Everything You Need to Know About WeChat

First posted: Mar 28, 2014
Last updated: Jun 22, 2021
Misha Maruma

WeChat logo

What is WeChat? It’s a question that clients often ask us at Nanjing Marketing Group. More specifically clients want to know how WeChat (wei xin 微信 in Chinese) can be used for marketing.

So that is the inspiration behind this blog. I want to give you a simple explanation of this very popular Chinese instant messaging (IM) app. I’ll look at some of the numbers behind WeChat, what it is primarily used for, the diverse ways it can be used and I’ll also look at its marketing potential.

WeChat by numbers
WeChat is created by Tencent a Chinese Internet company. Tencent has one other IM app, QQ, and also two social networks, Qzone and Tencent Weibo. All of these social platforms combined have over 2 billion active users. A lot of the same people have accounts on different platforms, but it just shows how dominant Tencent are.

In fact the latest figures released by Tencent show that in Q4 2013 WeChat had 355 million active monthly users reflecting the expansion of users outside of China.

A report from January 2014 suggested that WeChat had 100 million registered overseas users. The app is available in 15 languages helping to drive expansion outside of China.

It’s also interesting to note that there are 500 million mobile Internet users in China according to CNNIC and 600 million registered accounts. This suggests that every Chinese smartphone user has a WeChat account with the other 100 million accounts dotted around the world.

WeChat as a social platform
So what is WeChat used for? In a meeting with my colleagues recently I asked this exact question. Of the 15 people in the meeting 12 have WeChat on their smartphone. 10 of them said they used it everyday. But what for?

It is primarily an IM tool. People use it for talking to friends. There are various options to do this.

If you have a QQ account you can contact these friends via WeChat. The app also automatically connects contacts stored in your phone. For example if a phone contact joins WeChat you’ll receive a message asking if you want to connect.

You can also add people by their personalized WeChat ID. The user has an option to create an ID meaning that if they lose their phone or change phone number they can keep the same WeChat account.

Then there is the friend radar.

This is a brilliant feature and has more use than just being social. Friend radar lets you find people nearby using real-time location sharing. So instead of adding one contact at a time a number of people in a room can add multiple contacts at the same time.

In the example above I was able to add four new contacts in a matter of seconds. This feature would be brilliant for exchanging contact information with a number of people at a conference or trade show for example.

The most recent update of WeChat also let users connect their LinkedIn account to WeChat making the app into more professional territory. It means WeChat can move away from being simply a social IM tool and can be used for job hunting.

Then there is the WeChat newsfeed called “moments”.

This lets you share a moment in your day with all your contacts.

And finally from a social point of view you can do what one of my colleagues said, “add a selfie”! This is something that Chinese girls do best.

The average user might only use WeChat as they do Facebook. They can keep in contact with friends and family, share moments in their life and make new friends. But WeChat is so much more than this.

WeChat as a payment platform

The ‘My Bank Cards’ section lets you add your bank card details to WeChat. You can then use this to pay for products and services through your phone using Tencent’s Tenpay online payment service.

The services include mobile top up, a wealth section, ordering a taxi through your phone, buy movie tickets, split a bill, special deals exclusive to WeChat users on Tencent’s B2C online store, buying coins to play QQ games and giving friends and family ‘Hong Bao’.

Below I’ll look at some of these features in more detail.

WeChat’s taxi-hailing service, Didi Dache, lets you order a taxi and pay for the service all without leaving WeChat. Currently there is a discount if you pay through the payment app too. It’s also possible to buy movie tickets through the app.

WeChat set up its own online wealth management fund called Li Cai Tong (理财通). It’s similar to Alipay’s Yu’e Bao and is another feature that broadens WeChat’s appeal beyond the normal social features.

People can also send ‘Hong Bao’ or red packets. These gifts are traditionally given to youngsters at Chinese New Year. This way of giving cash gifts was done in record numbers during the previous Chinese New Year in February 2014.

