A bit more than three months ago, Sogou unveiled its new search function for WeChat public accounts. How does it work? What does it mean for us public account operators?
The integration of Sogou and WeChat services doesn’t come as a surprise as Tencent acquired a 36.5% stake in Sogou last year.
Search is also a good fit for Tencent approach to user experience: it enables users to proactively look for what they need without being “spammed” by public accounts. And we could see that Tencent was very cautious about spam over the past two years.
How does it work?
The search engine is available from Sogou platform both on desktop and mobile. It enables to search for:
– Messages posted by subscription accounts. Take care, these are only the messages which were “group sent” with the “send” function of the account. For instance, messages accessed through the account menus and then shared aren’t visible through the search engine.
– Subscription accounts themselves (currently service accounts and their messages don’t seem to be visible through this function, which make sense as they are not supposed to provide content)
Is it useful?
Honestly, at this stage, not really. The interface is very clunky on desktop (although things could be worse). Even with the mobile app, it is very difficult to navigate between articles, and of course we get a nice QR code at the end of the article – we’re not sure why (are we the only ones getting freaked out when we are shown a QR code to scan on a mobile device?)
What are the future implications?
Although not very useful at this stage, this search function hints at something big which might happen when it comes to the evolution of WeChat. This is obviously an experiment with search for Tencent on a very small platform. But what if this search function appeared also in your main WeChat?
There would be two major consequences:
– For Tencent, a new stream of revenue. We have already seen that Tencent started experimenting with ads. This would be a great way to display much, much more of them in a much more targeted way.
– For accounts operators, it might mean that WeChat subscription accounts will suddenly become much more relevant as they get easier to find and acquire a new competitive edge against WeChat service accounts (which can’t be searched at this stage)
Is Tencent going to integrate search into the WeChat core? WalktheChat would tend to see it as a natural next step. Let’s see if the future proves us right.
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