Given its omnipresence in China, WeChat 微信 plays a key role in marketing and advertising. The first step turns out to be the opening of your own WeChat Official Account. Introduced in July 2012, official accounts stand as a channel for entrepreneurs, famous people, media, government, etc. It differentiates from a user account because it allows local and international brands to promote their product or service to millions of users.
WeChat Official Accounts area great opportunity to increase your visibility in China. There are several options for businesses planning their WeChat Official Accounts registration. WeChat official accounts can be either international or Chinese, WeChat subscription accounts or a WeChat service accounts verified or unverified. There are 20+ million WeChat Official accounts registered. What about yours?
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Here is an overview for beginners to the WeChat platform on how to register an official WeChat account. This is one of the most frequent discussions we have with our partners. As a non-Chinese entity, it can be more difficult but here we will explore your options.
What are Wechat Official Accounts?
Wechat official accounts are public accounts on the Chinese social media platform Wechat. They are business accounts that allow companies to publish content, gather followers and promote their products or services. There are two types of Wechat official accounts: Subscription account and Service account.
WeChat has hit 1.2 billion monthly active users in 2022
WeChat recently hit a record level of 1.2 billion monthly active users on the platform. The barriers to entry into WeChat are actually an advantage for savvy businesses that seize the chance to market themselves on China’s largest and most active social network. On average, 60% of WeChat users open the app more than 10 times per day. WeChat’s penetration of Chinese Netizens reaches 93% in China’s Top Tier cities.
What are the different types of WeChat Official Accounts
While registering, you will have to pick a type of Wechat Official account. There are 3 types of WeChat public accounts available to businesses: WeChat service account, WeChat subscription, and WeChat work (WeChat corporate) account. Typically, a WeChat Service Account is best for most businesses.
WeChat Service Account (Recommended):
It allows 4 posts per month, but you get a prominent position amongst other WeChat service accounts. During followers’ ongoing conversations with friends, they will receive a push notification upon when you publish your weekly post. A push notification is a simple notification indicating to users they have received a text message on the app.
Further to this, many of WeChat’s unique features such as CRM, custom menus, and We-Websites aka Mini-programs are only available to WeChat service accounts. A brand can also leverage one-to-one communication as an extension of its CRM program. For example, Louis Vuitton integrates its Wechat Services Account with a live customer service assistant to answer customers’ queries.
What are the main features of Wechat Service Accounts
- Access advanced WeChat public platform features
- 4 broadcasts per month ( 1-6 articles). Broadcasts are received from the business as a contact in the user’s message feed directly. They are blog post. Each blog post/Wechat articles can contain direct links to your mini program for instance.
- The brand has a 48-hour window to reply to user messages
- Push notifications – everytime you post new wechat articles, your wechat official account followers receive push notifications
- Custom menus for all service accounts
- Wechat Pay – Payments (API) supported for all verified accounts
- Wechat Mini-Programs
- Wechat Paid Ads (moment ads, banner ads and so on)
- Integrated CRM Tool
For a luxury brand or a financial institution such as China Merchant Bank, the service account is ideal. Other brands like Southern China Airlines even use it to integrate their membership card, check-in services, ticket booking, and other services into their WeChat Official Account.
Wechat Subscription Account (for companies focused on content):
It allows you to push frequent content to your followers. However, your profile sits in the WeChat subscription accounts subfolder and your followers are not sent push notifications upon receiving a post from your account and will be received in a special subscription folder. In a word, you will have fewer impressions and reach. For your brand, it will become extremely challenging not only for the open rate of your daily quality content but also to maintain a regular conversation with your followers.
Having said that, consumer brands such as McDonald’s Hong Kong or Uniqlo China, which consistently provide special offers to customers will find that the new changes still work pretty well because consumers have already been trained to find out the latest offers or products information.
What are the main features of Wechat subscription Accounts
- wechat subscription accounts are better for businesses that want to put out content on a more regular basis (newsletters, e-mags, etc).
- No Push notifications. Instead, your followers receive your content in a special section among other subscription account content.
