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What is WeChat and how to implement it in your Marketing for China

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As many of us are aware, Chinese social networks have established themselves as the most efficient marketing strategy in China for any business. Therefore, it is crucial to understand some of these platforms, including learning about what is WeChat, the multifunctional Chinese social network.

Chinese social networks have become the most efficient marketing strategy in China for any company.

Despite the importance of understanding what is WeChat for any organization interested in entering the Asian market, it is equally important not to overlook other Chinese social networks such as Douyin, Little Red Book, Weibo, and many more.

Furthermore, if your brand is focused on the B2C market, you should consider the various options to access the Chinese e-commerce market. This market consists of a wide range of e-commerce platforms that are essential for boosting any brand’s sales in this arena, including Tmall, Tmall Global, JD, XHS Commerce, Douyin Commerce, Pinduoduo, and more.

In this article, we will discuss in detail what is WeChat, the Chinese social network with the highest number of active users today. Additionally, we will cover other particularly relevant topics such as WeChat’s features for businesses and individuals, types of WeChat accounts, and the significant comparison of WeChat vs WhatsApp.

Before proceeding, if you are interested in contacting a Chinese marketing agency specialized in WeChat marketing, do not hesitate to consult with InfluChina, an agency dedicated to enhancing the presence of foreign brands in the Chinese market.

If you are interested in contacting a Chinese marketing agency to implement strategies in your marketing for China, do not hesitate to consult with Influchina.

what is WeChat - What is WeChat and How to Implement It in Your Marketing for China

1. What is WeChat and what does it offer?

To explore what is WeChat, we need to recognize it as a multifunctional Chinese social network initially known as Weixin in China, developed by Tencent. It provides a comprehensive platform that facilitates not only calls and messaging but also incorporates an online payment system, gaming, and a host of additional services.

Launched by Tencent in 2011, WeChat had established itself by 2018 as China’s most favored mobile application, with more than a billion active users each month, according to TechNode.

Often heralded as a “super app” due to its extensive capabilities, WeChat’s popularity has also enabled the Chinese government to monitor its citizens and enforce censorship measures, attracting significant criticism from entities like Amnesty International.

Key Features of WeChat:

Before we delve deeper into each function, here’s a quick overview of some standout features that underscore WeChat’s importance as a social network:

  • Comprehensive Messaging Solutions: Includes voice messages, direct messages, text messaging, video calls, as well as sharing of videos and images.
  • Dynamic Social Networking: Users can publish, share, and interact with content within their network.
  • Geolocation Features: Enhances user interaction by allowing connections with nearby users.
  • Business Promotion Tools: Through official WeChat accounts, businesses can promote their products and services effectively.
  • Selective Sharing: Offers the ability to share updates, web pages, and messages with selected groups.
  • Versatile Payment Options: Facilitates mobile payments and financial transactions between users.
  • Special Occasion Money Transfers: Known as ‘red envelopes,’ these allow for monetary gifts between friends and family.
  • E-commerce Capabilities: Users can shop online, book flights, reserve hotels, and even transfer files from computers to phones.

How many active users does WeChat have?

WeChat boasts an impressive 1.3 billion monthly active users, as reported by Statista, demonstrating its widespread appeal and robust feature set. The platform’s versatility is further highlighted by its availability in twenty languages, including Spanish, making it accessible to a global audience.

Who are the users of WeChat?

WeChat’s user demographics are particularly revealing. About 25% of WeChat’s users in China are aged between 25 and 30 years, indicating a strong engagement among younger adults. Additionally, approximately 19% of the users are over 41 years old, showcasing its broad appeal across different age groups. A significant usage pattern emerges with over 26% of mobile phone users in China spending more than 30 minutes daily on WeChat, which reflects its deep integration into daily life.

Approximately 25% of WeChat's users in China fall within the 25 to 30 age range, highlighting its strong appeal among young adults who are active digital consumers.

