What Brands Need to Know About WeChat’s Latest Update

Despite being one of China’s most beloved apps, WeChat admittedly has quite a few design flaws which cause frustration both for regular users and those running official accounts. Recently, however, Tencent is slowly starting to make some improvements. The newest WeChat update for iOS devices, iOS version 6.6.7, introduced several significant changes, possibly the most important being the ability to minimize a WeChat article in a floating window, correcting a functionality issue WeChat has had since its inception. On top of that, WeChat has finally launched an app and a mini-program for official account management, something that account managers have been waiting a long time for.

WeChat iOS Updates

1. Floating windows

WeChat users have always found it difficult to finish articles from a WeChat official account since moving to other features within the app instantly removes them from the article.

Now, WeChat has finally solved this problem by allowing users to minimize the article to a floating window which appears as a small circle which can be dragged anywhere on the screen. Users can press to open up the article again or drag it down to the bottom right corner to remove the floating window. While the article is in the floating window, users can play games, chat, and use all other WeChat functions, even read other articles. Note, at this time, WeChat only allows one floating window at a time, so creating an additional floating window will override and remove the first one.

Photo: screenshot of WeChat

Photo: screenshot of WeChat

Impact: Ashley Galina Dudarenok, Founder of resource and training company ChoZan and social media agency Alarice, shared her take, “This move is seen as Tencent‘s effort to further retain users and lengthen their usage time. Time spent in WeChat has been gradually decreasing due to competition from other popular apps, especially ones that deal with short videos and livestreaming. This feature creates a convenient way for users to revisit unfinished articles and then back to official accounts for further navigation.”

Not only does the new function have the potential to increase reader retention rates, but brands may also see an increase in readers actually reaching the call to action which is typically placed lower down near the bottom of the article.

Recommended ReadingA Comprehensive Guide to External Links on WeChatBy Ashley Galina Dudarenok
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2. Increased differentiation between service accounts & subscription accounts

WeChat also made changes to the appearance of an official account’s information page, which is now divided into the basic information area on the top and the content (or service) area on the bottom. While the basic information area is the same for both service and subscription accounts, the bottom area is different.

Photo: screenshot of WeChat

Photo: screenshot of WeChat

The basic information area allows users to quickly see how many original articles the account has published and how many of their friends are following the same account.

For subscription accounts, the lower half of the page shows the three articles from the account that are most viewed by your friends as well as related mini-programs.

For service accounts, the bottom half of the page shows menu items allowing users to more easily click through and directly access the available services.

Impact: The differentiation emphasizes the fact that WeChat service accounts should provide a more user-led experience, placing service menus in a prominent position.

3. Top Stories

The search feature inside Top Stories(看一看) has added more targeted search categories including: most popular news in the past 24 hours, what your friends are looking at, articles from official accounts you follow, and what nearby people are reading.

Photo: screenshot of WeChat

Photo: screenshot of WeChat

The Top Stories feed can also be customized, allowing users to filter out types of content and accounts they don’t like. In the Top Stories feed users can tap the X next to each article then simply click the yellow 不感兴趣 (not interested) button to remove this and similar content from their feed. Users can also select more specific reactions such as “this content is outdated/repeated”, “poor quality content”, or “block this official account”.

Photo: screenshot of WeChat

Photo: screenshot of WeChat

Impact: These new search categories are opening up WeChat’s traditionally closed ecosystem and may help users discover new official accounts that match their interests.

New WeChat app and mini-program for official account management

Anyone who runs a successful WeChat official account knows that they are more than just content publishing platforms, they are a place to connect and serve consumers, and that often means responding to hundreds of direct messages and comments from users.

As if answering all these inquiries wasn’t hard enough, WeChat only gives account managers a 48-hour window to respond to messages and, until recently, managers could only do so through an online portal designed for desktop use.

The new app called 订阅号助手 (currently only available for iOS) aims to make managing an official account more convenient. Account managers are able to login through their WeChat and view all official accounts that are bound to their WeChat ID. The app allows them to easily view new comments and respond to messages. They can also make small edits to previously published articles (within a character limit).

Photo: screenshot of WeChat

Photo: screenshot of WeChat

Similar to the iOS app, WeChat has also released a new mini-program called 公众平台助手allowing managers to access their official account analytics and answer messages on the go.

Photo: screenshot of WeChat

Photo: screenshot of WeChat

Olivia Plotnick, Marketing Manager at Brandigo has already become an avid user of both, “The new app doesn’t replace the backend, but it certainly solves several pain points. The mini-program lets you easily switch between accounts and quickly respond to messages. This has reduced response times and the danger of missing messages within the 48-hour window. The app recently saved me when I noticed a typo in a published article. I immediately used the app to correct the mistake instead of waiting hours to get back to my computer.”

The app and mini-program are not meant to replace the current WeChat official account backend, “I would never write and format an entire article on mobile but being able to stay on top of comments and messages has been super helpful,” Plotnick explained, “Chinese mobile users are constantly on WeChat, it’s great to respond quickly and keeps them more engaged with your account. The new app and mini-program make it much easier to be responsive.”

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