entity and goes far beyond the normal services of messaging. WeChat’s features include transferring money, ordering food, booking hotels, playing games, giving money to charity and buying movie tickets – all from the app.

FDM Account Manager, Sherry Yu says:

“Everyone in China uses WeChat. It has been so developed that it now encompasses a wide range of functions. I use it mostly to communicate with my family and friends back home. We don’t have Facebook in China so it’s a great tool to be able to see people’s updates and pictures. I also use it to communicate with the FDM Consultants on-site in China.”

WeChat, which is known in China as Weixin 微信, has quickly become considered a ‘super app’ and an integral part of the Chinese way of living. With no access to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram WeChat has become an important way for businesses to publish promotional branded content and set up e-commerce stores in China. Companies can create official accounts and even create their own mini app on the WeChat platform, essentially an app-within-an-app. When a user interacts with an official account, the user can click to a full web application experience without ever leaving WeChat. This allows developers to deliver custom app-like experiences while WeChat enforces the rules that protect users. WeChat is considered an important tool for doing business in China.

Julian Yu, who is American born Chinese working at Standard Chartered in China, says:

“It is not just about social communication anymore. It is about giving us a platform so that we can leverage that social platform to do more, such as buy groceries, transfer money order taxis and much more.

“You can’t live without WeChat in China. It has fast become a foundation of the community, a foundation service in everyone’s lives. It’s used to advertise jobs, connect people, send emails, make phone calls, order taxis and pay for things online. It’s about community and bringing people together whilst doing things.”

*Tencent’s Business Review Q1 2017

Featured image credit: Photo by GDJ on Pixabay