2. Types of WeChat accounts

what is WeChat - Types of WeChat Accounts

Personal or individual account

A personal WeChat account is ideal for everyday communication, allowing individuals to send messages, share information, and connect seamlessly. This type of account is intended for personal use and does not permit the promotion of services or products. Users can enjoy features like mobile payment and mini-programs, along with the standard WeChat functionalities we’ve discussed.

Official organization account

For organizations or brands, WeChat offers official accounts, which come in two main types:

Official service account

An official service account is optimized for businesses looking to build a community, enhance customer loyalty, and distribute content. This account type is suited for any organization and benefits from enhanced scalability through e-commerce and WeChat mini-programs. A key limitation is the allowance of only four push notifications per month. Registration requires a document verification process that takes about 15 days, with an annual maintenance fee of USD 99.

Official subscription account

The official subscription account is geared towards content creation and distribution. Its primary advantage is the unlimited number of posts per month, which is perfect for active content marketers. However, it does not support WeChat Pay or WeChat Mini Programs, which could be a significant drawback for some businesses. The registration process for this account type mirrors that of the service account, including the same 15-day document verification and an annual fee of USD 99.

Type of Account

Purpose

Key Features

Limitations

Registration Requirements

Personal or Individual Account

Everyday communication

Mobile payment, mini-programs, standard WeChat functions

Cannot promote services or products

None

Official Service Account

Building a community, enhancing customer loyalty, content distribution

Enhanced scalability through e-commerce and mini-programs

Four push notifications per month

Document verification (15 days), Annual fee: USD 99

Official Subscription Account

Content creation and distribution

Unlimited posts per month

Incompatible with WeChat Pay and mini-programs

Document verification (15 days), Annual fee: USD 99

3. WeChat features for businesses

To understand WeChat’s functionalities, we’ll separate them into those for businesses and individuals. In this section, we focus on business functionalities, which include WeChat’s payment methods, in-app advertising, and other features.

WeChat Ads: advertising on WeChat

WeChat has accumulated a vast amount of user data through its multiple functionalities and extensive community. This has enabled the creation of WeChat Ads, which are instrumental in marketing by providing valuable insights for crafting paid media campaigns.

WeChat Ads allow businesses to achieve their marketing goals and build a loyal audience, in addition to gaining recognition among Chinese consumers. Among the advertising formats in WeChat Ads, we find the following:

  • Media Integration: Combining videos or images with an ad description and a link to make the advertisement as engaging as possible and boost user engagement.
  • Attractive Placement in WeChat Moments: Creating an appealing area in the feed of WeChat Moments users through media (card image/video) and the ad description.
  • Special Formats: WeChat offers selected advertisers special formats and features such as A/B testing and full-screen display. These specific ad display functionalities are unlocked depending on the advertising spend.
what is WeChat - WeChat Ads: Advertising on WeChat

WeChat ads enable businesses to achieve their objectives and build a loyal audience, while also increasing their visibility among Chinese consumers.

Furthermore, we find different types of advertising within WeChat, some of which we will discuss in more detail later:

  • WeChat Mini Programs: Advertising appears within the interface of this WeChat feature through WeChat Mini Programs.
  • WeChat Articles: Advertising through articles involves banner ads that are placed in the middle or bottom of an official account’s article.
  • WeChat Moments: Brands can post ads on the WeChat Moments feed, which functions like Instagram’s feed. They use what are called “template cards,” which are typically only used in friends’ posts but can also be acquired through these ads.

Enterprise WeChat or WeChat Work

Enterprise WeChat, also known as WeChat Work, is the business-oriented version of the popular social network WeChat, designed specifically for commercial entities. It aims to reduce expenses, enhance worker productivity, and integrate seamlessly as an additional service within the company.

what is WeChat - Enterprise WeChat or WeChat Work

One unique advantage of WeChat Enterprise is its interoperability between WeChat Work users and regular WeChat users, maintaining a connection to where all the customers are. The main functionalities of this WeChat extension include:

  • Internal Communication: Employees can message and call each other, create task lists, form communities of up to 100 users, and conduct polls and surveys.
  • External Communication: Customer service capabilities, adding contacts, reassigning clients, and chatting with WeChat users.
  • Security Management: Features include watermarking, data disclosure security, protection of both recipient’s and sender’s privacy, and confidentiality in communications.
  • Workspace Tools: Capabilities for creating reports, managing an internal forum, handling licenses, expenses, announcements, and processes, file sharing, and extensions for adding services like revenue management, training, HR, or CRM systems.

