What’s the fastest growing social network? You might be surprised (syENGAGE interview)

wechatIn February, the GlobalWebIndex Social, the world’s largest study on the connected consumer, was topped by an app with a 379% growth in user numbers between February and October 2013.

The app? China’s Wechat app, ostensibly an instant messaging app but fast becoming a heavyweight in social media. 

We’ve talked about wechat before, but it’s important to realise it’s not only important for the Chinese-speaking world. This study surveyed 170,000 people in 32 countries. Something is afoot. 

The app is doing especially well in its native China, and also in India, Italy, the Philippines, and Malaysia. 

We asked Poshu Yeung, Vice President of International Business Group at Tencent, about the secrets of Wechat’s success, and its direction for the future: 

1. What is the secret behind Wechat’s massive growth, particularly outside of China? Features, the availability of English language version, aggressive marketing in other markets, or something else? 

It is the product. We put user experience in the first place and keep optimizing all performance and features. Marketing also helps, but the product experience and differentiation should be the key.  

Simon’s comment: this is the same user-centred approach that has paid off handsomely for Google and Facebook.

2. What sector do you see yourself in, social network or instant messaging? Or both? or neither?

The core will be instant messaging. Hold-to-talk, video call, Image sending.. However WeChat goes beyond conversation – it is also a full social network. WeChat Moments allows people to stay connected and share content such as photos, status updates and locations with anyone in the world. The Shake feature connects anyone shaking a WeChat equipped mobile device at the same time, and the People Nearby option searches for contacts nearby who are interested in meeting new people. Game is also another exciting element which helps to create more organic connection between people. We aim to give users seamless all-in-one social communication experience.  

Simon’s comment: In other words, Wechat aims to make its competitors irrelevant through providing a compelling and immersive experience. 

3. How are Wechat’s business offerings going to evolve? And what options are available for New Zealand businesses to use Wechat? 

WeChat will continue to evolve itself in optimizing its features and user experience. In the recent 5.1 version, WeChat has launched its game business and we have seen very good traction so far. In the upcoming 5.2 version, there will be a big improvement in the user interface and performance optimization along with many other interesting features. For local business, they can leverage WeChat by using the WeChat official account service, wherein local merchants can use it to directly interact with their customers.   It also serves to increase customer loyalty for brands and provide added value through interesting contents. Free SDK and API are available for official account owners to develop applications on WeChat.

 Simon’s comment: Facebook has shown us that social gaming is big (addictive) business. Wechat and its parent company Tencent are leading the charge in mobile social gaming.

It’s still early days for wechat in New Zealand. If you’d like to get your business connecting with your audience (Chinese or otherwise) through social media, give us a call


5 thoughts on “What’s the fastest growing social network? You might be surprised (syENGAGE interview)

  • Trent Yeo

    Great article. Here are some other points:
    -What I have been most impressed is the ability for this to become a payment system which gives some business application.
    -Always an interesting idea as I still feel that the inability to search via tags makes it impossible to connect ideas. In fact outside your guangxi you are not even in the game. Which maybe related to the idea that it is difficult to search my conversation also by the great firewall.
    -Just discovered how to use desktop version which is super handy

    • Simon

      Thanks, great comments Trent! I think the lack of searchability is a big loss for marketers but also the key reason people use it as they don’t want to be observed by governments or big business.

      Desktop (web) version is indeed fully awesome!

      • Wayne

        Yes, wechat won’t act exactly the way qq is, even though desktop version came out finally. I guess account operator would prefer desktop version in many ways 🙂

  • Cher Ong

    Not just due to its various features, Wechat started its greatness based on the huge amount of stickness with netizens from Tencent, mostly, in China. Features are too easy to be copied, and, without big users, how to give birth to the greatness in NZ. Is it a matter of time or the initiative from MKTers? Willing to know and to do 🙂

    • Simon

      “How to give birth to the greatness in NZ” what a great question, Cher. I think Xero is one company to look to for an example, they have started to own a global niche in the accounting space. (Well, English-speaking global anyway)


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