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24 Aug 2017

WeChat users have started self-improvement groups with failure tax

WeChat functionality: Using the app for self-improvement

While Chinese social media app WeChat was already offering loads of features from instant messaging, online publishing, online payments, business networking, online shopping etc., Chinese WeChat users have started using the app's features for self-improvement purposes.

These new types of WeChat support groups are creating conditions wherein individuals either lose money, face social humiliation, or both if they fail to meet their self-improvement goals.

In context

WeChat functionality: Using the app for self-improvement

A brief summary of WeChat's growth story

WeChat was released in 2011 by Chinese company Tencent. By 2012, the app reached the 100 million user benchmark. In 2016, WeChat had over 889 million monthly active users in comparison to WhatsApp and Facebook's 1 billion. 90% of WeChat users are Chinese.

Self-improvement spans a diverse set of activities


Self-improvement spans a diverse set of activities

These new WeChat self-improvement groups have diverse goals.

While some apps promote reaching fitness goals, other apps promote reading and writing skills.

There are even some which help people consistently get out of bed at the same time every day.

Given this diverse set of purposes for which such groups could be made, they have a strong potential to help people achieve self-improvement goals.

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Failure tax

Failure taxes: Self-improvement groups' compliance mechanism

Depending on the type of support group, users are penalized from $1.50 to over $300 for failing to live up to their self-improvement commitments.

Upon the failure of a member to live up to his/her commitment, these cash penalties, through WeChat's online payment features, are distributed among other members in the group.

Therefore, there is an actual monetary cost which ensures people's compliance.

What makes WeChat's self-improvement groups so unique?

Several online self-improvement groups Fitbit's social feature, the 100-Day Project on Instagram, 43 Things have enjoyed some success. However, none of these combined a failure tax with community building - something made possible by WeChat's unique and extensive features.

Studies have show cash penalty compliance mechanisms to be effective


Studies have show cash penalty compliance mechanisms to be effective

The compliance mechanism of a cash penalty contingent on a commitment has been shown to be effective in several behavioural science studies.

For instance, one study has shown that posting regular weight-loss updates on Twitter actually propels a person to lose more weight.

Similarly, people pick up healthy activities if their friends post about them on Facebook.

Expensive gym fees also improve work-out rates.

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