WeChat Pay

In many countries, the use of cash and credit cards is becoming increasingly uncommon, and China is a prime example of this shift. In daily transactions, these traditional payment methods are almost obsolete. Therefore, it’s fair to say that understanding WeChat is incomplete without knowing about WeChat Pay.

what is WeChat - WeChat Pay

According to data from Drew, WeChat became the most popular platform in China in 2014 with the launch of WeChat Pay, a mobile payment service integrated within the WeChat app itself. Known in China as Weixin Pay, it connects directly to Tencent’s WeChat app. Over recent years, it has rapidly become the most utilized payment method in China alongside Alipay. This is especially significant for businesses aiming to reach Chinese consumers, as lacking WeChat Pay could deter these consumers from choosing their company for purchases.

WeChat Pay has quickly become a crucial payment method for businesses aiming to reach Chinese consumers.

WeChat Marketplace / WeChat Mini Programs

In addition to its many features, WeChat allows brands to open their own storefronts. However, WeChat does not provide direct store setups. Instead, brands need to create their stores that operate within WeChat using JavaScript. There are two main ways to establish a WeChat store:

  1. Build your WeChat store with your own internal web development team that is proficient in Chinese.
  2. Use a WeChat SaaS store provider.
 

WeChat Mini Programs, also known as mini-apps, are applications embedded within the WeChat app itself and can be used instantly without any need for installation or download.

In China, there are over 200 Android app stores, making it challenging for app developers to distribute their apps across all platforms and exhausting for users to download the apps they’re interested in. Leveraging the marketplace model, WeChat has created its own app store within its platform, enabling numerous businesses to connect and interact with customers easily.

WeChat Mini Programs are accessible within WeChat itself, allowing users to utilize various functionalities without the need for separate app installations. While these mini-programs do not offer the full range of functionalities found in standalone iOS or Android apps, they provide enough features to meet the needs of most users.

Thousands of mini-programs have already been launched, covering a wide range of industries and functionalities. For instance, users can book travel tickets, participate in loyalty programs, check stock availability, watch videos, order food, book movie tickets, access shared bikes, hail taxis, shop online, edit photos, and much more. This diversity and convenience make WeChat Mini Programs a powerful tool for both businesses and consumers in the chinese digital ecosystem.

4. WeChat features for individuals

As we will see in this section, many of WeChat’s features for businesses are also useful for users without commercial intentions. However, there are certain differences in how these extensions are used, along with other functionalities not suitable for businesses.

Many of the features of WeChat for businesses are also useful for users without commercial intentions.

WeChat Moments

WeChat Moments is a feed similar to Instagram where you can see and stay updated on what’s happening in the lives of your friends. Each user has a profile and can share posts in various formats: text, photos, videos, and articles from official WeChat accounts.

Things you share on WeChat Moments appear in the news feed of your friends, family, and contacts.

WeChat Moments is a feed similar to Instagram where you can see and stay updated on what’s happening in the lives of your friends.

WeChat Channels

WeChat Channels, found within the main WeChat app, is a sub-platform for sharing short videos, accessible through the “Discover” tab located below WeChat Moments.

WeChat Channels also allows people to connect with WeChat users, chinese influencers, and brands by creating, posting, and sharing short videos. TikTok and Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, are two very similar examples to WeChat Channels.