- Businesses that use wechat subscription accounts have a 48-hour window to reply to user messages
- Businesses must be verified and use WeChat API. No customization
- No support for payments aka no access to Wechat Pay
It is vital to mention whether you wish to have access to WeChat’s advanced features and developer tools. If it is not in your proposal, it will more than likely be left out.
For a brand or publisher such as a magazine that provides quality content to attract subscribers, a subscription account is great. You can open the account on a regular basis and think about opt-in email.
More Wechat Public Account Types
- WeChat Work previously known as enterprise accounts: These are more often than not corporate account. They are meant for company internal communication. They require both the account and the follower to approve each other in order to communicate and exchange content. Their content cannot be shared with unauthorized users. They are perfect for a company wanting to spread an internal newsletter.
- WeChat mini-programs: Mini Programs are not specifically Wechat official account per say but can be used as “such”. Launched in January 2017 by Tencent. They are mostly used for offline applications when the user is only meant to use the app once. They cannot send push notifications. WeChat mini programs are mostly used for branding and engagement. In 2020, mini-programs reached 300 million daily active users with a growth rate of 45% versus the previous year.
Which Wechat Official Account is more relevant? Two Main Options
The key differences between the WeChat service account and the WeChat subscription account lie in the available tools and frequency of “blog” posting. While WeChat subscription accounts give you access to basic function such as blog posting, Wechat Service accounts offer you an array of tools that will come in handy to strengthen your marketing funnel and reach out to your target audience more efficiently.
If you are an international brand willing to enter China, wanting to run e-commerce campaigns register mini programs… then the most recommended choice is definitely to open a Wechat Service Account. In the West, companies post content hoping to reach as many followers and views as possible. WeChat is totally different. Your service and customer experience are enhanced but the ecosystem work in a close looped. Contrary to Facebook or Weibo for instance, only your WeChat fans will access your content directly. Some may see it through content sharing on WeChat moment if your content is interesting enough to be shared.
If a person has chosen to follow your brand, WeChat has no right to filter the communication between you and the user: there is no algorithm. Every time WeChat Official accounts send a broadcast message, your followers will receive a push notification. It is exactly like receiving a message from a friend or family. Why? Because, in the WeChat mentality, the brand is a friend of the user, who has specially chosen to follow.
If you are looking for a company communication tool, then corporate accounts are the way to go.
Wechat Official Account Overseas or Chinese WeChat Official Accounts?
There is a clear division between how Chinese and non-Chinese operations are dealt with and this impacts the creation of a WeChat official account overseas. For instance, if you have a CBL (Local Chinese business license) you can simply apply under your business name with a Chinese representative. On the other hand, if you are not a registered business in China there are a series of options that can be taken depending on budget, time frame, and business concept.
What is the difference then? To put it simply, the international WeChat Official accounts to log into an English language platform. Whereas Chinese Wechat Business accounts use a Chinese language platform. Most importantly, Chinese WeChat users do not have access to WeChat official accounts overseas. If you want to reach a Chinese audience, you will need a Chinese account. On the other hand, International WeChat users have access to both Chinese and International Wechat Official accounts.
Your registration for an International or a Chinese account will depend on your objectives in China. Who do you want to target? What type of content will you share? For this first step, answering all these questions will help you make a decision.
Minimum Requirements for WeChat Official Accounts
For most companies in China, these documents are required to create a WeChat Official account:
- A Chinese business license – Obtained from a local company or WFOE
- Chinese Bank account – Provide bank account information and bank name – The verification fee has to be paid by the company, or a small amount is sent to the company as a “verification code”
- Original and scanned copy of A Chinese ID with a WeChat payment account
If you do not have a Chinese business license, the following alternatives exist:
- Register a company in China
Probably the step you don’t want to take but should as it would not only make it a lot easier to create a WeChat official account but also an official account on other platforms in China. A foreigner can register a company (WFOE – Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise) in China. This is not the recommended approach as it is an expensive and lengthy process, at least 6 months. After setting up the company, you will have a business license to create an account. But it is a big investment, and it is really worth it if you plan to hire people in China.
- or open a Wechat Official Account with the help of A third-party business
With a third-party business license, you can “borrow” a business license from another Chinese entity. With each, you can register 5 WeChat accounts. You will create an account for a management fee of approximately $500 a year. However, the account will remain linked to the Chinese legal entity: you can choose the name, logo, and description of your account, but the company’s legal name will still appear.
