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A Scientist’s Guide to WeChat

 Kathrine Fetizanan, Marketing & Engagement Specialist
 October 2021

Social media has become a necessity for everyday life. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, are not only important for keeping up with current news but also for scientists to share their research and new findings with the world. In recent years, WeChat has also become an invaluable resource for scientists to connect and network. In this LetPub article, we help guide you through the basics of how to navigate WeChat successfully as a scientist.

What is WeChat?

WeChat, or Weixin (微信), initially started out as a free instant messaging and call app, when it was first released by Tencent Holding Limited in January 2011. Since then, WeChat has become a multi-purpose mobile app and an integral part of daily life in China, from mobile payments to booking doctor’s appointments. Importantly, WeChat has become a professional media platform for scientists, both in and out of China, as a means to promote their profiles and research.

Why use WeChat?

As of July 2021, WeChat has 1.242 billion active users, consistently ranking in the top ten most popular social networks internationally, growing from 1.203 billion active users since July 2020. Scientific social networking sites (e.g., ResearchGate) and world-renowned research journals and publishers (e.g., Nature and Elsevier) have a growing presence on the app, which allows scientists to stay up to date with current topics in academia as well as connect with other scientists in related fields. As such, creating a profile on WeChat may prove to be more beneficial than not for any budding scientist.

How to create an individual WeChat profile

To create a profile on the app, first download the latest version of WeChat from the Google Play Store or the Apple Store, depending on whether you have an Android or iPhone. Tap the WeChat icon on your phone, and then click, “Sign Up”. You will then be taken to your very own WeChat account, where you can customize your name, avatar picture, the region where you are based, your phone number, and a password for your account. Go through the necessary verification and security steps. You will be given an opportunity after this to find your friends in your address book to see who is already using WeChat. For scientists, it is a good idea to use a professional photo and enter a display name that you want others to see. The WeChat ID can only be changed once per year, so choose an ID that is easy for others to add you on, such as first initial and last name. From your profile, you can tap on “Discover” on the lower task bar, tap “Search”, and look up various scientific journals or institutional accounts to follow. These accounts are often known as WeChat Official Accounts (OA).

What is a WeChat Official Account?

WeChat Official Accounts (OA) are similar to Facebook pages, where users can promote a certain brand to gain followers, post articles, and create or redirect followers to a brand website. OAs even offer mini programs that function like apps, where followers can pay for services or enable push notifications for updates, every time the account posts. For example, if a user wanted to know whenever Nature posted, they could go to Nature’s main page and do so.

How to use WeChat Official Accounts effectively as a scientist:

1. Follow scientific platforms and journals. To get to the heart of the scientific community, follow academic public platforms that focus on scientific publications. Academic OAs, such as Science AAAS, are excellent at posting content on a timely basis. Find articles within that platform that relate to your field of study, and within the comments, you will be able to find other users who are interested as well.

2. Allow push notifications to be turned on for subscriptions. Push notifications come with both service and subscription OAs. To stay on top of latest research findings, make sure these are turned on.

3. Comment on posts you find interesting and align with your research interests. It is good to show support of a new finding by ‘liking’, but it is even better to comment your thoughts on posts, so that other WeChat users can reply to your comments, thus creating a fruitful discussion.

4. Interact with other scientists, individually or in group chats. By commenting on posts, users can see WeChat IDs and may want to further discussion through messaging. Do not be shy and add users that share common research interests. Journal OAs also have group chats that users can join. Sci. China Chem, for example, has a group chat, where editors of the journal can post highlights and short descriptions of impactful articles in their journal.

5. Make use of the QR codes. QR codes on a post, when scanned, often lead to a specific article of the journal or the website of the journal itself. There, you will have access to more resources that will assist you in your scientific endeavors.

Should I make a WeChat Official Account?

If you are a scientist who would simply like to connect with other scientists and keep up with the latest research published by scientific journals, a personal profile should suffice. If you are part of an organization or want to create a brand for yourself as a scientist, it may be a good idea to get an OA, to share your research findings with a broader audience. Note that there is a 99 USD charge for an OA, in addition to limitations for foreign WeChat accounts.

With numerous opportunities for scientists to interact with other researchers in the community and share their latest research, WeChat is a social media platform that would benefit any scientist starting a career in academia.

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