WeChat | The App for Everything
"WeChat is a way of Life" - Allen Zhang, founder of WeChat
WhatsApp and its instant messaging, Facebook’s feed and archiving, Twitter’s constant up-to-date feed, Instagram’s photo sharing and YouTube’s ability to create and share videos. Guaranteed that you will have some, if not all of these apps. WeChat has these and so much more and unlike many other apps/websites it is not blocked in China. If you live in the West you may not know of this app, but soon you may install ‘The App for Everything’.
The great firewall of China is real, many websites are blocked, one in particular you may have heard of and rely on heavily… Google, this means no Google Maps, no Gmail, no Google Docs, no Play Store, the list goes on... WeChat takes elements of our favourite apps and brings them together in one app with their own store, maps, social feed, banking, voice messaging, online dating, and so much more.
Created in 2011, ‘Wēixìn’ (almost pronounced like ‘we she-en’) was created as a multi-purpose, social media, and mobile payment app. With WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. all being blocked behind the Great Firewall of China, the only way to stay in touch with the western world (without the use of a VPN) is to use this app… and ask family and friends to download it as well. Beyond having to download and create an account for another app, this will work just the same as WhatsApp, with a few bonuses where they could learn a thing or two. WeChat is becoming harder to put into a nutshell.
Let’s start with a laugh and the app built upon the emoji that is found on every phone and allowed limitless possibilities with the use of ‘stickers’ where you can download premade animations or you can be creative and make custom stickers, it’s easy:
Find an image or GIF and save it to your phone or desktop.
Open the WeChat app, select ‘account’ and then the ‘sticker gallery’.
Select ‘custom sticker’ and add anything you like.
Picture this: You get asked if you’re dressed and ready to go to a wedding. In two taps (no more than what you would do for an emoji), you could send one or both of these as a reply…
“I don’t need a new messaging app, I’ve got WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, and even an old fashion SMS if I need to message someone” you say. Well this is where WeChat has more to show than just sending GIF replies.
WeChat Moments - This acts like a mix between your Twitter feed, Facebook wall and Instagram stories. Post photos, messages, or statuses and friends can like, favourite and comment on them. These can also be set to only be viewable for few days. Here you can also add links to websites, blogs, videos, memos to staff, and newsletters to parents.
Similar to Instagram stories and the Facebook wall.
WeRun - Fitness trackers are growing in popularity and now WeChat is your new motivator to keep moving. When you activate this app for the first time it uses your phone’s pedometer and at 11pm everyday it will upload your step count to a leaderboard. When opened you will see your rank, steps, and who is the champion for the day. Then, you can see your contacts and their step count and then gloat at being #1 for this day.
QR codes - QR codes in WeChat serve multiple purposes from receiving contact information, sending and receiving payments, downloading app add-ons to getting discounts at stores, links to websites and being part of loyalty schemes.
Similar to QR readers, loyalty card apps, contactless payments.
WeChat Wallet - Contactless and Apple Pay are ever increasing in use. In China, it will be rare to find a card machine at most shops that are not worldwide brands, and with Chinese currency you don’t want to have a wallet full of notes - it sounds amazing, but can become irritating when you have 50 notes totalling no more than £25. WeChat links to your bank account and you can pay directly with a scan of your unique barcode OR you can top up your virtual wallet and give yourself a limit for the day. You can also send or receive payments to friends and shops by scanning the receivers QR code, then when you’re ready you withdraw what’s left to your actual bank account. You can even send payments through conversations and will know when it has been opened, great for hunting down IOUs. Some financial and tech companies believe WeChat to be the future of digital banking.
Similar to most banking apps
Share location - Your client or colleague is lost on their way to meet you, simply open WeChat and share your location with them. They tap the location and it opens up maps and guides them straight to you. Simple and useful when you’re new in town.
WhatsApp has an identical feature
Red Packet - Story time... An old Chinese tale says that the demon Sui would terrorise children in their sleep. One night, a child was given a red envelope with 8 coins inside to play with to keep him awake, he fell asleep with the coins on his pillow, the demon came and the coins - actually 8 disguised immortals - produced a powerful light that drove away the demon. Red Envelopes have been a sign of good luck and best wishes for hundreds of years, filled with money and sent to friends, family, clients, and colleagues all year round - Chinese New Year, Woman’s day, birthdays and so on. This can all be done through your phone, digital but very real cash. You can even send to celebrities, if you want.
These are just some of WeChat’s features , you’ve also got: video calls, send and receive documents, schedule doctor’s appointments, pay traffic fines, play and compete in games with friends, book a taxi, search for trends, communicate with businesses, purchase insurance, even do your online shopping and with in-development AR-based apps, the sky is not the limit for this app as it has already gone beyond it.
What can WeChat do for you though? Simple, the clue is in the nickname; ‘the app for everything.’ Where Facebook and Instagram are trying to become apps for everything, they have extra apps to download such as the Facebook messenger app or Instagram’s boomerang. With WeChat you have an app with everything in an ever-growing community and ecosystem. For your business, big or small or just starting, WeChat will allow you to reach out in multiple ways all through the use of one app, and with an average daily-user base of nearly 1 billion! You’ve got a large audience to grab, and with the app growing outside of China (70 million accounts outside of China and available in 25 countries) it is a no brainer to get this app and add it to your social media list.