WeChat announced today a new milestone: 600 million monthly active users, up 37% year on year and a 9.3% increase compared to the previous quarter. While WeChat’s MAU is impressive compared to APAC-specific apps like LINE and Weibo, it trails behind global messaging apps Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp with respective 700 million and 800 million MAUs.
In addition to a lag in users, WeChat is not attracting as many brands as China’s other popular social media platform Sina Weibo. L2’s Insight Report on Mobile Social Platforms found that just 44% of brands are present on WeChat, vs. 60% present on Sina Weibo.
However, WeChat has a head start in catering to brands, relative to its messaging counterparts. It has rolled out metrics such as views and likes in the past year, helping brands and retailers measure engagement. To further expand advertising options, WeChat has recently partnered with content sharing platform Moments. And brands that participate are seeing results. Unilever for example, employed WeChat to advertise for its Clear World Cup campaign and attracted more than 250,000 followers, 30 million impressions, and 340,000 clicks in just a week.
WeChat is a trailblazer in mobile social commerce as well, launching WeChat Shopping (Weigouwu) and WeChat payment (Weixin Zhifu) to enable brands to sell products within the app. Eying opportunities in O2O (online-to-offline) commerce, it has partnered with Alipay.
It’s undisputable that WeChat is a gateway for brands attempting to reach China’s young, mobile-savvy shoppers (50% of WeChat users are 20 to 29 years old). However, to expand beyond China the messaging service would need more aggressive user growth.