The specials sections gives you access to decent reductions on products available from Tencent’s online B2C platform wanggou.com (website in Chinese). There are best buys, brands and other assortments as you browse the app looking for deals.

And then there is the sticker shop. You can purchase various emoticons and add these to your messages. This is mainly aimed at children, but gives a good insight into the diverse demographic that WeChat appeals to.

WeChat for marketing
So in what ways is WeChat interesting to a marketer?

Within WeChat you can follow public accounts that will periodically send you information. These accounts can be companies, brands, bars, nightclubs, hotels or publications.

There are two types of accounts you can follow: Service Accounts and Subscription Accounts.

The two types of account have differences in set up and usage. But from a marketing perspective they are a way to find brand advocates and to get information to people about your products and services.

Lets start with Service Accounts.

I have four service accounts on WeChat. There is a health club, a hotel, an Italian restaurant and a clothing retailer. I followed these accounts by scanning a QR code with the QR code scanner that is built into WeChat.

The Service Account for Gap is the most useful of all the Service Accounts I follow. But what can it actually do?

With a Service Account the owner can change the menu options at the bottom page to anything they want. In the case of Gap they have chosen three different tabs that a user can view: a frontline fashion tab, information about the Gap app and hot trends and a ‘my Gap’ tab.

The information available runs from new products, in-store offers, offers available to WeChat users, jobs at Gap and even a link to the Gap website. And this all opens within the WeChat app.

The Service Account for Ciao Italia, an Italian restaurant in Nanjing, has customized their menu in a totally different way.

They have four different menu options: take away, menu, book a table and store. You can browse the restaurant menu and see what is available before you book a table and dine in or get a take out.

The health club has three tabs. These are more to do with the service at the club: you can get in touch with the reps at your local club, have a look at their Sina Weibo account for up to date information and talk to someone to make a complaint!

The advantages of a Service Account are that you can customize the WeChat portal to your needs. The health club has pretty limited options compared to Gap, for example, who want to use the service for online to offline (O2O) purposes.

The disadvantage with the Service Account is that you can only send one message a week to your followers. But if the people following the account regularly check for offers etc. then this is not a problem.

The Subscription Account differs in that an owner can send one message to the followers of the account every 24 hours. The menu options are not customizable so the account suits a different need.

Subscription Accounts are much more prevalent than Service Accounts. The ones I follow range from local bars to national restaurants, from local music promoters to international tech publications.

The great thing with the Subscription Account is that when there is a new notification it shows within the app, but does pop up on your phone as a push notification.

You only get the notification when you login to the app. This way a follower is not disturbed at all hours and is in control of how and when they read their notifications.

The examples above are for a newspaper and blog that I follow. When you click on a headline the story opens within WeChat. The examples below are for a nightclub and a restaurant that I follow.

The great thing about Subscription Accounts is that they are a way to give your followers regular up to date information. For example a restaurant might let you know about daily specials. A blog can give you daily news to your phone.

A good example of WeChat being used for marketing is by Burberry, the British fashion label, during the company’s Autumn/Winter 2014 show. Users were able to get exclusive audio and video from designers and pictures and messages from celebrities.

As well as this by subscribing to the Burberry WeChat platform followers were able to get a customized plaque commemorating the show. This is all part of Burberry’s marketing drive into the Chinese market.

Nanjing Marketing Group also provides WeChat marketing services, so feel free to contact us.

 

WeChat as everything
WeChat has also diversified by moving into hardware. By partnering with firms who make the hardware WeChat are enabling users to use their platform for a multitude of things such as printing photos wirelessly and also using WeChat payment with a WeChat POS machine.

This all feeds into Tencent’s desired aim of bringing O2O services into mainstream use. WeChat users can use Tenpay through WeChat’s payment service on their phone using a QR code to make the payment. It allows businesses to use e-coupons, group-buying deals and online ordering.

