Social Media: Writing a WeChat Public Account post

[If you’ve no idea what WeChat is, please see the end of this post]

Before we start, please note….
You should have all your content (text, images) ready to post. Note that we’ve found the best way is to put all your content laid out in a series of 740 x 1136px jpegs*, text and images. This has two advantages: You can control the design, so that everyone sees the same thing, and it is much more difficult for others to steal your content.

1. Once you’ve logged on to your WeChat Public Account, go to Content Management (素材管理 sù cái guǎn lǐ) and then click the button on the right to Add New Post (新建图文消息 xīn jiàn tú wén xiāo xi).

jason_pym-wechat_post_01_new_post

2. You’ll be taken to this page (below).

jason_pym-wechat_post_02_title

As written above, the central column is the actual post. The bit on the left is the “navigation” (图文导航 túwén dǎoháng) by which they mean a post summary. So on your WeChat app on your phone, you’ll have a list of Public Accounts that you’re subscribed to, which looks like the screen on the left:

jason_pym-wechat_post_03_subscription

Once you click through one of those subscriptions, you get the screen on the right, which is a list of published posts, this is the “navigation” they’re talking about – you get a picture, a title, and a brief summary of the post in these little white boxes, and you can scroll through a long list of them**. You click through one of these post summaries to see the actual post.

So to start with we’re going to create this Post Summary. First write the post title in the central column (it will automatically appear on the left column). Then scroll down to the very bottom of the pages and you’ll see this:

jason_pym-wechat_post_04_summary

The cover image (封面), i.e. the image that will appear with the Post Summary, can either be uploaded (本地上传) or taken from a media library of images you’ve already uploaded (从图片库选择). If you tick the box underneath, the cover image will also be published at the start of the actual post (封面图片显示在正文中).

Note that they recommend an image of 900×500 pixels, but on the phones we tried that meant the image was actually cropped top and bottom. So better to use 900×400 pixels*** (it won’t be stretched). And note that the title will be covering the bottom of the image. A post must have a cover image; you won’t be allowed to publish otherwise.

For the text summary you can either write one yourself, or if you don’t WeChat will take an excerpt of the first 54 characters of the post and use that. If you’re publishing all your text as images, you’ll have to fill this in of course.

Okay, now to write the actual post… Fill in the author, whatever body text and add media by clicking the buttons on the left.

Quick tip: If you’re writing a series of posts that could be categorised under different themes, you can change the name of the author to your category, so for example “Jason’s Recipes”, “Jason’s Film Reviews” etc.

jason_pym-wechat_post_05_post

You can upload and insert multiple files at a time, and then drag them around to put them in the right order (just like Tumblr).

Very important to put your QR codes (二维码 èr wéi mǎ) at the end of the post. The means that when your Public Account post gets forwarded as a weixin, people who haven’t found you yet will be able to subscribe and find your shop.

Before you actually publish the post, you can preview it on a phone by clicking this Preview (预览 yù lǎn) button, then entering a phone number. Note that you can’t publish or even preview a post if there are only images – you have to have some text in the body of the post, even if it’s just a “.”.

jason_pym-wechat_post_06_preview

Last thing! (Almost finished now)….

So all of what we just did there is the equivalent of a “feature article”. You can also publish articles that will appear below the feature in the Post Summary (navigation), sometimes called “secondary” articles in Chinese (二级 èr jí) looking like this on your phone:

jason_pym-wechat_post_07_secondary_posts

So if it was old media, the big post at the top would be like the “cover feature”, and the secondary articles would be little articles inside the paper/magazine.

These work in exactly the same way, to add a secondary article just click on the “+” under the cover image for the feature article on the left:

jason_pym-wechat_post_08_secondary_post

…and you’ll get this:

jason_pym-wechat_post_09_secondary_post

The only difference to a feature post is that the cover image (the one that goes in the “navigation” post summary) is a 200x200px square.

Fin.

What’s WeChat?
WeChat (微信 wēi xìn lit. “micro message”) is a Chinese social media platform which kind of fills the role of Twitter****, except that messages are not public: Only those people that you have accepted as followers can see your posts. The other big Chinese social media platform, Sina’s Weibo (微博 wēi bó lit. “micro blog”) is completely public – anything you post can be be seen by anyone. From a reader experience, both WeChat and Weibo are far and away better than Twitter – you can put all kinds of content on them (videos, gifs, whatever) and they’re easier to organise (you don’t need a Tweetdeck equivalent). WeChat’s voice mail and messaging service means it has replaced SMS and a lot of phone calls.

What’s a WeChat Public Account?
Just like a a WeChat account for an individual, except that anyone can subscribe to your posts (it’s public) and you have to be a company (or government organisation, or media outlet) to have one. Although these accounts are commonly known as Public Accounts in both English and Chinese (公众号 gōng zhòng hào), WeChat’s own official English translation of this service is the rather confusing “WeChat Official Account”.

Most WeChat Public Accounts are used by companies to promote their products through soft advertising (posting interesting content with a link to product at the end). There are a few different ecommerce sites that you can do this with (not Taobao, though that’s integrated into Weibo), we’ve been using YouShop (微店 wēi diàn) and Youzan (有赞 yǒu zàn).

* I found the magic number 740 x 1136px on a third party site, it seems to work on all the phones we tried it on – but of course the aspect ratio of mobile devices (iphones, ipads, android smartphones etc) are all very different, so there’s no right answer AFAIK. You can post bmp, png, jpeg, jpg, gif in WeChat Public Accounts, with a size limit of 2MB/image.
** Although you are only shown the posts published after the date you subscribed, unlike personal WeChat accounts there is an option to see all previous posts (查看历史消息)
*** This may seem like a bit of a mess, but WeChat is already infinitely easier to use than the horrific car crash that is Taobao. It is a mystery to me that a company has a turnover of billions of dollars has a user experience that will make your brain dribble out of your ears.
**** Twitter is blocked in China.

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