China’s WeChat, the largest and most pervasive messaging app in the world, has more information, it turns out, than anyone in the world could have imagined. On one level, the WeChat numbers released last month represent a trove of information for just about any economic sector, including the tour and travel industry. The size and nature of the information collected by WeChat also has some concerned about privacy issues.
WeChat, the multi-function messaging app with more than one billion active users, was the focus of data report released last month which revealed the growth in the number of users over the past year, as well as distinct characteristics of each user group. Of particular interest was the role that emojis play in profiling age groups—no doubt a useful tool for marketers and for Tencent, which owns WeChat.
Overall, the 2018 WeChat Data Report told us that, by September 2018, WeChat’s monthly active users had reached nearly 1.1 billion. They sent about 45 billion messages throughout the year, an increase of 18 percent compared to 2017. The number of voice calls and video messages was 410 million, which represents a growth of 100 percent over the previous year.
The report also said that, compared to 2017, people used WeChat 4.7 times more to purchase public transport tickets, 2.9 times more to pay for medical expenses and 1.5 times more to pay for meals.
“WeChat users have their own ways of talking, and WeChat emojis makes people’s communication habits more unique,” said Fu Fan, the product manager of Tencent, explaining that such differences are also reflected in their schedule, consumption, transportation and even the preference of emojis.
While some accounts of the release of the report seemed to wonder out loud about user privacy concerns, a Tencent spokesperson told the journal Sixth Tone that such information is analyzed collectively rather than individually. “All of the data in WeChat’s annual report is being anonymized and desensitized,” he said.
Here is a quick look at WeChat’s analysis report on users in five different age groups and how each is connected—by the numbers, at least—to a favorite emoji.
The most popular emoji among WeChat users born after 2000 is “facepalm”. This population group sleeps the least. They are the most active online from about 10pm and usually get up early in the morning. These young users enjoy cold drinks and desserts – the number of users who purchased these two things with WeChat Pay in 2018 has increased significantly.
The favorite emoji of WeChat’s 20-somethings is the “face with tears of joy.” They sleep the longest and use public transport with WeChat more frequently than other demographics, averaging about 25 trips a month. There have been some changes in their reading habits compared to three years ago. They now prefer articles about relationships to gossip entertainment news.
WeChat users born in the 80’s like to use the “smiley face” to express optimism. They are passionate readers at any time of the day and pay close attention to the current major events in the country, which has been the topic they were most interested in for the past three years.
People born in the ’70s spend most of their spare time browsing WeChat Moment to view texts, photos, videos, articles, or links shared by their friends. They tend to go to bed at around 11:30 pm and their favorite emoji is a “tittering look”.
There are 63 million WeChat users over 55 years old. They rest regularly, go to bed early and get up early. On WeChat, they like to check out the Moment feed, read articles, shop at an e-commerce Mini Program, and usually make video calls with their children after dinner. Their most used emoji is “thumbs up”, which is why they are referred to in this report as “The Most Generous Motivator”. They read a lot more about health care last year, while three years ago they were dedicated to topics such as self-improvement and inspiration.
WeChat Pay is a necessity for Chinese people in daily life. According to the report, the number of users taking the bus or the subway through the WeChat Passenger Code has increased by a factor of 4.7 and the number of consumers paying with WeChat Pay increased by 1.5 times. Interestingly, WeChat also mentioned the three cities where most users pay for dining out with WeChat, namely Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. The cities with largest payment by volume for dining out are Wenzhou, Foshan, and Dongguan.