Chinese social service WeChat now has over 806 million monthly active users, according to Tencent’s second quarter financial release this year.
While WeChat started as a chatting app, it’s now known for a myriad of other functions. In a study conducted by research firm Nielsen Norman Group, many Chinese research participants considered the app’s payment service and WeChat official accounts more central than the chat service.
WeChat can provide a launchpad for early-stage startups, letting them build their business on top of WeChat official accounts and monetizing through WeChat Wallet, the app’s mobile payment solution. Accelerators like Chinaccelerator also encourage their founders to base their businesses on WeChat official accounts.
In this series, we interviewed startup entrepreneurs at Sandbox, a local coworking space in Shanghai, and asked them how useful WeChat is to their business.
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Chen Dan (30): Commerce IT management

“WeChat official accounts can only be helpful for promotion, marketing, and increasing the user base.”

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Chen Colin (41): Developing a memorization app for students

“WeChat is good at promoting your product, and it’s important. These days, what matters is whether the content looks good on your WeChat or not. If you’re doing business in China, then WeChat is the number one social network.

“If it’s a traveling app, then WeChat will be a good platform to post content about the traveling content. If you need an e-commerce function, then you might need a WeChat service account. But what we do is neither of those cases. Also, when you open a WeChat public account, you have to manage it well. So we decided to not use it.

“When we develop the app, we are going to let the users sign up using WeChat, so users can sign up quickly without going through the hassle of registering.”

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Jin Yoo (33) Korean startup founder and designer

“KakaoTalk and LINE are both blocked in China. My bank accounts don’t link to WeChat, and so I plan to register at ICBC China. I can’t speak Chinese, so I don’t use WeChat that much. I use WeChat to send out Powerpoints to investors and possible partners, use it for face chatting, and to send out locations to my friends.

“WeChat groups are a great way to get along with the local community and get information about my business. People introduce business contacts on WeChat and filter out important people on their business and talk to them. WeChat moments serves as a great way to promote the startups. For building business networks, it’s the best app.”

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Jay Wang (33) Manages a cafe franchise for children

“We are preparing an O2O service, and the app will be the main platform. We are going to develop a WeChat public account, targeting 3 to 12 year-old kids’ parents, but I don’t think opening a WeChat public account is a must. As for the payment, we can use other payment methods than WeChat.”

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Zhang Tali (26) Co-working Space manager

“Our co-working space has a WeChat public account, and people use it to know more about us. We have our own mobile app, and WeChat is only a part of it. People can order coffee, and reserve an office room for meetings through the app, and pay through WeChat or Alipay. I’ d say that our mobile app helps us more than WeChat public account does.”

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Cheng Guang (41) Founder of innovation and entrepreneurship center

“We often conduct surveys on WeChat and the accuracy is pretty high. We confirm how much one campaign ha spread throughout the people. If we publish WeChat content, then we can actually earn money with it based on the number of readers.

“WeChat doesn’t help our business so much. The real business is done when we meet up to actually talk. When there is a possible client, we first talk on WeChat, then we actually meet up to talk business. In that case, online communication itself doesn’t make anything happen.”

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Jeff Huang (25) WeChat content writer for grocery importing company

“WeChat’s features have everything that one has to find. I use WeChat to mostly communicate, write articles on the WeChat public account, and find information. If you post something on Weibo, it’s doesn’t necessarily relate to the user group that we want to attract. A WeChat account is more targeted to our users since they follow us.

“If the quality of the content on a WeChat account is really high, then the readers are also very keen to follow up. However, Weibo’s content is comparably poor and readers also skim the content through rather than read it. Using WeChat, we can promote what we are doing. If I write a good article, then more people will follow us. It’s similar to the wrapping a present, if the present looks good in its design, it gives trust to people and can attract people. Ou WeChat public account is one of our company’s important strategies to attract users.”

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Xiaoqing Sun (36) iOS, Android app developer

“I use QQ on the laptop and I use WeChat on the mobile. In 2008 and 2009, people used QQ and some of the companies still use QQ on their business communication. MMS was popular in 2004 and 2005, but they don’t use it now.

“For me, I only use WeChat to contact people. Many people use WeChat to do business, such as opening a WeChat accounts, but only a few people earn money. It’s a hot tactic these days, but the success rate is really low. It’s hard to promote a product on a WeChat account. When you follow a public account, you don’t really come back to see it. We did it before, but it was not so effective.”

Image Credit: TechNode