Todd Miller, VP of Global Sales, Cheetah Mobile
Email was probably the first great digital productivity tool for business because it let us communicate and share important information quickly and easily. It made stuff we already did, like sharing documents, arranging schedules and communicating with remote clients and coworkers easier. Because of that, a new generation of workers adopted email voraciously and the age of the digital enterprise was born.
WeChat has some of the same characteristics as email, particularly around the broad range of utility it can provide to enterprises, and it also benefits from being a mobile-first application. WeChat has a platform architecture that makes it more than just an app. The number of things you can do on WeChat is constantly increasing, so it continues to grow with our company.
At the end of the day, though, the best business argument for WeChat as a business productivity tool may be that people simply like to use it.
Almost our entire staff was already using WeChat
My company, Cheetah Mobile, helps our clients drive insights from our anonymous mobile user behavior data to market to the perfect audience for their brand among our 650 million monthly active users. We’re a young, mobile and truly global company. Our HQ is in China but we also have significant presences in North America, Europe and Japan. In China, WeChat has almost 100 percent penetration among mobile Internet users, so most of our workforce is already familiar with it. For your company, the app of choice might be Slack, Skype, or WhatsApp, but I’ve found teams are most productive when they’re working with tools they love.
" WeChat has an excellent API for developers that has given rise to a strong third party “app-within-an-app” ecosystem "
Our company heritage grew from creating popular utility apps, though our business has shifted to creating content apps, like news and live video broadcasting, these days. Since we’re leaders in the mobile tools space, it’s natural for us to try out new productivity tools whenever we hear about them, There are several aspects about WeChat that make it work for our company at scale. Here’s some of what we’ve found:
WeChat is truly global and mobile-first (just like us)
There’s actually a bit of a dearth of truly global productivity tools. Google Apps is great, but it doesn’t work for our whole team everywhere. WeChat works pretty much everywhere on the planet for us (sweet, because that’s where we do business).
The other thing is that WeChat was built from the ground-up as a mobile experience and that’s just how our young workforce likes to live and work. I can tell you with confidence that, for some teams, it is completely possible to now spend a day of your Cheetah worklife without ever needing to open a laptop.
The benefits were immediate and clear
WeChat has proven to be an exceptional business productivity tool for us right out of the gate. First, it’s extremely flexible. It’s very easy to use WeChat to communicate across teams and organizations, share files, and switch between desktop and mobile. Our global sales team can pass back and forth the links and assets they need to ‘always be closing.’ Because of the platform’s transactional capabilities, it’s also possible to book and pay for travel around town, pick-up the tab on a client dinner, or even buy a can of soda from a vending machine in one of our offices.
WeChat has an excellent API for developers that has given rise to a strong third party “app-within-an-app” ecosystem. There’s also some built-in functionality, such as automatic language translation, that make WeChat a great communications tools for diverse international companies—our English-speaking sales folks in San Francisco can chat away with our Chinese executives, with each side translating messages into their native language.
Secondly, WeChat helps us engage and recognize staff in amazing new ways. One example has to do with ‘lucky envelopes,’ an annual tradition wherein Chinese bosses recognize employees by giving them envelopes with rewards—there’s a lot of pride associated with this. We use the feature year-round as a virtual rewards system for our staff. Sometimes, the gift amount will be as little as buying a teammate a cup of coffee, but being able to recognize their good work, push the gamified reward, and let the employee cash in on it from the other side of the world is a very effective method of recognition and motivation.
We’ve also played with things as simple as sending staff custom-company emojis to mark achievements and milestones. It might sound silly but it’s a great way to build a fun company culture virtually. What we’re learning from all this is how our young, global mobile workforce does its job, how they want to access tools and information, and what we can do to use this pervasive connection to help them be more successful and engaged with our company.
As a tool, our use of WeChat to drive remote productivity is changing the game for our global sales team and plenty of others in our organization. It’s a phenomenal way of letting our team do everything—messages, voice calls, video calls, file sharing and expenses—right from their phones. This really goes back to WeChat’s fit for our company culture. We do everything on mobile now not because that’s our business and our culture (though it is). We do everything on mobile now because it’s easier.
If you strip away the breadth of pure business productivity in WeChat’s architecture, that’s what you’re left with. If for no other reason, WeChat has the secret sauce to be a next great business productivity tool in your arsenal because your global staff will love it and want to use it.