Is WeChat the future of social networking apps? Many of you use apps in your daily lives; in fact, 90 billion were downloaded in 2016. Personally, I use Google Maps daily to check bus routes. In addition to apps, social media is consistently increasing in popularity: Instagram for the pictures; Snapchat for the creeping; Facebook for the fake news; and Pinterest for appreciating how untalented we are. Who wants to waste the precious 3 seconds it takes to bounce around to each one of these apps, though? Not me, but I just don’t know it yet.
As the technology behind these all-purpose apps increases, so will the general public’s desire to own one. Apps with a tremendous array of features are steadily growing in popularity within the US. One savvy company–in particular, Facebook–has caught wind of this trend. That shouldn’t be surprising. Facebook’s success can usually be attributed to showing up to the party early. The question is: is Facebook inviting us to party or stubbornly dragging us along?
New to U.S. but Old to China
If you’re a citizen of China, you’re already familiar with the one app platform concept through WeChat. WeChat has thrived within China’s Great FireWall, a filtration system for the Internet in China for sanctioning (or censoring) web content through the government. The Great FireWall has cracked down on social media platforms and sites where users generate much of the content (i.e., most Western social media platforms), and has allowed for innovation to thrive within China-based apps such as WeChat.
WeChat is the app that lets users invest in stocks, hire a babysitter, and share your location with your taxi driver all in one place. The amount of personal data required to power this app would make most Americans shudder. As one American venture capitalist shared with The Economist, WeChat is “at every point of your daily contact with the world, from morning until night”. A major hub for internet activity, WeChat has an incredible amount of data on what users do online. The Economist, in a slight jab to Silicon Valley, points out that “People who divide their time between China and the West complain that leaving WeChat behind is akin to stepping back in time.”
The Matrix Effect
The reach of social media mammoths like Facebook and WeChat are both impressive and terrifying. So where does that leave us? Will we stand in awe at the extensive capabilities of this trailblazing technology or long for the days of 3-second intermissions between apps?
There are notable benefits to this innovation:
- streamline functionality across multiple services
- tailored needs for specific experience
- the potential for open-loop systems
Innovations in Facebook Messenger now let users exchange money and buy goods within the app. China has taken that concept to the next level by investing in infrastructure to complement apps like WeChat. Users of these social media sites aren’t the only ones with big smiles. The heap of market insight buried in Facebook’s and WeChat’s database is enough to make any ad agency salivate. The dependence of a singular portal delivers a radical new way to segment and target consumers. How much do you think our data is worth?
It’s Good Until It Isn’t
The constant barrage of new technology can be intimidating. That intimidation often leads to detachment or blind acceptance. We love the potential of social media at Hashtagitude, but we often struggle with where to draw the line when it comes to this stuff.
The biggest threat to this innovation is the very thing that makes it so revolutionary: centralization. Information on passwords, credit cards, and identification are only as secure as the platform guarding it–which can be extremely safe ,until it isn’t (ever heard the phrase “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”?). The flip side to this is the worth of this information. What steps will social media take in order to attract users? NYMag kindly describes the recent history of one social media giant:“Facebook is completely unafraid of leveraging its enormous social graph to make use of its competitors’ innovations and choke those competitors out… Facebook changed its direct-messaging software to more closely mirror Snapchat’s… introduced cut-and-paste geofilters, stickers, and virtual face masks to [their] products on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.” Is it wise to abide by these practices? The speed in which these apps are growing is tremendous and the lengths these companies will go to hoard our information should concern us.
These apps will rise to prominence through popularity and functionality. In general, people love social media because it offers so many different and dynamic ways to interact with friends and family. The kids are on it, the parents are on it, and even the president is on it. An easy way for businesses to reap the benefits of this technology is to go along: a smart business knows when to follow the market. But if the company and app crashed, what would happen next? An entire online presence erased in a matter of seconds. Remember to diversify your online portfolio. Spread your brand through multiple networks. The digital landscape has a bright and exciting future–a future that leaves us wondering if it’s worth it. Is this a trend that you can get behind? Let us know in the comments below.