There’s also talk that WeChat will be issuing E-credit cards that can be used through the WeChat portal. Again it will be a case of scanning a QR code to make payment through Tenpay.

The simple truth is that WeChat can be used for everything. It is constantly expanding and improving and giving users new reasons not to leave the app. For any company moving into the Chinese market I’d say it’s essential that they have an understanding of what WeChat is.

To really get your products and services recognized in China then it’s important to use WeChat for marketing. A Service or Subscription Account can really help to connect with your customers locally. It allows users to use WeChat to make payments, but benefit offline too.

 

Do you use WeChat? What do you use it for? Do you have any other questions about WeChat? Please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

 

The comments on this article have been turned off
Misha Maruma

Comments

How long do you have to wait for after you log onto your account on a new phone to change your phone number? I tried changing it and WeChat sent a message saying it can't be done this moment.

Hi there
 
I'm not quite sure what you mean. When you open a WeChat account I'd suggest that you don't change the phone number on the account until you have to. For example, if you open an account in China, with a Chinese number, but then a few months later move to another country I'd then remove the Chinese number from the account. 
 
To protect your account set up a personal WeChat ID immediately and add an email address.

I cannot see people nearby option in my wechsy..do u know why n how can I solve dis

I don't know why that is. What phone and OS are you using?

how to delete my wechat account

That's a good question. I've never wanted to do it personally, but I've looked and can't work out how. To log out you have to go to your settings. I'll carry on looking and if I find the answer I'll post a reply.

Hello! I ask about QQ account , I just create one but I can't find friends please help me?^-^ and I'll be thankful

You can usually adds friends via your phone contacts I think. Go to the icon of a head and look there.

I have already created wechat acc and link to facebook also.
When i call video chat that show message.i am not we chat friends?
So what i need to do?

Hi Ella
 
Are you sure you're WeChat friends with the person you're trying to call? With WeChat you can only send messages and see posts from people you have connected with. For example if you send a friend request, you can't see that person's information or send messages to them until they have accepted your friend request.

Hi Misha,
I have a problem.
Sometimes I have trouble sending and receiving messages. I usually unistall the app and then reinstall. This way I don't lose any information or chat history, it works fine for a while and then the same story.
Now there's some talktime offer going on. We've to call any friend and talk for a min everyday until 10th sept so that we maintain the balance of Rs 150, if we miss a day the amount would be deducted and the balance can be redeemed after 22nd sept. But I've called my friend yesterday, my balance was 150 but as it showed the same trouble again I unistalled and reinstalled the app again and now it shows as my balance is Rs 140. :( Practically I've not missed a day but technically I have :(
If this persists then I wouldn't receive any of the balance. Is there any other way to solve this problem apart from un-installing and re-installing?

Hi Aishwarya
 
I live and work in China. I have no knowledge about how WeChat works with Indian telecoms firms, sorry. When you say problems with sending and receiving messages what do you mean exactly? This might be a problem with your phone as opposed to the network.

How can i change my profile pic. I dont see any option to change it. Plz help

Hi there
 
Go to the 'me' section and in your profile click on the words 'profile picture'. You can either take a photo or choose a photo.

Hi, I have two questions. 1) how can i come to know whether my friend is online or offline? 2) why i cant see some of my friends wechat id..? i am using 3.6 version.

Hi Adnan
 
1) As far as I'm aware there is no way to tell whether your friend is online or offline. I guess you can send a message and ask them.
 
2) Not everyone has a WeChat ID. Each individual has to set it themselves. I guess for the ones you can't see, it means that the person has not set an ID.
 
Hope this helps

Hi Mischa!

I have problems signing in on wechat. I don't have any phone number yet, so I tried to connect using an email address (Which was quite uneasy to find by the way).

Unfortunately, when I try to register, there is an error message saying: "This email has already been used". I never tried to open an account before so this is quite strange. I tried with two different address and it did the same.

Later on, when I tried to recover my password from this email address that supposedly already exist in wechat database, it told me that my "email address does not exist".

