One more function that is unlocked when you get your WeChat Wallet running is getting into large group chats. You can set up your own small group even if you don’t have the Wallet function, but when you want to set out and explore the wide WeChat world we live in, you will want to join large groups. Again, the Wallet function verifies your identity, and such is important in many groups because WeChat’s system is monitored by the government.
Don’t let that scare you out of joining in meaningful conversations. WeChat groups form online communities and support systems and have become an essential part of social communication in China. But before you get into too many groups, it is always good to note the growing importance of netiquette and the idea of “Think Before You Post.”
Rules and Regulations
Following many large groups can be a hassle, especially if notifications just pop up and messages occupy large amounts of your phone space. That’s where group rules come in. Many group owners and administrators post notices and rules when the group has grown big and become unmanageable.
Admins have a tricky job enforcing rules while keeping them balanced: if they’re too strict, the group chat becomes rigid and members will be unwilling to contribute; too lax and the group can be flooded with spam. Admins can also remove members who disregard the rules or blatantly offend other people. So as a newcomer to a group, make sure that you read the group notice, and ask permission of the group admin/owner when you post product reviews or articles, work-related questions, or anything else you feel unsure of involving a lot of people in.
This function is quite polarizing. Say you’re walking down the street and you need to send an urgent message, but you can’t type it down. This is where the efficiency of a voice message comes in. But if you send it to a large group of people who have their own business to focus on, then others may become irritated at having to stop what they’re doing and listen to your message. Many people have a preference for sending messages, but consider your recipients’ preferences too. You can always revert to the old-fashioned phone call, or better yet, arrange to meet face to face.
Stickers and Smileys
Stickers can bring humor to conversations, but many find smileys and emojis to be hackneyed and fake. Stickers can function as an animated version of smileys, and this form of non-verbal communication is actually fun and appealing when you know the context and intent of the person you’re talking to. But as much as physical non-verbal communication can be misinterpreted, stickers and smileys have a tendency to add even more confusion to a misconception. There are groups that allow the use of stickers in conversations, but be careful because too many stickers could be seen as spam or offend other members.
Your whole contact list can see your Moments, or your personal wall, unless you hide them from specific people or tags. Your friends who are connected to each other can see your post likes and comments, but cannot view anything sent by others, not in their personal contact lists.
You can dictate what kind of content you want to post on your Moments, but not what others can show on theirs. Social media marketer Marina Barayeva says Chinese people are “shy to share their opinion on social media”, and many users read Moments contents without fully engaging with them or the poster.
As your network grows, expect to see personal photos; marketing and promotional posts, which Barayeva sees as a big advantage for small enterprises; or viral links on your Moments. You can hide those you think unnecessary posts by doing this: Tap the contact name > go to “…” (top right of the screen) > and tap “Hide His/Her Moments.”
The line between personal chats and doing business on WeChat has blurred, so that the app has effectively become a marketing machine. While the app is helpful for networking, too many contacts make your network tangled. You can also opt not to accept random contact requests. Another necessary fix is tagging contacts in categories like “Business”, “Friends”, or any other relevant categories.
When the time comes that you need to introduce people to others, Mike Gropp of Lead with Words, a firm specializing in corporate communication, advises that it’s always better to ask permission first from both sides and inform them of your intent. Or if you need to connect with a person from a large group, tell them the reason why you are adding them before you send your friend connection request.
WeChat as Business
Gone are the days when you need a business card to network because many people now regard WeChat as a tool for business communication. It’s true that the app facilitates interaction, but it also promotes instant gratification so that a delayed or missed response can be misconstrued.
One particular annoyance that many well-connected people mentioned to me is: instant contact = instant response. Would you respond to a business message sent to you just before midnight? Sadly, many people see WeChat as a business communication tool that requires everyone to respond to every single message right away. It shouldn’t be the case.