ByteDance vs Tencent: Why it’s TikTok goes abroad successfully instead of WeChat?


According to Nielsen's music data, a song named "Old Town Road" went viral in the United States. It was mainly because of TikTok, which was used more than 110,000 times shortly after uploading to TikTok's song database.

Americans feel the fear of being dominated by the foreign viral App, which in most cases are unusual.

It gives us a chance to think about Chinese Apps. No matter whether it is taking the initiative to go abroad or passively export. Can the popularity of Tik Tok prove that China finally has the strength of product output? Or is it just a special case?

To answer these questions, we compared and analyzed WeChat, which is also a social app hegemon in China. We found a series of problems that the Chinese App will encounter when going abroad.

 

WeChat failed because it didn't pay enough attention to localization

In 2013, when Pony Ma (Ma Huateng) spoke at the IT Leaders Summit in Shenzhen, he expressed high expectations for WeChat. "So far what can be internationalized in Tencent, I think it is only WeChat at the moment." A year before he said this, Tencent named the overseas version of WeiXin 4.0 as WeChat and opened the road of its internationalization.

To strengthen the internationalization, Tencent has increased its overseas promotion, whose budget allocated to WeChat internationalization was as high as 2 billion Yuan. Unfortunately, the strategy of capital-driven is not always effective.

From the results, the internationalization of WeChat has undoubtedly failed. In the global market competition of social and communication apps in 2018, WeChat only took the lead in China, and most other countries were conquered by WhatsApp Messenger, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

WeChat and TikTok, which are both Chinese Apps, why WeChat failed but TikTok succeed?

WeChat does not pay enough attention to localization, and it paid far less attention to the overseas market than it was to the Chinese market.

Take the Indian market as an example. Article "WeChat is dead in India" mentioned that Humanshu Gupta, deputy director of the Indian marketing strategy for WeChat in 2012-2015 said, "WeChat's product design is completely under Zhang Xiaolong's vision and has many features that are very popular in China. But these features are not welcomed with Indian users."

The features that WeChat has are mainly designed for the Chinese market which is not friendly to Indian users. For example, it is difficult for those users to add contacts to chat, and women are often harassed by the "Nearby" function, etc. 

In many analyses, the objective situation that hinders WeChat from occupying the market is also mentioned. In the year when WeChat decided to go abroad, WhatsApp and Messenger have already taken a seat in the major free communication overseas markets.

In the social field, there are strong rivals such as Facebook. Though WeChat has been working very hard in marketing, it is really difficult to grab users from the leading players.

 

WeChat may lose in bad luck

So, doesn't TikTok encounter these problems?

Seeing from the timeline of the development of TikTok and WeChat, it could be found that they have many similarities.

For example, the following description can be applied to both TikTok and WeChat: they were launched in China sometime after the popularity of a certain App in the United States. At first, they are inevitably blamed for plagiarism, but gain a large number of users in a short time. And later begin to layout overseas markets.

When WeChat went online in China, WhatsApp has been operating overseas for almost two years. And in 2013, when WeChat decided to go abroad, the MAU (monthly active users) of WhatsApp has reached 200 million.

TikTok came out two and a half years later than Musical.ly. At that time, Musical.ly had already topped the US App Store, with nearly 100 million users in Europe and the United States.

When WeChat, and Douyin went to overseas markets, their rivals are here. After a detailed comparison, we found the difference between the two:

① WeChat and Douyin belong to communication social networking and video social networking, the former mainly involves privacy issues, and the latter involves more content review issues—— Privacy issues seem to be more difficult to break through;

② Douyin was launched a few years later than WeChat. The popularity of smartphones and mobile Internet has made the world a more convenient place, and the level of Internet infrastructure in various countries is closer——Product requirements have more common points;

③ The most important point is that Douyin acquired musical.ly three months after TikTok was launched, and later completed the merger and named the new platform TikTok uniformly——so the current overseas results of Douyin can be regarded as the result of the joint efforts of the two platforms.

It can be found that ① and ② are important, but the last point is undoubtedly an overwhelming victory.

So in the end, it's still the power of capital. We can presume that WeChat purchased WhatsApp, maybe the use of WeChat worldwide wasn't a dream anymore.

It is rumored that Tencent has had such an opportunity.

In June 2017, a report in Bloomberg Businessweek mentioned that when Tencent’s acquisition of WhatsApp reached the last stage in 2014, Pony Ma needed to perform back surgery, which delayed his trip to Silicon Valley. The negotiation with the founder of WhatsApp was therefore postponed. During this period, Mark Zuckerberg suddenly intruded into the deal and acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion, almost twice what Tencent expected. 

So some believe that WeChat lost mainly due to the unsuccessful acquisition.

 

TikTok is just a coincidence or a beginning of a new phase?

Although the power of capital has been indispensable in the matter of TikTok's success, it is indeed a victory for Chinese Internet products. After all, Musical.ly is also made by a Chinese team.

If we have a brief review of the Chinese Internet going abroad in the past few years, we can see that from 2008 to 2015, during the eight-year battle, it was somewhat ridiculous to talk about fighting against foreign giants in the fields of the social and content platform.

Chinese developers can only occupy a dominant position in some subdivisions - browser, photo editing, security, desktop, etc, among which UC browser and Cheetah Mobile are the best contributors.

As a social and content platform product, the popularity of TikTok is indeed a breakthrough for Chinese apps.

Here we would like to mention the famous time machine theory of Japan's former richest man Masayoshi Son.

The so-called "time machine" refers to the different stages of IT industry development in different regions such as the United States, China, and Southeast Asia. When China and India are still immature, they first gain experience in the United States and then return to China and India when the time is right. It seems to have taken the time machine and returned to the United States a few years ago.

From this perspective, it is better to understand how Chinese Internet products going abroad. From the perspective of development, China has a time machine relative to the Southeast Asian market, so the output is relatively successful. E-commerce, social, music, and other products are more likely to become mainstream.

In the development of the previous stage, the United States led by Silicon Valley Innovation has a time machine relative to China, so we are the one that is being exported, and the Chinese model is also difficult to enter the mainstream of the Internet in the European and American markets.

However, at the stage of the mobile Internet, the "time machine" dividend of the Internet industry is gradually exhausted, and our timeline begins to be flush with the United States.

Under the self-evolution of fierce internal competition, China's Internet has spawned many qualitative innovations - such as mobile live broadcasts, news headlines, short videos, mobile games, and so on. Tik Tok, or Musical.ly, is the product of this period.

For Tik Tok or ByteDance, a product that has successfully won the Chinese and overseas markets may be able to allow the Internet giant to follow the gourd and copy the next hit. For more Chinese companies looking forward to making a difference in the international market, Tik Tok‘s success can also help them make more reasonable decisions. 

In addition, on the 4G-based bandwidth foundation, business model innovations that have exhausted their potential may no longer have enough energy to shake the current mobile Internet landscape - but the promotion and development of 5G will bring a whole new world.

With the classic case of successfully taking over the global market in the past, followed by the technological boost brought by 5G, Chinese companies seem to have a head start in the race for the global market.

This is an article from WeChat official accounts DT Finance (ID: DTcaijing), written by Zhou Yuhua.