In China the primary social media apps are WeChat, QQ, and Weibo.
I became pretty adept at using these (or more like obsessed with them) because they have so many amazing features and are so multi-functional! It takes a little bit more effort for me to check my American social media apps now. If you have WeChat you know what I’m talking about – it’s addicting.
WEIBO AND QQ
If you use any of these apps and want to add me please do!
WeChat (called Weixin in Chinese) is especially the power house of social media in China. You can do anything with this bad boy. The basics of course – sharing photos, videos, music, sending messages, and following official accounts and celebrities. But there’s so much more.
Some of these functions aren’t totally new concepts – but the beauty of WeChat is it’s all in ONE place! Instead of switching between Facebook and Vemo and iMessage and Maps, it’s all here right here.
Check out some of the coolest and most useful features of WeChat.
1. VOICE MESSAGING AND VIDEO CALLING
In America I can count on one hand the amount of times I used voice messaging (has this changed since I left?) In China I use it approximately a hundred times a day – way more often than text messaging.
It was strange to get used to at first because I felt like I was talking to myself and thought other people would stare at me for doing this in public! But you’ll see everyone in China using voice messaging. It’s so much easier if you have a lot to say, but don’t want to type it out or have time for a phone call. You can leave up to a 60 second voice message.
I also use WeChat for video calling. When I talk to my family back home, we always use this. (Yes, I made several arguments to convince my family and some friends to make WeChat accounts. About half of them actually did it.) It’s just like Skype or Facetime – free when using wifi.
These are basically customizable Emojis and GIFs. WeChat makes it so easy to find stickers and send them to friends. You can keep a library of 300 stickers, but you can always trade them in for other stickers, download new collections, or find new ones from your friends.
There are also so many apps where you can create your own stickers – my Chinese friends love doing this. You’re not really in China until you have a sticker of yourself! My students used to send these around about all of us foreign teachers.
I have a diverse sticker library built up from the last few years of students sending me weird things. I also use the apps JibJab and ImgPlay to make GIFs to send through WeChat.
3. WECHAT PAY
This is probably THE most convenient use of WeChat! Online paying through WeChat is the best thing. First you need to connect your bank card to your WeChat. Then when you go to a restaurant or shop you will either scan the their QR code or they will scan yours, and then you transfer the money directly to them.
Cash is still used here of course, but it’s not as convenient and most everyone pays through WeChat or another app called Alipay. You can use WeChat pay for everything – from buying things online on Taobao to buying train tickets.
You can also use WeChat pay to transfer money to friends or send Red Packets (or Hong bao in Chinese). Traditionally people exchange Red Packets when visiting family and friends during Chinese New Year or other holidays, and WeChat has made this even easier by letting you do this online.
WeChat also has other cool paying features – if you go to dinner with a group of friends, one person can pay and then create a Split Bill. Everyone in the group will pay the same amount back to them.
4. LOCATION SHARING
You never have an excuse to be lost with WeChat! When you’re looking for your friends you can send your location directly in WeChat. You can also use the real time location function to see where you and your friend both are on a map.
I’m part of approximately a thousand groups on WeChat. They might be anything from class groups to discuss assignments, friend group chats for planning a party, group chats for events going on in Guangzhou, or help finding an apartment or job in China.
6. PAY YOUR BILLS AND BUY STUFF
WeChat partners with several outside apps to make more functions even easier. Check these out:
You can pay your utilities or phone bill. Buy movie tickets and train tickets. Book a hotel. Order a taxi. Use Chinese Group Buy (basically Groupon.) It’s all right here inside WeChat, which is especially nice if you’re a foreigner and don’t know about these other Chinese apps.
7. OTHER RANDOM FEATURES
Shake: Wanna meet a new friend or go on a blind date? Go to the shake function and literally shake your phone. You’ll be matched with another random person shaking their phone.
Translate: When you’re messaging in WeChat and all your friends are typing in Chinese, you can hold down their message and go to the Translate option! Now you know when they’re talking about you without having to go to Google Translate all the time 😉
WeRun: There are lots of games and extra fun features like WeRun. It calculates your steps and compares you to your friends. You can make it a competition to see who walks more. (I was so close to being number one!)
WeChat also has an impressive level of privacy options and security for users. You can change the options of how people add you, what posts they can see, and block certain moments from being seen.
In addition to this, when you scroll through your Moments (in Chinese they say Pengyou Quan, meaning Friend Circle) to view your friends photos and videos, you will only see other people who like those posts if you are also friends with them.
When I first got WeChat I was very confused about this. If I added a new friend on WeChat and looked at their posts, I would see that no one liked any of their stuff and that made me a little sad! Then I realized it’s because we had no mutual friends, therefore I couldn’t see their likes. When I became friends with my students who were also friends with each other, I would see a lot more likes and comments. This prevents random users from adding you unless you know them, I guess.
So there you have it – some of the coolest WeChat features!
TLDR; I love WeChat and all the cool features inside of it! I try to convince everyone I know that they need this delightful little app (but if you’re in America I understand it’s not quite as useful, especially since no one uses it and businesses don’t accept WeChat pay). So whether you’re a foreigner new to China or a pro living in China for years, you’ll find something useful about WeChat.
What’s your favorite WeChat feature?