WhatsApp and WeChat are both messaging apps that allow users to send text messages, photos, and videos to other users. As a pioneer in federated messaging, we often get questions from clients on these applications and whether they’d be effective business tools.
Is the use of WeChat a good marketing tactic? How secure is WhatsApp? And when looking at WhatsApp Business Vs. WeChat Business, which one comes out on top?
Below, we’ll review the background of each application, the top features offered to users, and potential privacy and compliance concerns worth noting.
What Is WeChat?
WeChat is a Chinese messaging app developed by Tencent, a Chinese multinational conglomerate. It was first released in 2011 as a messaging app for smartphones and has since grown to become a multi-purpose platform (also known as a “super app”) that includes many features, including payment services, social media, and online shopping.
WeChat began as a project to create a messaging app that could compete with international offerings such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The app was released in 2011 and quickly gained popularity in the Chinese tech industry, expanding beyond messaging and becoming the go-to application for everything social.
Today, over 1.2 billion people worldwide use WeChat, predominantly in China.
What Is WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is a messaging app that allows users to send texts, photos, videos, and other types of media to each other. It was founded in 2009 and initially released as a paid app for iPhone, but WhatsApp’s popularity grew quickly and it was made available for free in early 2010. In the years since its launch, WhatsApp has become one of the most popular messaging apps in the world, with over 2 billion monthly active users as of 2021. In 2014 it was acquired by Meta (than Facebook) for $19 billion.
Key Differences Between WhatsApp and WeChat
Though similar, there are a few notable differences between the two:
WhatsApp is more widely used in countries outside of China, while WeChat is more popular in China. In fact, WhatsApp is banned in China, so users there won’t have a choice of which application to use. Users can still access WhatsApp through a virtual private network (VPN), but the legality of this in China is questionable. Understandably, most Chinese citizens prefer WeChat.
WhatsApp has a larger user base than WeChat, with 2.2 billion monthly active users as of 2022. WeChat has around 1.2 billion monthly active users, a billion of which are located in China itself. In other words, when ranking the top messaging apps by country, WeChat is the go-to application for those in China. Of course, those overseas haven’t embraced its adoption on quite the same level, likely due to concerns surrounding user privacy.
WeChat offers a wider range of features than WhatsApp, including the ability to make voice and video calls, send money to friends, and use the app for online shopping. It also has a real-time location-sharing feature to help users meet up with friends. Users can even automatically split bills at restaurants through WeChat’s built-in features
WhatsApp is more focused on messaging and has fewer additional features, most of which are limited to direct communications (although some reports indicate that Meta may try to turn it into a super app in the coming years).
This is, perhaps, the most notable difference between the two platforms.
WhatsApp has a strong focus on user privacy and uses end-to-end encryption for all messages. Especially when the system is properly secured through additional cybersecurity hardening tactics, WhatsApp can be a great choice for business security.
On WeChat, privacy is not a focus. Although WeChat does have encryption for messages, the app’s parent company, Tencent, is still subject to information requests, including user data, by the Chinese government. Users should be aware of this and be mindful of what sensitive information is shared over the network.
WeChat and WhatsApp for Business – Which Is Better?
Each app has its benefits and drawbacks, and which one is used can often come down to which market a company is targeting.
Although it isn’t as feature-rich as WeChat, it’s more secure and controllable, particularly when you have a communications partner in your corner who can help you harden your WhatsApp implementation, ensuring that all messages are secured and compliant with regulatory policies. For companies asking if is WhatsApp safe to use, the answer is a resounding yes – provided you set things up correctly for business communication.
Similarly, WeChat’s ecosystem and rich features make its convenience and versatility stand out. Perhaps more importantly, it’s also practically the default choice depending on the geography of your intended message recipient. If you’re doing business in Asia, WeChat is the only real choice.
At the end of the day, the choice comes down to WeChat features vs. WhatsApp privacy:
- WeChat lets users do more and allows businesses to tap into a huge pool of Chinese consumers, all at the cost of privacy
- WhatsApp provides a foundation for private, secure business communications but lacks the diverse feature set of its rival
If businesses are planning to do business in Chinese markets across sales, customer service, or other types of outreach, WeChat is a clear choice. The market penetration is simply too expansive to ignore. On the other hand, businesses not doing business in the region have less to gain from WeChat. It is not common for companies in the United States to use WeChat as a primary means of communication or business.
However, many American companies do rely on WeChat to communicate with partners or clients in Asia or to reach out to Chinese consumers. Due to WeChat’s substantial user base in China, the app is almost necessary for businesses looking to reach customers in the country.
Whatever messaging platform you end up choosing, it’s imperative that you take the necessary steps to ensure that employees can enjoy these channels without compromising your compliance with governmental regulations, breaching security protocols, or compromising your data retention and governance policies.
At LeapXpert, we’ve spent years doing just that for businesses. If you’re considering adding a new messaging app to your communication stack, contact us to discuss your options.
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