When we refer to WeChat, new foreign marketers may think it’s the mobile app they can freely download on Apple and Google Play Store. However, there are two versions of this app. Weixin is not only the Chinese name but also a separate platform that exclusively caters to Mainland users.
With WeChat and Weixin accounts operating on different servers, it’s inevitable for overseas users to get confused between the two.
In this post, we’ll explore the functional differences between these social media applications and determine which is more helpful in targeting potential Mainland customers.
Is Weixin the same as WeChat?
No, these two apps are not the same. Although Weixin and WeChat are both developed by Tencent, they are tailored to different audiences and have distinct features.
Weixin, or 微信 in Chinese, can only be accessed by users in mainland China. All content Weixin users post on this platform must comply with the country’s stringent advertising laws and strict censorship regulations.
Meanwhile, WeChat mainly targets overseas users. Because of this, all its features are primarily aligned with global digital trends and standards.
So, while their app or website interface may appear similar, the advanced features and marketing tools official Weixin users can utilize may not be available on its international version.
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7 Major Differences Between WeChat and Weixin Platforms
1. Target Customers & Markets
Since WeChat serves overseas users, it has been particularly popular with different user groups from overseas countries like the United States, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Taiwan. In fact, as per the latest report, the international version of the app has garnered around 1.17 million downloads in the US alone.
It can be hard to find reports that specifically count the number of Weixin and WeChat users separately. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that their dominating user base is from the Chinese market.
Downloads of Tencent’s WeChat/Weixin H1 2023, by country or region (Source: Statista)
When downloading WeChat and Weixin apps, the version you’ll see depends on your phone number during your initial login. If your phone number is registered in the Chinese mainland (with the country code +86), you’ll automatically get Weixin.
On the other hand, WeChat account holders from any other country will automatically be redirected to the English website interface or the app’s overseas version.
2. Navigating Official Accounts
The official account backend systems of WeChat and Weixin work quite differently because of separate servers. It means that all the information between the two apps is stored in different locations.
If you’re targeting Mainland users, it’s crucial to note that they can’t find or follow official WeChat accounts that are created outside of China. As previously stated, Weixin users are bound to strict regulations and government laws, which results in this type of censorship.
Meanwhile, the app’s international version targets users worldwide, so an official WeChat account can access and engage with an official Weixin account despite originating from different regions.
For instance, a global retail chain like “H&M International” operates globally and targets customers within the international market. You’ll see different results if you search for the brand using a WeChat or Weixin account. While H&M’s official accounts may appear on Weixin, users would have access to a localized version of its profile.Due to the official accounts’ regions, all the promotions, news, and updates you’ll see on a localized brand profile will most likely cater exclusively to the mainland Chinese audience. If not, the official Weixin account may be banned or censored.
So, for WeChat official accounts targeting mainland users, we recommend creating a verified and optimized Weixin profile to promote your products and services in the local market more effectively.
3. WeChat Pay vs Weixin Pay
Both Weixin and WeChat users can access reliable e-wallet functions for their online shopping transactions. However, since there are different financial regulations worldwide, the features available on the international app can be limited.
Even if WeChat users activate the in-app wallet function, they won’t be able to receive money or open the red packets sent to them without going through official procedures or authentication processes.
Apart from different currencies, another reason why the e-wallet system differs in both WeChat and Weixin is the varying laws for money-related services provided in each country. Like the Chinese mainland, some foreign markets may have regulations the app could not satisfy.
So, while WeChat Pay is available for all Weixin account holders, you’ll notice that there are undoubtedly limited functions displayed on the international app.
Locally, WeChat Pay is designed to receive, withdraw, and transfer money virtually or by making QR code payment transactions. Official Weixin accounts can even allow customers to pay them using third-party payment systems like Alipay.
The international app version used not to have these features, but Tencent announced that they’ll allow the linking of foreign bank accounts in the app for tourists to easily top-up their wallet balance.
4. Terms and Privacy
Since the two versions are not in the same system, Weixin users follow the rules and privacy guidelines set out in the “Weixin Agreement on Software License and Service” and the “Weixin Privacy Protection Guidelines,” collectively known as the Weixin terms in Mainland China.
Meanwhile, WeChat users are governed by the platform’s own terms of service and privacy policies based on international standards and regulations.
