written by Ayat Salman, MSc. Phd(c) (Manager HPB/Transplant Clinical Trials and Vice-chair ISBER Communications Committee) and Jim Vaught (Editor-in-Chief Biopreservation & Biobanking)
What is WeChat?
Social media platforms have occupied and played major roles in business marketing as well a communication platform in science and research.
Whereas everyone is aware of the major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, WeChat is less known of in America and North America. First released in 2011, WeChat (meaning “micro-chat”) has become one of the world’s largest standalone mobile apps in 2018 with monthly active users with more than > 1 billion monthly active users. Described as one of the world’s most powerful apps by Forbes, it is also known as a “super app” because of its wide range of functions and platforms. In China, Google services (including GMail), Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are blocked. Therefore, WeChat has developed its multipurpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app.
How to get and use WeChat
WeChat is freely downloadable on smartphones, and also has a web version that can be downloaded to personal computers. Users may add new contacts in person by scanning QR codes, or remotely by contacting other users and requesting to be added to their contact list.
Once WeChat is loaded and opened, you start by creating an account which is essentially your own personal section inside the platform. The app will then ask you to insert some of your personal information, specifically the area in which you live and your telephone number (to which your prefix will automatically be added). It is very important that you enter your telephone number correctly, because after entering it, you’ll be sent a SMS with a 4 digit verification code, which you’ll have to enter into the app to be able to continue using it. It’s very easy to send texts, which may include attached files, photos etc.
One very popular feature is WeChat Moments, which is used for example to post personal or business items such as photos or news stories. As scientists with, generally, other scientists as contacts, Moments is also a convenient way to post web links or references to new findings, popular press stories about research issues.
Other than personal one-on-one contacts, it is also convenient to form WeChat groups. Groups are formed as a convenient way to discuss, for example, a project, upcoming project, manuscript preparation or a conference. For the past few years there has been an ISBER annual meeting group, which discusses registration, visa issues and other logistical and scientific details related to upcoming ISBER meetings. Many of our ISBER colleagues are WeChat users, in China, North America, Europe, Australia and elsewhere. The ISBER office in Vancouver as well as individual office members are WeChat users. There is also a Biobankers group of about 500 people, organized by Xuexun Zhou of Avantech, which includes mostly Chinese contacts, but also includes several ISBER members. This group shares information about biobanking research, publications and upcoming conferences in China and elsewhere.
WeChat for the ISBER 2019 Annual Meeting
During the ISBER Annual Meetings, social media plays a major role in communication amongst attendees, organizers as well as promoting its events and making sure its community is up-to-date with the latest in biobanking news. If you are attending ISBER Annnual Meeting in Shanghai 2019, then you will need to familiarize yourself with WeChat in order to keep up with the latest on social media during the conference.
Since WeChat is so widely used in China, it is the most convenient and quickest ways to locate a colleague there. If there is some delay in getting a response to an email, usually a WeChat note will result in an almost instantaneous response, that is if the recipient is awake!