WeChat: The Messaging App That’s Taking Over The World

WeChat App

I originally published this on December 1st, 2013 on a separate blog. WeChat’s monthly active user base has grown 68% since my original blog post, from 236 million to 396 million MAUs. If you are unfamiliar with WeChat, this post is for you.

WeChat 101

WeChat launched in 2011, but this Chinese messaging app is already bigger than Twitter and growing faster than Facebook in it’s prime.

WeChat is a social networking app that is based on chat. The name probably gave that away. It also has features that make finding new people to chat with really fun. One example is Shake. You shake your phone and get paired with a stranger who is also shaking their phone at the same time.

There is also a profile feature called Moments that encourages users to take and upload photos to their profile feed. WeChat’s US-rival WhatsApp offers nothing like this; it sticks to chat. You can read more about other WeChat features here.

Why does WeChat matter?

Well, for starters, WeChat is huge, and it’s user base is growing at a freakishly rapid rate. Quite frankly, it’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

The app has 500 million users, and they reached that number in two-and-a-half years. It took Facebook six years to reach the same milestone.

More than half of those users, 236 million to be exact, are active monthly users. To put that perspective, Twitter has four million fewer active monthly users and they’ve been around since 2006.

Here’s a couple other tweet-worthy facts about WeChat’s growth:

  • WeChat’s total monthly active users increased 176.8% year-on-year from August 2012 through August 2013.
  • The number of non-Chinese users increased by 30 million in the six weeks leading up to WeChat’s Q2 earnings report.

WeChat is special for other reasons, too.

What makes WeChat special is that it defies the logic that social apps must focus on doing one thing, and doing that one thing really well. WeChat does a lot of things really well, and it’s essentially a combination of social communication apps.

Eveline Chao (@EvelineChao) says it best:

If you haven’t heard of WeChat, think of it as a better WhatsApp, crossed with the social features of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, mixed with Skype and a walkie-talkie—with a little dash of Grindr on top. (Or bottom, depending on your personal proclivities.)

WeChat is creative with monetization.

WeChat is not only innovating with its features, but also finding creative ways to make money. For example, they recently introduced an option for users to pay roughly $3/month to subscribe to VIP versions of celebrity accounts. This includes all sorts of perks, including one where fans get a woken up by a greeting from the celebrity.

Some may roll their eyes at this, but let’s be honest, this is a lot more outside-the-box than the native advertising we get all worked-up about in the States.

If WeChat can find a way to catch-on in the States, and I believe they will, then Facebook better watch out. I would never call anything a ‘Facebook Killer’ because I don’t believe Facebook can be killed at this point, but WeChat has the potential to do the most damage.

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