Solving problems with the instant messenger WeChat.
Solving problems is a beautiful thing. We teach our kids from an early age to “figure it out”. We salivate in anticipation at the next client meeting where we can lay out mobile technology that cuts through sinewy problems and revolutionises an aspect of a client’s business overnight.
If you love solving problems, you’ll love WeChat.
WeChat is the instant messaging (IM) and social media App that was launched in South Africa in 2013. If you don’t use it already, you’ve probably heard about it through Gareth Cliff’s CliffCentral or the recently launched micro-jobbing platform Money4Jam.
In terms of numbers, reports indicate that in South Africa it is sitting around the 5 million users mark after showing rapid growth post launch. Globally, WeChat boasts 550 million active users.
Why is WeChat special?
IMs are designed to allow person to person chats. WeChat does this very well, but what differentiates it is that it allows brands to interact with followers through “Official Accounts” or OAs.
To be clear – you have to follow a brand before any engagement takes place. This makes it entirely opt-in and creates a win-win situation. You get to follow and benefit from brands you love, and brands get to engage with you on your terms.
How do Brands Engage on WeChat?
WeChat offers brands two options: Subscription and Service Accounts.
Subscription Accounts are designed for brands to push content to followers and don’t appear in your contact list. They are not as customizable as Service Accounts – but they serve a purpose, much like Twitter and Facebook by pushing relevant content to their audience.
The much more interesting Service Accounts are feature rich and appear in your contact list once followed. The brand channel is entirely customizable and extremely powerful. Imagine mobile payments, store finds, vouchers & coupons, surveys, competitions, consumer research, content sharing – these can all be done – and on a channel where your audience may very well already be.
For me this is the key – we are looking beyond receiving content from brands – we want deeper value, integration and services that enrich our brand experiences.
Let’s take the case of an NPO (Non-Profit Organisation) that has a massive database (big data!) of health providers and clinics in South Africa – HIV counselling and testing, palliative care, rape support and more. Their sole reason for being is to collect and disseminate this information to those that need it, and with the steady growth of smartphones want to offer a richer experience over that of their sufficient but limited USSD channel.
Choosing a WeChat Service Account gives info4africa the benefits of that channel – at a fraction of the development and maintenance costs of a native App. Think for a moment the complexities of launching and supporting an App for Android, Windows, Apple, Blackberry and even the Symbian based Nokia Asha platform – which is still relevant in South Africa with the Nokia Asha range being so popular.
The best way to conceptualise your brand channel on WeChat is to think of it as an “App within an App”. WeChat is proving to be a formidable problem solver when it comes to engaging with your audience through mobile.
To try out the info4africa WeChat channel – or more importantly to find your nearest health clinic – search WeChat for “info4africa” or scan the QR Code below with WeChat: