WeChat by Weixin Dominating Chinese Messaging App

By: Katherine W. Morse, July 2019

You may be more familiar with WeChat than Weixin.  WeChat is the leading Chinese social media app for some 600-million Chinese citizens (Harwit, 2017, p. 312).  Weixin is the mainland version, whereas WeChat is for overseas users (Chozan,2017).  What is a messaging app?  For those that are not familiar it is a software application that enables the users to send and receive messages through cellphones and smartphones from a third-party in place of the carrier’s app (Your Dictionary, 2019).  It is similar to WhatsApp in the United States in the sense of sharing text messages, news, and pictures through a mobile device (Mahoney & Tang, 2017, p. 92).        

 What is the history of Weixin then, and how can one learn from its success? In 2011, it was introduced to Chinese users with over 300 active users by 2014 in China, Southeast Asia, Europe, and America (Mahoney & Tang, 2017, p. 92). The key, like many great apps, products, or services, comes down to understanding the target audience. In the case of Weixin, the app’s target audience was young, urban smartphone owners that needed an “all-in-one-platform” app that combined the features of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and eBay (Mahoney & Tang, 2017, p. 92). The younger audience wants to stay in touch. The technology world offers so many apps and finding an app like Weixin that reduces the time it cost the user to search and respond in one platform without having to go through multiple apps it was appealing (Mahoney & Tang, 2017, p. 92).

By researching the target audience and understand the features that would utilize has allowed for the success. Features include recording voice messages to send, news organizations are linked, and there is very little that the user has to leave the app because Weixin even allows people to open shops as well as shop from that (Mahoney & Tang, 2017, p. 92-93). Below is an image of the app.


WeChat and the Chinese version Weixin was the fifth most used app in the world with a 27% presence owned by Tencent Holdings with $4.5 billion in revenue in the first half of 2013 (Rajan, 2013, p. 101). In early 2019, Tencent Holdings WeChat and Weixin it the fifth-biggest company in the world and worth $500 billion with steady growth with one billion and climbing active users (Iqbal, 2019). Keeping this growth means staying in touch with the user audience and keep them loyal.

So, how do they keep their current users happy and gain new ones? Weixin continues to introduce new functions and campaigns to satisfy their audience and during the Chinese New Year in 2014 users could link their bank account information to send or receive red envelopes for money with the Red Envelop campaign (Mahoney & Tang, 2017, p. 93). Having ways for users to participate in campaigns directly keeps them engaged.

Another thing to mention is how someone not in the mainland China market to the users of Weixin. “…WeChat and Weixin are two different things, and marketers can’t approach potential mainland Chinese clients and customers using the overseas version, WeChat. If a brand wants to target customers in mainland China and avoid the inconveniences caused by the functional differences between two versions, they need to register an official Weixin account, instead of an official WeChat account, to do marketing(Chozan, 2017).” The two apps function in many of the same ways, but it is vital to understand international users use WeChat, and mainland China uses Weixin.           

The takeaway is understanding what your business audience is and how to target them, build loyal customers, and continue growth. By researching the audience through social listening on social media platforms, finding the niche that your brand offers as a resolution to their problems. Weixin and WeChat were able to accomplish this. An inclusive app that saved their younger demographic time and energy without having to switch between multiple accounts while offering a way to stay connected through text, picture, and video plus gathering and share news quickly within on location. Therefore, identify and define the niche that solves a problem or problems your customers have and market that to them in ways that ignite engagement building brand awareness, loyal customers while being able to grow by keeping things fresh.


Chozan. (2017).  WeChat vs. Weixin: For China Marketing You Need an Official Weixin Account.  https://chozan.co/2017/09/06/wechat-vs-weixin/

Harwit, E. (2017). WeChat: social and political development of China’s dominant messaging app. Chinese Journal of Communication10(3), 312–327. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1080/17544750.2016.1213757   

Iqbal, M. (2019).  WeChat Revenue and Usage Statistics (2019).  Business of Apps.  https://www.businessofapps.com/data/wechat-statistics/

Mahoney, L., & Tang, T. (2017). Chapter 18: Social Media for Social Behavior Change. In Strategic Social Media from Marketing to Social Change (p. 92-94). Malden, MA: Wiley.

Rajan, N. (2013). Money in the Message. Business Today22(19), 100–104. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bsu&AN=90083818&site=eds-live&scope=site

Your Dictionary. (2019).  Messaging App – Computer Definition.  https://www.yourdictionary.com/messaging-app