Dashboard of WeChat Official Accounts
Dashboard of WeChat Official Accounts

After WeChat, or Weixin, launched its first API to official accounts and several more to selected partners, industry people began talking about whether it would become a platform like Facebook that accommodates all kinds of applications.

Official accounts are allowed to send rich-media messages to followers and offered a dashboard with basic analytics metrics. Some developers built HTML5- powered features so that their official WeChat accounts could function like real apps.

As we introduced before, some businesses or organizations with tech support from WeChat team had come up with amazing features. But more out there, especially those existing Internet businesses, want to take advantage of the platform, with limited access to API calls though.

At our latest TNT event over the past weekend, we had a handful of tech startups to show what they had developed for their official accounts and discuss the pros and cons of doing business on WeChat.

Chumen Wenwen, a voice search service, shifted its focus from the Android app to WeChat, for its service works well on the platform and they found it’s easier to acquire users there. Its official account would return a rich-media message with several results after a user sends out a voice query.

Dache Xiaomi was a latecomer in taxi app market. So it decided to focus on WeChat for acquiring new users. Users can order taxis directly through its WeChat official accounts.

WeiPass offers an appcessory for small- and mid-sized businesses to create loyalty programs and manage customer data. It takes advantage of WeChat’s QR code scanner to help merchants to distribute e-coupons and the like directly in WeChat.

117go, a travel diary app, makes its WeChat account an electronic mag to engage users, hoping to convert WeChat followers to users of its own app.

Meilishuo, a social shopping service, sees WeChat as another platform, apart from Weibo, for marketing and branding. It’s different from Weibo in a lot of ways, but the goals are the same — engaging audiences and boost conversion rates.

What attract them also include

  1. WeChat’s huge and fast growing user base. It seems easier and less expensive for apps or services to acquire users on WeChat other than on other app platforms especially in Android markets.
  2. There’s no need to build an account system and wait for users to build social relationships over time, as a user’s connections on WeChat are from QQ IM or the mobile phone address book, or both, that are his or her friends of one kind or another.
  3. The official account system for media or businesses is a good interactive CRM tool. Voice messaging is a new way for interacting with customers.
  4. Payments capability with WeChat 5.0 enables selling goods there.

Their biggest concern is whether Tencent, WeChat’s parent company, would for real open the platform, other than copying their features and then beating them, which this company is notorious for.

Other concerns include

  1. An official account cannot collect audience data sets directly and analyze them as it likes.
  2. Its mechanism isn’t favorable for application distribution.
  3. Third parties have to follow rules set or adjusted from time to time by WeChat. Official accounts previously were allowed to send three messages a day to followers. But WeChat, claiming three would flood users, reduced the quota into one per day. Currently only a small number of verified accounts are allowed to send two a day.
  4. WeChat infrastructure hasn’t been stable enough.

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com

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