In other words, users can find and follow friends and people on WeChat who are not in their contact list, as well as brands. Additionally, by simply exploring the app, they can discover official accounts they don’t yet follow.

what is WeChat - WeChat Channels

WeChat Pay

WeChat Pay is a versatile feature with various capabilities, especially beneficial for regular users:

  • Allows transactions via QR codes.
  • Supports transactions in multiple currencies.
  • Offers in-store payment options.
  • Enables sending red envelopes as gifts during special occasions in China.
  • Allows money transfers to contacts or groups.
  • Facilitates bill payments.

Additionally, there are currently six different payment options available through WeChat Pay: Quick Pay, QR Code Pay, Mini Program Pay, Web Pay, Official Account Pay, and In-App Pay.

This makes WeChat Pay an essential option, both for foreign businesses aiming to enter the Chinese market and for WeChat users who want convenient and versatile payment solutions.

WeChat Mini Programs

As discussed, WeChat Mini Programs consist of “mini-applications” within the WeChat ecosystem, allowing users to access advanced functions such as e-commerce, task management, coupons, and more. These are easily accessible within WeChat, offering an excellent user experience.

Businesses can incentivize participation with promotions, prizes, photos, and entertainment through WeChat Mini Programs, ensuring followers are engaged and entertained.

WeChat users can access these Mini Programs for free entertainment, opportunities to win prizes, and more. Depending on the type of Mini Program, users can even play online games directly through the app.

what is WeChat - WeChat Mini Programs

Businesses can incentivize participation with promotions, prizes, and entertainment through WeChat Mini Programs, keeping followers engaged and entertained.

Basic Services

In addition to everything we’ve discussed, WeChat offers the ability to perform everyday basic tasks directly from the app. These include:

  • Mobility services such as booking flights, trains, or taxis.
  • Booking hotels or restaurants.
  • Utility services like paying electricity, gas, mobile, or water bills.
  • Financial services including investments, payments, and loans.

As we can see, and will explore further in this article, Western apps do not compare to WeChat, which is why it is known as the super app.

WeChat offers the ability to perform everyday basic tasks directly from the app.

Shopping

what is WeChat - Shopping

WeChat users can find a variety of curated products in a designated shopping area within the app. WeChat HK invests significant resources to attract traffic, allowing merchants to gain reach and traffic easily and for free.

Additionally, merchants and users have access to various WeChat HK policies, making it an excellent opportunity for showcasing and selling high-quality products. Most importantly, it provides a convenient way for users to shop without leaving the WeChat app.

WeChat also offers access to JD.com, the second-largest e-commerce platform after Tmall. Users can also order food delivery and take advantage of many other shopping functionalities within the app.

5. WeChat vs WhatsApp

To discuss WeChat vs WhatsApp, we must consider their similarities and differences. As we have seen throughout the article, and now that we know what is WeChat, it is clear that the functions of the Chinese app are far more varied than those of WhatsApp.

The functions of the Chinese app are far more varied than those of WhatsApp.

With WeChat, users can shop, make reservations, create specific workgroups, post photos and videos, make mobile payments, and much more, whereas WhatsApp is primarily for making calls, sending messages, and posting statuses.

Additionally, WeChat offers a wider variety of emoticons, which are larger and more eye-catching. Users can purchase new emoticons from the WeChat “Sticker Shop” if they need more than the default ones. Each pack costs approximately 0.69 euros.

Another difference between WeChat and WhatsApp is the number of active users. WhatsApp, being a globally targeted application, has more monthly active users compared to WeChat.

Another difference between WeChat and WhatsApp is the number of active users.

what is WeChat - WeChat vs WhatsApp

Feature

WeChat

WhatsApp

Origin

China (by Tencent)

USA (by Meta, formerly Facebook)

Primary Functionality

Multifunctional super app (messaging, social media, payments, etc.)