Could you help me out? I'm confused... And I really need to open an account as soon as possible. All my attempts to reach Wechat customer service were left unanswered.

Thank you.

KC

Hi KC
 
There is a simple solution to this problem. WeChat is a mobile only app therefore you need a mobile phone number to set up the WeChat account initially. The reason you are having all these problems with an email is because you can't use an email address to set up the account.
 
Use a mobile phone number to set up your WeChat account and you'll have no problems.
 
Misha

Hi,

Once we install wechat, does it send automated message to the saved contacts in the phone.

Thanks

Hi there
 
Once WeChat is installed anyone in your phonebook who has WeChat will be notified that you have joined WeChat. A notification will appear in their 'contacts' section.
 
If you go to contacts and click on the 'add contact' icon in the top right hand side of the app you will find a number of ways to add new contacts.

Hi Misha,

After reading your article, I'm sure you are the only one who can help me with my WeChat questions:
1. Is there a way to tell if my friend has deleted me as his contact on WeChat?
2. Let's say I have deleted a contact, but then I have a change of heart and would like to add that person back as my weChat contact, would that person get a notification that I add them as contact?
3. Let's say I posted moments shared only to one particular contact. Then I deleted that contact from my WeChat, can that person still see those moments I shared with him on his WeChat?
4. Can we change the share setting on moments previously shared to a particular someone to public?
5. The "public moments" part of the privacy setting says that "strangers" can see my 10 most recent moments shared to all. What does WeChat mean by "strangers"? Are deleted contacts (people who used to be my wechat contacts but then I deleted) also considered as "strangers"?

Hope it's not too many questions for you...
Thanks for all your help!

Hi there
 
I'll try to answer your questions one by one:
 
1. There is no way to tell from the WeChat interface if someone has deleted you as a contact.
2. That person would not know they were deleted and would not receive a notification when added again.
3. I'm not quite sure what you mean here. Moments is shared to all your contacts. If you share a comment/picture on moments all your WeChat contacts can see the moment. Obviously if they are then deleted they can no longer see any moments on your feed.
4. Again I'm not quite sure what you're getting at here. There are various settings for moments in the privacy settings of WeChat. Are you talking about only sharing your moments with particular people? 
5. Yes, people who you have deleted are 'strangers'. Strangers are people who are maybe searching for you to connect via WeChat ID for example. They can see your last 10 moments before connecting with you proper. You can change this in your WeChat settings.
 
I hope this is clear. If you have any other questions don't hesitate to contact me.

Hi, i would like to know if someone can view my chat in wechat without logging in my wechat account and without my password?

Hi Art
 
The simple answer is no. Is this a problem you've had or is it a hypothetical question?

please help me
1- how can i delete or deactivate my wechat account and remove all my informations ?
2-how can i changing my wechat id ?
3- how can i remove myself from others wechat list ?

thank you

Hi Peter
 
1- In the settings you can log out of your account and in the 'General' section you can clear your chat history. To deactivate the account you'll have to go to Web WeChat. Again you can do this in the 'General' section.
2- To set up a WeChat ID you go to settings and 'Mt Account'. You only have one chance to set a WeChat ID. After this you can't change it again.
3- You can't remove yourself from others WeChat list. If you deactivate the account then you will be removed.

thank you but how can i deactivate my account there is no option

Hi Peter
 
You have to go to the web version to fully deactivate your WeChat account.

Hi Misha, great article!

Recently I face a problem with WeChat, I can't share pictures on moments. After choosing pictures, they will not posted on my moments instead a messages pops up "unable to send this photo". Sharing only text or links on moments works fine, also sharing (the same) photos to chats.

Any idea what could be the problem?

Latest version of WeChat on iPhone 5 with iOS 7.1.2

Thanks in advance!

Hi Plussi
 
I've not seen or heard of this problem before. Have you tried updating to the latest version of WeChat? 

