What is WeChat?

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Vahe Arabian

Founder and Editor in Chief of State of Digital Publishing. My vision is to provide digital publishing and media professionals a platform to collaborate and promote their efforts, my passion is to uncover talent and… Read more

Edited by Vahe Arabian
Vahe Arabian

Founder and Editor in Chief of State of Digital Publishing. My vision is to provide digital publishing and media professionals a platform to collaborate and promote their efforts, my passion is to uncover talent and…Read more

What Is WeChat

Cyndi Bennett has more than 20 years' experience in copy editing, proofreading and writing. She currently writes and edits for a number of businesses and...Read more

This is another post demystifying technical terms and platforms in digital media publishing.

Perhaps the most popular messaging app in China, WeChat has over one billion active users and counting. Developed in 2011, by the Chinese tech giant, Tencent, WeChat is a platform that many companies have taken interest in as of late as they attempt to spread their brands and influence to other parts of the growing Asian consumer market.

What makes the messaging chat app so popular is the ancillary features it offers and the fact it captured market share so early on. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel has long regarded Tencent as a model worth copying and has even stated this publicly in a recent shareholder conference. “Tencent very early on understood the power of communication because it drives frequency,” he said. “And if you can be the service that’s most frequently used on someone’s phone, you’re able to develop a lot of other ancillary businesses around that engagement.”.


WeChat features

WeChat works similarly to WhatsApp, allowing users to send text/voice messages, pictures and videos to other users that also use WeChat, and enabling group chat. But it has been able to take it to another level, with developing into a whole social, lifestyle, information and shopping app. With the 2017 WeChat user report stating users time spent increased to 66 minutes per day, 57% of users now using it for work purposes, and a 93% adoption rate for offline purchases, it has become apart of the Chinese people’s everyday life.

WeChat encompasses five critical components for publishers to make it a new media platform worth considering. These features include Moments, Subscriptions, Pay, Shake, and Groups/Broadcast.


1. WeChat Moments

WeChat Moments relies on contact building. People cannot see your contact list, and your Moments can only be visible to people you have verified yourself as a contact. There is no public display of Moments like Facebook can publicly display a newsfeed item and the subsequent comments. Only you can see them. This provides a more secure and private interaction with each individual contact.

Feedback has proven that many of WeChat’s users like the increased privacy that Moments offers over other forms of social media. It allows them to be private while still sharing what they want, with who they want.


Source: WeChat Blog


2. WeChat Subscriptions

The way subscription accounts works are like this: a subscription is built into the WeChat friend list. If they click on the ad content, the user can be exposed to a range of companies and related apps. You might be wondering: How are advertisers utilizing the subscriptions feature on WeChat?

Companies, such as Tesla, for example, have built interactive user content which includes multiple tabs that offer different product experiences, such as taking a test drive, with a chat-bot feature for automated responses.

Source: China Money Network

The point here is, that it’s an open platform for you to do pretty much anything you like. It’s a space to utilize and build a content branding initiative on. Users like to get something from the ads that they are visiting or viewing on social media apps. Build the advertisement into the user experience. That’s what makes subscription accounts a valuable tool for publishers to reach global markets such as Asia. It allows you to fine-tune your content to fit a particular audience.


3. WeChat Pay

WeChat Pay helps users complete payments quickly using their smartphones. It has Quick Pay, QR Code Payment, In-App Web-based Payment, In-App Payment, to fulfill different payment scenarios. Expats and travelers can now use overseas credit cards, growing its international user base and accessibility. Tencent has indirectly reported in making $940 million, driven by mobile payments alone.

Source: 2017 WeChat Data Report

For publishers, it is another avenue for creating a recurring subscription product for mobile as paywall has been rolled out since last year.


4. WeChat Shake

WeChat Shake helps you connect with random people around the world.  When you opt-in the feature and find a person it will notify you to start chatting.  Your location settings would need to be activated in order to make the most out of this feature. Many of its discovery platforms feature help connect the online world, offline and only if you need to. For publishers, it can be a great influencer discovery tool.

Image result for wechat shake

Image credit: WeChat


5. WeChat Groups/Broadcast

Groups fairly common, but anybody looking to create a large audience with common interests would need to leverage this feature. Anybody wanting to join or create a group bigger than 100 is required to link his or her bank card to their WeChat account.

Alternatively, you can use Broadcast to mass message your contact list (without revealing their identities), should you wish to create newsletters.

Image result for wechat broadcast

Credit: WeChat World

Frequently Asked Questions

How do get access to WeChat?

Companies must be registered to do business in China or have a Chinese ID in order to set up account access. If you have no business interests in China, Tencent can set up an account on your behalf. However, Chinese users will not see your account or any other its content.

How does WeChat Pay work?

If WeChat Pay is performing that many transactions on behalf of a messaging app, then it must be a fairly simple and common way to pay for goods and services.

When WeChat users open the Wallet function that has the ability to pay for utilities, order a taxi, buy movie tickets, transfer funds, buy virtual goods, and so much more without ever leaving the app. They simply add a debit or credit card and that’s it. The Wallet also utilizes QR codes that direct people back to the app to pay for goods that are purchased in-person.

Are ads involved in Moments?

Advertisement opportunities present themselves in the form of sponsored ads much like Facebook and Twitter utilize. Moments will insert the advertisement in the timeline of the user’s moments. This opportunity, however, for advertisers was not available prior to 2015. Even then, Tencent only chose about 50 companies to participate in the venture. These companies were given the opportunity to provide six images along with just 40 characters of ad space.

Users can click that they are not interested in the ad. A sponsored tag in the bottom right corner of the advertisement tells the user that this is sponsored content. Users can click the ad to be directed to the website of the product’s choice. It’s that simple.

Now that WeChat moments have opened the floodgates to all advertisers, they can jump on board and display content ads to all its users. Ads can cost, however, up to $774,000 for six images or a six-second video as well as a details button, according to published reports on the cost of advertisements.

How to Shake on WeChat?

Step 1:
Select “Social” – “Shake”. You will see a notice for new users.

Step 2:
Shake needs to access your location data. Please make sure you have both enabled Location Services from your iPhone’s Settings menu and that WeChat has been granted permission in the Location Services sub-menu.

Step 3:
Shake your phone to find people shaking their phones as well. Choose someone from “people found” and “Send Greeting” to make friends.

Which WeChat account suits me best?

WeChat now has 3 types of official accounts. They are:

1. Subscription Accounts

2. Service Accounts

3. Corporate Accounts

Before registering your WeChat official account, take a moment to think about your needs and goals. In the case of all publishers, a Subscription Account will suit best as it allows you to leverage WeChat as a media channel, whilst the others focus on customer support or internal chat. Read here for more detail on the differences.



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