Can you really know everything? Should you? Musings on Weixen

Know your customer

As marketers, we don’t want to just get in front of our customers; we want to understand what motivates our audience and how we can better serve them.  What motivates users and how to play to those levers can be understood through a handful of academic theories that explain how a user behaves. 

Social Action Theories

People have agency

One thing I know I tend to forget how much agency people have in their choices and behaviors.  We need to remember, these are not passive consumers, accepting every shiny new thing.  They are engaged prosumers, both producing and consuming content with every interaction.  When we look at a social media ecosystem, bundling as many of those interaction spots, or rather, anticipating things like cash transfer among friends, ride-sharing, memory-making activities, makes a lot of sense. To do that, you need to know a lot about your users, not just to be able to respond to their needs, but to anticipate them. 

Its time to play Monopoly

When those service providers remain distinctly owned identities, open to competitive forces, we can give far more weight to marketing strategies that might emphasize user choice and investments in nurturing relationships. From a business growth model, though, there is always the case to be made that you might want to be all things to all people, creating a walled-off environment where all your user’s needs get met.  This week’s case study looked at Weixen, a social media enterprise in China, now known as WeChat, which created a hyperconnected hub built to serve a growing young, urban, mobile population. By framing the problem to be solved as reducing search costs – the cost of lost business by forcing a user to leave your platform for something else – they were able to imagine why users might leave and prioritize and build those services.

WeChat StartUp Icon – From their branding site.

Who can weaponize your data?

Whether in Manchester, New Hampshire, or in Beijing, China, we leave digital footprints with each click and keyboard impression.  We expose our interests, our demographics, our political leanings with levels of both awareness and utter ignorance (see Terms Of Service).  But what happens when there is only one platform hosting all your interactions?  When your bank account is tied to your photo site, and your location tracker says you are at a Ski resort two hours from your home on a morning, you called in sick.  What if not only your boss had that information, but so did the government? 

Exclusion or Inclusion?

The unspoken reality in this week’s case study, the challenge I kept wrestling with as I read was how much is too much and in whose hands?  Yes, we can do user research and understand mood management theory or selective exposure theory, but if we truly surrender our privacy to live in the modern world, what happens when we begin to use that information to exclude rather than bring along? 

Don’t Be Evil

Wexler knows as much about their users as they can possibly know (and are happy to share that with the Chinese government.)  I completely understand that from a social media marketing perspective, we want to know as much about our users as possible, but reading beyond the case study challenged me to accept how normalized this idea has become.  As marketers, I believe we need to begin with making sure our products and offerings, our data collection and analysis, are aligned with the value we are offering our customers, and that, the words of Google’s old core values statement, don’t be evil.

321 thoughts on “Can you really know everything? Should you? Musings on Weixen

  1. What a great read! Your interpretation of the “All-Knowing” social media truly is something that a lot of people don’t understand (especially the younger generation as this is all they know). Something I thought of while reading your blog was the episode of Black Mirror that reviewed this theory. People had their whole lives online and would literally be placed into “working camps” to work off debts by pedaling a bike to produce electricity. These people would try and become “famous” through social media posts to pay off debt more and reach the top floor where they would get a “big prize”. As social media continues to grow, you are correct, when is it too much information to provide?

    -Mike Diamond

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