Hi Misha,

yes. And never mind. I'll see whether it become normal after upgrading to iOS 8...

how can I sign into wechat on my phone and tablet at the same time?

Hi Jystrelax
 
I don't believe you can sign into both at the same time. In fact I don't think that the WeChat app is optimized for tablet, although I know people use it on tablet.

I know what the blue and orange icon represents , could you tell mel what a red icon means please . Thankyou

Hi Angela
 
I'm not sure what red icon you mean. Can you please give me more information?

can I have the same wechat account active on two devices? My iPhone and iPad?

Hi Randysnnyc
 
I don't believe you can sign into two devices with the same WeChat account. In fact I don't think that the WeChat app is optimized for iPad, although I know people use it on an iPad.

1- If someone blocked / unfriend me, will i still able to see his moment updates?
2- why the person disappear in my contact list and I never remove him
3-i view on his page, still able to view the latest moments and with a "Add" button. Which means he actually unfriend me or blocked me?

Hi May
 
1- You can't see a persons moments if they have blocked or unfriended you.
2- A person will disappear from your friend list if they have unfriended or blocked you.
3- If you can see a few moments and an 'add' button it means that that person is no longer a connection and have probably unfriended or blocked you.

How to change the phone number,

1. I have a Wechat account A that was created under a phone number A that I no longer use.

2. I have another Wechat account B that was created on my current phone number B. But I don't want to use this Wechat account B any more.

3. I logged in fine to my Wechat account A on my current phone number B.

I want to update my Wechat account A on phone B to use phone number B.

How ?
Thanks
Jessica

Hi Jessica
 
If you logged in fine to the WeChat account you want to use on a different device then you have no problems. To change the number go to settings, then 'My Account'. Here you can select 'Phone' and 'Change Phone Number'. Before you do this though I suggest you make sure that your WeChat Account B does not still have phone number B linked to it. If it does then you won't be able to add phone number B to WeChat account A.
 
Let me know how this goes.

Hi Misha,

I got similiar problem as Jessica.

I had a wechat a/c which was registered with my old phone number. After I changed my phone, the old phone number was replaced by a new number, the consequence is that I couldn't recall my wechat a/c on the new phone cell.

So I registered another wechat a/c using a wechat ID. But I now have a trouble to link my QQ to the new wechat a/c. When I tried to link them, a system notification came up as " This (QQ) a/c has been linked with other WeChat ID (my old wechat a/c). It cannot be linked with your current WeChat ID now."

I want to delet my old wechat a/c and so that I can link my QQ to my current WeChat ID. What can I do about it?

Kindly advise pls.

Thank you

Joanne

Hi Joanne
 
I'm not sure how you can resolve this problem as you can't access your old WeChat account. I suggest you contact WeChat directly to solve this problem.

Please tell me how to unlink mobile phone number from wechat account???

Hi Dr Ayush
 
Go to Settings/My Account/Phone. There you can change the number on your account. In the top right corner is another dropdown menu. Here you can unlink the current phone number on the account.

hi,
i am having latest version of wechat 5.4
but i am unable to use friends radar feature whenever i am using it i am not getting any person in the room from last 4 months i stay in bangalore its a metro city, earlier when i was using wechat in my Tab then this feature was working.so can u please help me out. please let me know how to solve this issue.

Thank You

Hi Arun
 
All I can suggest is that you update the app. Version 6.0 is now out. This should solve the problem.

Hi WeChat Team!
I only want to ask if someone unfriend me will i still able to him/her in my contacts? Hoping for you reply soon! Thanks!

Hi Celine
 
If someone unfriends you, you will be able to see him/her in your contacts, but you won't be able to see their moments of send them messages.

Hello Misha,

I am new here. I was talking with a person, exchanging photos and sounds and then nothing. It is still in my contacts but no answer. I tried Add people by id , but it returned "This id/person does not exist. Please check and try again"...
Is it possible to just delete account, cause I still see the conv. history?