The plus is it is the most convenient and fastest way to set up your WeChat official account. You do not spend too much energy on paperwork and get started quickly. However, you do not own really the account, it is owned by the party that set it up.
Furthermore, with a third-party account, there is also a small chance that it will be shut down as the process is not fully authorized. Businesses doing this have to be aware of that risk. You cannot transfer or merge an account with another one in terms of followers as they are linked solely to the initial account set up.
- Tencent process
Go through a special Tencent process that allows you to create a WeChat account visible from China. Tencent charges a verification fee of $99 USD, but it is a procedure that depends on case-by-case and is not overused. However, it has the great advantage of enabling you to create an account entirely controlled by your overseas structure. This process removes the risk of temporarily relying on a third-party structure that has control over your followers. Not that there is no registration fee but a yearly recurring fee to keep the account opened.
- NB: WeChat Business Accounts Descriptions and Account Name
Once an account name has been created it cannot be changed. So, be sure about your account name before starting the registration process. In the same vein, account summaries can be updated but only once per month. In addition, accounts cannot be attached or transferred to another account. This highlights the importance of a proper initial setup.
Registering for a Wechat Official Account as a Chinese Organization:
In order to register an official account through WeChat’s self-service platform, you will need the following:
- A Chinese ID (身份证 or shēnfèn zhèng)
- A Chinese Mobile phone number
- A Chinese business license if you have one (营业执照 or yíngyè zhízhào)
- Chinese organization code (组织机构代码证 or zǔzhī jīgòu dàimǎzhèng)
- Contact details
The registration process is entirely in Chinese. Head to the WeChat public platform website for a step-by-step application. If you are not familiar with the process, you should request help from a local agency.
From here the procedure is simple for Chinese registered businesses. Ensure you have a Chinese representative to manage the setup as their id photo and number are required.
You will then have to wait for verification and select whether you want to open a service or subscription account. Typically, opening a service account is the preferable option for most businesses.
Can Hong Kong Company Register a WeChat Official Account?
Hong Kong companies can apply for official WeChat accounts at present (although like with anything in China there is a possibility this might change). In short, if an entity can be registered in HK it can be a lot easier to apply for WeChat official account registration through a mainland representative.
As with many processes, the barriers to entry have thus far restricted many international brands from entering the Chinese market.
Register a WeChat Official Account as an Overseas Company:
- Creation depending on the country, brand awareness, and industry
- Registration between 1-2 months
- Provide a list of documents
- Have a business license
- Have certificates
- Pay the account, pricing starts at $500
- Creation of a menu
Getting an Official Account as a Non-Registered Entity in China:
The honest truth is that the process for registration is a little unclear. Indeed, few guidelines have actually been provided and one gets the impression this is deliberate. The platform is selecting & prioritizes the most innovative concepts and adds opportunities through such a selection process.
Application via WeChat Directly
WeChat has famously been reticent to discuss in depth how the application process works for foreign entities but here is the current protocol:
First, go to wechat.com
You will need to outline how you plan to use your account. You need to pitch to them the business concept; how you will use the account and what the use of you being on WeChat actually is. Can you bring anything interesting to WeChat users?
When it comes to proposals you can consider a number of factors:
- Design (HTML5 format for WeChat)
- Page layouts
- Will the official account be connected to a WeChat store?
- What is your promotional strategy?
- And what is your ad spend?
Business credentials are important, you need to include:
- A local phone number
- Business email address
- Documentation to prove the existence of the company (business license, tax form etc.)
To clarify, the more documents you can send, the better. Give copies of anything that further validates the existence of the business – even send business cards!
Limits for Entity without business licence
If your company won’t apply for a Chinese business license 营业执照, you can create an International account visible from Mainland China. You can use the option listed before with some limitations. Indeed, only certain countries or regions outside Mainland China can apply for them such as Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam.
Another limit you will face is that you can only create a subscription account and not a service account. This means some of the advanced API functions of these accounts are not enabled. In particular, all the CRM/content API endpoints are disabled. There is the possibility to extend this API access, in order to get the same functions as a local account, but this requires an extra application with Tencent. You’ll also face restrictions for WeChat ads and WeChat payments.
