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Why WeChat (Not Twitter) Represents the Next Generation of Social Networks
Posted on November 12th 2013
We've been using Twitter for more than six years now. In the beginning, it was a messy but fun platform in which there was an intricate ambiguity between personal conversations and access to mainstream media, top stars or "influencers."
That was the beauty of the tool: on a single platform, we could retweet Lady Gaga, talk about lunch with our coleagues and network through DM.
Extimacy is back with WeChat and it happens "in real life"
With WeChat, users can manage their "real" friends while controlling what they share with the world. "Moments" are in a way far less complicated to understand in terms of privacy, compared to tweets or public status updates on Facebook.
You can also "stalk" people through a key element for the next generation of social networks: the discovery of people around your area. Adding this feature is very interesting: affinity networks sometimes have a limit when you've spent too much time on one network (you've "liked" or "followed" too many companies for random reasons to actually get relevant suggestions). In the case of geolocalization, there's always one basic element of relevance: the fact that you live in the same area. It's not new per se, but because WeChat is both an address book and a "social ship", it's smart.
One of the key reasons that Facebook skyrocketed was our thirst for love (or sex, or both!): people were connecting after a party to go further in a potential relationship. In the case of geolocalization-based features (like Tinder), this thirst is satisfied even before any event: in a way, the networks becomes the reason to connect.
Playfulness, and tangibility
One of the main goals is to make the web as "tangible" as possible. In most of the existing social networks, the physical experience is very low. On Facebook or Twitter, you scroll, you zoom, you type on your screen and that's it. These social networks don't go very far in terms of body movements.
WeChat had the very good idea of implementing a feature that is one of its core components: if you "shake" your smartphone, you can connect to people who are also "shaking". It's a tremendous transformation of a classic state of mind and one of the key drivers on why we turn to social networks: the "I am bored" attitude. The network offers you an easy movement to perform that transforms your phone into a snowglobe that connects you to people like you.
Add-ons, and life as a game
We are the heroes in social networks. The "favorite" function on Twitter is very quickly complicated to handle: too much content, too much information, no easy way to sort it out.
In WeChat, you favorite messages from chat conversations. I can highlight a message that is significant to me. The first time couples say "I love you" will be aggregated in millions of private timelines. A social network is first for users. And users need to keep a secret garden, to be able to collect all the sweet memories. On Facebook, we can't really own our diaries. On Twitter, it's not even considered. WeChat conciliates our extimate needs and our personal territory. And it's huge.
Moreover, there's a way to add functionalities to WeChat, and goodies. For younger audiences, there is a way to amplify the first experience with more personalization, more personal experiences. It's a way to grow with your users, a bit like AIM used to be.
The value of a network lies in its current usage but also in the ones we don't even know yet. In the case of WeChat, because the UX is finally extremely simple, and already powerful, we can only bet on more users. WeChat defines a new territory for social networks. Let's keep ourselves posted.