Messaging and calling app

Messaging

Yes (text, voice, video)

Yes (text, voice, video)

Mobile Payments

Yes (WeChat Pay)

No

Mini Programs

Yes (integrated mini-apps within the platform)

No

Social Feed

Yes (WeChat Moments)

Yes (Status updates)

Video Content

Yes (short videos via WeChat Channels)

Limited to video sharing in chats and Status

E-commerce

Yes (integrated shopping features)

No

User Base

Primarily China

Global

Business Integration

Extensive (WeChat Work, WeChat Official Accounts)

Limited (WhatsApp Business)

Active Monthly Users

Over 1 billion

Over 2 billion

Finally, in the debate of WeChat vs WhatsApp, it is essential to consider all the additional applications that the Chinese social network offers: WeChat Moments, WeChat Pay, WeChat Work, WeChat Mini Programs, and all the others we have discussed. This makes WeChat much more oriented towards businesses and organizations looking to increase brand awareness.

6. X vs WeChat

To understand the comparison of X vs WeChat, it’s important to know that Elon Musk’s intention behind acquiring this social network is to create a WeChat for the West, including the addition of payment functionalities to X.

Elon Musk stated after purchasing Twitter that his goal was to create an all-encompassing app, offering longer videos, comprehensive communications, and the ability to handle all financial matters. Thus, the comparison of X vs WeChat will become increasingly relevant and similar over time.

X vs WeChat will become increasingly relevant and similar.

Musk cited WeChat as an example, expressing his desire to make X a versatile social network for everyday life, where users can pay for coffee with a credit card, ride the metro, access other apps, watch live streams, shop online, and much more. The comparison of X vs WeChat is becoming more of a present reality.

Claro, aquí tienes una tabla con las diferencias principales entre WeChat y X (anteriormente conocido como Twitter):

what is WeChat - X vs WeChat

Feature

WeChat

X (Twitter)

Origin

China (by Tencent)

USA (by Elon Musk)

Primary Functionality

Multifunctional super app (messaging, social media, payments, etc.)

Microblogging and social networking

Messaging

Yes (text, voice, video)

Limited to direct messages (text)

Mobile Payments

Yes (WeChat Pay)

Planned feature

Mini Programs

Yes (integrated mini-apps within the platform)

No

Social Feed

Yes (WeChat Moments)

Yes

E-commerce

Yes (integrated shopping features)

No

User Base

Primarily China

Global

Business Integration

Extensive (WeChat Work, WeChat Official Accounts)

Limited (exploring options for business tools)

User Data Management

Managed by Tencent, subject to Chinese regulations

Managed by X Corp, subject to international regulations

Active Monthly Users

Over 1 billion

Approximately 330 million

Furthermore, X vs WeChat makes even more sense given that the tech entrepreneur has long discussed creating an app to compete with Tencent’s WeChat, the most popular chat application in China.

7. Conclusions

Throughout this article, we have clarified what is WeChat, its main functions, additional services available within the app, and the differences and similarities in the WeChat vs WhatsApp debate. Therefore, any interested business should at least consider hiring a WeChat agency in China.

Hiring a WeChat Agency in China

If a company wants to enter the Chinese market and succeed, it must have a thorough understanding of the market; knowing what is WeChat alone is not enough. One of the best options is to hire a WeChat agency in China, and Influchina is the answer.

One of the best options is to hire a WeChat agency in China, and Influchina is the answer.

Influchina is a marketing agency in China dedicated to enhancing the presence of foreign companies in the Chinese market through specialized and personalized marketing strategies. Their success is the result of a team with extensive knowledge of the vast Chinese market.

By working with Influchina, companies can ensure they are utilizing WeChat’s full potential and effectively reaching their target audience in China.

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about WeChat

WeChat is the most widely used app in China and boasts a multitude of features: sending messages, making calls, mobile payments, online shopping, following brands or contacts, posting content, playing mini-games, and much more.

WeChat, written in Chinese as 微信 (Wēixìn), literally means “micro-message.”

Weixin, also known as WeChat, is the most popular and highly regarded app in China, integrating as many functions as all Western social networks combined.

WeChat Pay is a mobile payment service within the WeChat app and is one of the most widely used payment methods in China, alongside Alipay.

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