Guide to WeChat (微信) Messaging + Chat
WeChat Messages = The Bridge to Chinese Business
WeChat was born to instant message via mobile (get the name…’We’ ‘+ ‘Chat’?). All design decisions have focused on improving the native messaging user experience and as you’ll soon learn, has worked magically.
By the end of the article, you’ll be a WeChat machine and ready to make the leap, if you haven’t already, into the world of business with China.
Here are a few reasons why WeChat is critical to operating in China:
- Texting/email is dead: WeChat won out as China’s primary mode of communication, from government officials to students.
- Humanize communication: Email comes across as a detached form of communication, while WeChat humanizes messaging. Don’t hold back 😄😄😄
- Multimedia files: Send any and all forms of media. Company introductions, decks, products, are all shared via WeChat.
- News spreads fast: Information moves at lightning speed and is a must for business to understand.
Below is an outline of features you’ll learn, and I’ve bolded topics you should pay particular attention.
- Home Screen
- Voice Recordings
- Emojis + Stickers
- Recall Messages
- Phone Calls
- Video Calls
- Location Sharing
- Money Transfers
- Tips & Tricks
Feel free to leave questions in the comments, and I’ll write back as best I can.
WeChat’s home screen is the chat/messaging feature and speaks volumes to fundamental nature of the app.
Homepage, or “Chats.”
The Home Screen shows your contacts chat history in one place. Chats is an infinite scroll, where you can find dialogues you’ve had with people from forever ago.
Pro tip: you can swipe left to mark messages at “unread.” With the volume of messaging coming at you, it’s helpful to mark them as unread as a todo list.
At the top of the Home Screen, you can search the entire app, which includes contacts, chat history, groups, content etc. Search has greatly improved with time and I imagine will only continue to do so.
“+” in Upper Right
Click the “+” in the upper right, and you can create a new chat (individual or group), add new contacts, scan QR code, or can transfer money (pay vendors or receive money).
To create a Group Chat, click the “+,” then “New Chat,” and you can select people to pull into a group. They do not need to accept, but can opt-out to leave. Ideal for teams.
Feel free to add me! Search “bampbell” and write “Made In Charlie” in the subject line, so I know where you came from. I’d be honored to be your first friend.
To message a friend, navigate to the “Chat” page and click on a friend to enter their chat. Welcome to the core interface!
From this screen, you’re able to send text, voice recordings, emojis, GIFs, photos, videos, “sights,” make phone calls, video calls, your location, red envelopes, and even transfer money.
Sending text is just like iMessage or other text messages services.
Click the button on the left, and it will take you to the voice recording. See the screenshot below for what it looks like.
Each voice recording can be a maximum of 60 seconds. Trust me…once you get used to leaving voice messages, you’ll never go back! It’s a great way to communicate, especially because there are no voice mails in China.
Fun fact: Voice recordings solved a unique Chinese language problem. There are common two ways to “type” Chinese: (i) writing the character with your finger on the phone; (ii) using pinyin — a letter version of Chinese used by language learners and the younger generation. Both work, but aren’t efficient. Walkie-talkieing directly into a phone is far easier and became one of the most liked features in WeChat overnight.
Emojis+ GIFs + Stickers
Emotions, GIFs, and Stickers are used heavily in China. Almost every message I receive comes along with some form of emoji.
You can go to the sticker market to download the latest greatest stickers. Almost all of them are free.
Custom made GIFs are hilarious…and sometimes quite dirty. If there are ones you particularly like, press and hold to save GIF to your phone.
Press and Hold
Press and holding on messages gives you more flexibility in engaging / relating content.
You can forward articles, photos, videos, text, really anything. If you want to forward more than one message as once, click “More.”
You can either send “One by One” or “Combine and Forward” which bulks them together and sends all at once.
If you favorite a message, it saves it to your profile for you to go back and look at it later. Users can’t see what you favorite or don’t favorite.
Delete only deletes the message, photo, video, etc. from your WeChat, not the person you’re chatting with. Like any content nowadays, be careful what you send out :).
Have you ever sent an email you regret or wanted to take back? I know I have. Well…WeChat gives you an option to do just that — they call it “recall.”
You have 2 minutes to recall a message once after sent. Yay! But, what’s funny, is you can see that the sender recalled the message.
Sometimes “recall” invites more questions than sending your original message :). Please do share stories in the comments.