The ads application goes through a special process and might be restricted depending on your industry. For instance for finance companies or industries that cannot export to China. Instead, the WeChat payment application can be a long and complex process. You can, however, sidetrack this process by opening a WeChat Cross-border Payment account with a Tencent partner such as NihaoPay.
To Launch a WeChat Official Account Prepare an Investment of 3K RMB (500 USD)
Tencent team recommended a minimum of 200 000 RMB in ad spend which will also need to be detailed. This includes moments ads & display ads.
It seems the platform is seeking to be selective when handing out applications to companies. For instance, companies that are more likely to invest in innovation have more chances to succeed. WeChat is a hub of innovation, therefore presenting a strategy that demonstrates this is beneficial.
Similarly, in terms of accounts directly authorized by WeChat, larger companies are favored. Why? Because they are believed to have the marketing resources to promote WeChat as a safe and trustworthy platform. Bear that in mind when applying. After your account is approved, WeChat will send your WeChat ID and password, which you will need to log in on the admin WeChat platform
Meanwhile, you can check the progress of your application using your email address and application number here.
Alternatively, try to contact a WeChat representative for your country (a quick google search should pull them up!)
Why do you need a WeChat Verified Account as a brand?
WeChat verification intends to guarantee the truth and security of official account information on the Wechat platform. Other than getting advanced APIs, verified WeChat Official accounts are the prerequisite if you want to have access to core features such as the app advertising tools, E-commerce store, geo-data access (user location), and many additional features. All these features will help you nurture your target audience and build a loyal customer base as well as drive your sales.
The WeChat team has very strict rules regulating businesses to pass through the verification process. Also, the verification process is not so easy procedure. In regards to the verification checklist, different conditions are required in different regions, Even different account types or industries will have different requirements.
Furthermore, unverified accounts do not enjoy the same reputation bonus as verified ones which is a direct handicap on Chinese social media apps and with your Chinese customer base.
How Potential Followers can find a Brand/Company’s official WeChat account?
There are several ways WeChat users can find and follow WeChat Official accounts:
- Online Channels
Redirect your target audience to your Wechat public account through your other online channel: Chinese Social media, Website.
- WeChat moments
Keep in mind that what is a closed platform and the most common way of acquiring new followers on WeChat is through WeChat Moments, the WeChat equivalent of Instagram stories. Upon clicking on your article, chinese users can access your account page by clicking the name of your account at the top of the article.
- Scanning a QR code
Use offline marketing to grow your WeChat following. Unlike in Western countries, QR codes are a very popular way to access content. WeChat users can scan QR code which is included in web pages or articles within WeChat (by long-pressing the QR code) or offline by using WeChat’s embedded QR code scanner. QR is perfect for any offline use: they can be added inside your stores, on product packaging, and during your events. Not only you’ll get more WeChat fans but it will increase customer engagement with your company.
WeChat ads include a feature enabling to have a “One-click follow” button enabling users to follow a WeChat Official Accounts. This is a powerful way to get initial traction through Cost Per Click advertising.
- Wechat Group
Join, create and admin Wechat groups where you’ll be able to build a community and grow your WeChat official account followers base.
To sum up on Wechat Official Account Registration:
WeChat is a great platform for marketing & business growth but it is one of many approaches that can be taken. It mainly depends on your budget and expectations. Baidu, E-Forums, PR & News Applications are also nifty ways of generating high levels of traffic, and leads and building your brand and reputation.
Need a Wechat Agency to Create your Wechat Official Account and Get Started in China?
We help you with WeChat official account registration and creation but also WeChat official account management and a broader marketing strategy to enter the Chinese market successfully.
You need to partner with a local agency that understands the frustrations and difficulties of doing business in this vastly different marketplace. We are an international team of 70+ based in Shanghai who look forward to hearing more about your project. Contact us now to ask more about WeChat official accounts but also ask about any other information you may need.
- We have already opened 300+ WeChat accounts
- Our agency has managed 1K+ case studies
- Contact us to speak with our consultant