Despite a series of data leaks, privacy issues, PR fumbles, government investigations, and executives fleeing, there is no denying that Facebook is the leader amongst social media platforms in the West.
When it comes to sharing photos, videos, and links, Facebook leads the charge. However, with each new announcement and update the social media giant’s greater goal becomes clearer, to be the WeChat of the West.
WeChat’s dominance in China is overwhelming. It’s the social media platform in the country. They have over one billion daily active users. It’s the 5th most used app in the world. Over 45 billion messages get sent on WeChat daily. Over 30% of all mobile Internet usage and mobile data is spent on the app.
In China, WeChat isn’t just an app- it’s the Internet.
When explaining WeChat to Western users, people often compare it to Facebook. They both offer messaging services and the ability to share photos, videos, and links. But when it comes to other features, WeChat outpaces Facebook by far.
WeChat allows users to do just about everything from buying moving tickets, making payments, delivering food, and order rides. The app is Facebook, Snapchat, Yelp, Venmo, eBay, Apple, Instagram, YouTube, and Amazon all rolled into one.
Facebook has already begun to stake claims in these other services. They’ve announced plans to let messages automatically disappear after a set amount of time, something Snapchat does. There are also reports that they are working on their own developing their own digital currency to make it easier to send money through the platform.
As a company, Facebook certainly has the money and power to become the WeChat of the West. However, there are still massive hurdles for them to cross. Building trust in users is the first one.
Following a string of privacy failures including the Cambridge Analytica scandal, many users have slowly started to leave the platform. These users are turning to the Facebook-owned Instagram, still within the company’s pocket, but it hints at a larger issue- Facebook as a platform is not invincible.
“Facebook has a lot of momentum but it’s not completely invincible,” said Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates. “People came to Facebook for a particular thing. Offer them a different thing, and they’re likely to re-evaluate whether they want to be there at all.”
Their plan is certainly ambitious, and it’s not entirely impossible. But competitors shouldn’t pack it up yet. Facebook has a long way to go to become WeChat. Rather than a single consolidated platform offering all of these services like WeChat, Facebook may take another approach. Hosting a range of apps under the Facebook family that are able to seamlessly work together may be a more feasible bet. Facebook already does with well with their Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp platforms.
It will be interesting to see whether Facebook flourishes or flounders as they pursue this lofty goal.