Here’s a juicy feature….autotranslation. WeChat has a built-in feature to auto translate Chinese <> English.
Press and hold a Chinese message, click “more,” and then translate. I can’t stress enough how helpful this when trying to communicate with native Chinese speakers. All of your messages are translated into English and allows for broken, albeit effective communication.
If your phone is in English, WeChat will translate into Chinese. If your phone is in Chinese (not likely 😃), it will translate into English.
Great job! We’ve covered the core features of WeChat messaging…yet there is so much more.
Click the “+” sign on the right side of the screen, and an additional feature menu will pop up.
This menu allows you to send photos/videos, take photos/sights, make video calls, voice calls, send your location, gift red envelopes, transfer money, and share contact cards.
Sending photos/videos is a great way to communicate. A lot of time can avoid a ton of translation error. I’ve personally found I send a ton of screenshots.
WeChat sends photos/videos incredibly fast by automatically compressing them load/send faster.
You can send up to 9 at a time directly from your image library or take them live. You select photos by checking photos.
When friends show you photos, you can press and hold pictures and save them directly to your phone. Never lose a photo again!
You can take new photos, or what WeChat calls “sights” directly in the chat screen. Once you click “camera,” here is the interface you’ll see.
You can press the middle which will take a photo. Or hold down the button and it will record a sight. New photos automatically save to your phone.
Sights are short, 9 sec videos inside of WeChat. They are an excellent way to send clips of your day to friends and clients.
“Sights” humanizes you and adds a new dimension to messaging.
One of the challenges with international business are clear, affordable phone calls. Phone to phone connection is reliable but can become incredibly expensive. Skype numbers are inexpensive, but you’ll show up as an “unknown caller” on the China side, and the connection is spotty at best.
Concerning connectivity, quality, and price — WeChat is the best and is what I use. It just works….and is free. You can hold group calls with up to 9 people.
The only downside is if you receive a regular phone call while on a Skype call, it will cut you off. In the Tips & Tricks section, I’ve included a workaround.
Video calls are just like FaceTime…it just works better on Chinese bandwidth. Over the past few years, I have felt/seen a decline in Skypes connectivity in China, and WeChat reigns supreme.
Video calls only work one on one (for now), there are no group video calls.
Sending a location is a surprisingly helpful feature, especially when you’re in a foreign country. There are two ways to do it.
When you click “Send Location,” you’ll be able to type in an address and send a pin.
I use it to record places I’ve been, or if I want to remember a good restaurant. Or, if you’re looking for a factory, your contact can send you the pin, and it will be easy to fin.
Another spinoff of the location is to share your “real-time” location.
Real-time location sharing comes in handy if you’re close by, or wanting to follow somebody that lost you on the road. I’ve found it’s more accurate than dropping a pin. While sharing, you can walkie-talkie to your friend.
Previously I wrote about Red Envelope giving.
It’s incredibly fun when you’re in a large group to send red envelopes. You specify the total money, the number of people to split, and it becomes a lottery for money. Users click the red envelope and receive some percentage of the total proceeds.
Red envelopes offer an excellent opportunity for team building, especially in/around holidays.
One of WeChat’s most impressive features is the ease at which you can transfer money. Cash will be nonexistent in China before we know it.
Easy as pie..for starters, why don’t you wire me 1 RMB. In a later post, I’ll explain how best to turn USD into RMB.
Now that you’re a WeChat pro, I’d like to share some Tips and Tricks.
Tips and Tricks
If I missed any….let me know!
Airplane Mode for Phone Calls
The biggest downside to WeChat phone calls is they drop if another call comes in. Solution? Airplane mode.
Since you can make the calls via Wifi, it’s easy to turn off cell data and operate over Wifi only. This guarantees you won’t drop the call. I highly encourage you to have the China side do the same.
One of the cool, unknown features of messaging is when you say keywords like “Happy Birthday” or “Merry Christmas” on a holiday. Try it out and let me know what you see.
Send screenshots to other people
An easy way to report conversations, or to keep your team updated, is just to screenshot dialogues and forward to your team.
PS: One of the bonuses of sending voice recordings is there is no “screenshot” paper trail.
I’m 100% confident you are well on your way to becoming fluent in WeChat…your business with thank you.
Leave your comments/questions below and I”ll answer them to the best of my ability. Look forward to more WeChat guides soon!
Thank you so much for reading.
Originally published at Made in Charlie.