Given its omnipresence in China, WeChat 微信 plays a key role in marketing and advertising. The first step turns out to be opening your own WeChat Official Account. Introduced in July 2012, official accounts stand as a WeChat channel for entrepreneurs, famous people, media, government, etc.
WeChat Official Accounts are a great opportunity to increase your visibility in China. There are several options for businesses planning their WeChat Official Accounts registration. WeChat business accounts can be either international or Chinese, WeChat subscription accounts or WeChat service accounts verified or unverified. There are 20+ million WeChat Official accounts registered. What about yours?
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 main types of WeChat official accounts: Subscription accounts and Service accounts.
WeChat Hit 1.2 Billion Monthly Active Users
WeChat recently hit a record level of 1.26 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.
WeChat Official Accounts Explained
Mastering WeChat is an absolute must for businesses looking to tap into China’s thriving market. With a staggering 80% of the population relying on this platform for communication and organization, email simply doesn’t cut it. WeChat’s user numbers have soared to unprecedented levels, making it the largest and most active social network platform available.
It presents an unmissable opportunity for companies looking to connect with potential Chinese customers directly and navigate local markets with great success.
Benefits of Using WeChat Official Account for Foreign Brands
A WeChat business account offers many features that are very beneficial for brands present in the Chinese market. Let’s take a look at some of the key advantages of creating a WeChat public account for your company in China:
WeChat official accounts provide a platform for foreign brands to increase their visibility and exposure in the Chinese market. By creating and maintaining an official account, companies can share content, promote products or services, and reach a large audience of potential customers.
WeChat enables direct communication between brands and consumers through features like text messaging, voice messaging, and video calls. This allows foreign brands to engage with Chinese consumers, provide customer support, and build relationships.
WeChat official accounts support various types of content, including articles, videos, images, and audio. This allows foreign brands to create and distribute engaging and informative content to their target audience. By providing valuable content, brands can establish themselves as industry experts and build credibility.
WeChat official accounts offer e-commerce capabilities, allowing foreign brands to sell products directly within the platform. Brands can set up online stores, accept payments, and leverage WeChat’s built-in features like social sharing and peer recommendations to drive sales.
CRM and Data Analytics
There are available tools for customer relationship management (CRM) and data analytics. Brands can use these features to gain insights into their audience, track user behavior, and tailor marketing strategies accordingly. This data-driven approach can help foreign brands optimize their campaigns and improve customer engagement.
WeChat is integrated with WeChat Pay, a popular mobile payment method in China. By leveraging WeChat Pay, foreign brands can facilitate seamless and convenient transactions, making it easier for Chinese consumers to make purchases.
WeChat offers an official account verification process, which adds a level of credibility and trust to foreign brands. A verified official account has access to additional features and benefits, such as advanced customization options, user data, and the ability to run advertising campaigns.
What Are The Different Types of WeChat Official Accounts
While registering, you will have to pick a type of WeChat Official account. There are 2 types of WeChat public accounts most suitable for brands: WeChat service account, WeChat subscription. 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 Services Account with a live WeChat customer service assistant to answer customers’ queries.
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 Accounts.
WeChat Subscription Account (For Companies Focused on Content)
This type of account 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 product information.
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 accounts. 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.
- WeChat mini-programs: Mini Programs are not specifically Wechat official accounts per se 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.
Which Type Of WeChat Official Account Should You Pick?
The key differences between the WeChat service account and the WeChat subscription account lie in the available tools and the frequency of “blog” posting. While WeChat subscription accounts give you access to basic functions 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, want 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.
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.
How to Create a WeChat Official Account for Your Brand
Before we show you how to create a WeChat Official Account for your brand, let us explain you something: there are differences between overseas and mainland public accounts and they have different options and requirements.
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 log into an English language platform. Whereas Chinese Business WeChat 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 WeChat 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 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:
Registering 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.
Opening 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.
Going through a Tencent process
Go through a special Tencent process that allows you to create a WeChat ID 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 open.
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.
Registering an Official WeChat 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 $500
- Creation of a menu
In order to register a WeChat official account without a Chinese business license, you have to;
- Go to the registration website
- Start the registration by selecting the service account option
- Put in your email and verify it
- Fill in the business details, and the person designated to this account
- Create a WeChat official account profile, by choosing the name, etc.
- Verify the account (there is a verification fee of 99$ per year)
Limits for Entity Without a Business License
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.
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 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.
Here are some of the main benefits of having a verified official account on WeChat:
How Do WeChat Users Find And Follow Official Accounts?
There are several ways WeChat users can find and follow WeChat Official accounts:
Redirect your target audience to your WeChat public account through your other online channel: Chinese social media, website, public relations, Baidu pages etc.
Keep in mind that Wechat 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 the QR code that 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 Account. This is a powerful way to get initial traction through Cost Per Click advertising.
Join, create, and admin Wechat groups where you’ll be able to build a community and grow your WeChat official account followers base.
Need a WeChat Agency to Create your WeChat Official Account and Get Started in China?
We can help you with WeChat official account registration and creation but also with 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 and also ask about any other information you may need.
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