As we said, there are occasions when WeChat and Weixin users can engage with one another. Any information exchanged during these interactions will be handled according to the terms of the platform being used.
5. Access to Video & Live-streaming Channels
Live streaming sessions and videos are a rapidly growing sector in Mainland China. Although a WeChat account can view this type of media content through links posted by friends, international app users cannot open their own channels.
Regardless if you’re using an official WeChat account, you also can’t browse video and live-streaming feeds on the app’s discovery menu tab.
Unlike WeChat users, foreign marketers who are utilizing an official Weixin account can resonate with potential mainland Chinese clients by posting short or real-time videos related to their niche as an effective marketing strategy.
With almost 97% of the Chinese online consumer population watching video content, new brands on Weixin can use this opportunity to connect better with their target customers.
6. Weixin & WeChat Mini Programs
The range and functionality of Mini Programs that international WeChat users can access varies in different regions. Nevertheless, the built-in applications you can find on this app are more oriented towards a global audience.
Some WeChat users may not find these mini-programs on the first try, but they’re often just hidden by default. All you have to do is ask someone to share or send the link to you.
While Weixin users can create mini-programs as individuals, official WeChat accounts outside Mainland China can only do it if they’re registered as a company.
On the other hand, WeChat official accounts on the app’s Chinese version can create mini-programs like an e-commerce store, brand profile, games, and more with little to no limits. Marketers can also integrate local wallet functions on these applications to help customers pay without leaving the platform.
7. Game Centers
Other functions that are available to both WeChat and Weixin users are the in-app game centers. Since Tencent is one of the largest game companies worldwide, it makes sense that the two versions include different games to cater to the needs of their user base.
However, the only difference between the two apps is the game availability in different regions. The local WeChat Game Center and its other functions are available for all Weixin accounts, while overseas users can’t access these features in certain countries.
Weixin vs WeChat Users: Quick Q&A Guide
Can you switch from WeChat to Weixin?
WeChat users can only open an official Weixin account by linking it to a mainland Chinese mobile number. Here’s how you can do this:
- Open the WeChat app and go to your profile by tapping “Me.”
- Navigate to “Settings” and then select “Account Security.”
- In the Account Security menu, find and pick “Phone.”
- Choose the option to “Change Mobile Number.”
- Follow the prompts to link a new mobile number, ensuring it’s a number with the +86 country code for mainland China.
If you initially set up your WeChat account with a mobile number from outside mainland China, an email address, or through Facebook Connect and have not yet linked it to a mobile number with China’s code (+86), your account is still categorized under WeChat users.
How do you know if you’re using WeChat or Weixin Account?
Besides having the Chinese mainland number, another way to differentiate accounts from the two versions is through the wallet function. As discussed, a Weixin account will typically have a fully functional local payment system integration.
Meanwhile, the overseas WeChat app will have the ability to receive, send, or withdraw money from its wallet function only if it’s authenticated or if the regional regulations allow it. Regardless of all that, you’ll notice that it has limited functionality or is more integrated towards international payment systems.
How do you switch from Weixin to WeChat?
If the account was set up with a mainland Chinese mobile number (one with the +86 dialing code) or a QQ number, they are currently using a Weixin account. Marketers must associate their profiles with a non-Chinese mobile number to switch to Official WeChat accounts. Here’s a simple guide on how to do this:
- Start by opening the WeChat app on your device.
- Tap on the “Me” section, typically located at the bottom of the screen.
- Within your profile, find and select the “Settings” option.
- In the settings menu, look for and choose “Account Security.”
- In the Account Security section, there will be an option for “Phone.” Select this, then choose “Change Mobile Number.”
Your Trusted WeChat Marketing Partner in Mainland China!
The comparison of WeChat vs Weixin is an essential topic to tackle, especially for foreign marketers unfamiliar with China’s dynamic digital landscape. It’s easy to get the two apps mixed up and cause inconveniences when formulating your marketing strategies.
Don’t let the complexities of the Chinese market hold you back! Our team is here to guide you through every twist and turn, transforming your brand’s potential into a resounding success.
From crafting compelling promotional campaigns to harnessing the power of SEO and social media, we provide the digital solutions you need to thrive. Contact us for assistance if you’re ready to elevate your marketing strategy!