Setup guide: WeChat Official accounts
China is a country with over 1.4 billion people and more than half of them are using a super app called WeChat. Since launching back in 2011, WeChat has evolved from a simple messaging app to one that encompasses almost all aspects of life. Chinese users spend about a third of their smartphone time on WeChat to chat with friends, make voice and video calls, pay bills and even send red packets!
In the WeChat ecosystem, the WeChat Official Account represents the first opportunity for brands and businesses to capture, engage and convert their target audience. Thus, if you’re interested in the Chinese market & a WeChat Business Account, this is the guide for you. If you’re interested in the Chinese market & a WeChat Business Account, this is the guide for you.
WeChat is just not another messaging app, it’s the super app in China.
Its function covers those of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Apple Pay, Venmo, Tinder, Flipboard, Banking Apps & the App Store – it’s that powerful.
That list seems ridiculously long and broad, but it is not an exaggeration. You will be able to find people close to you if you use the nearby feature like Tinder. Using top stories you are able to find trending articles just like Flipboard, except WeChat doesn’t scrape the internet, those articles were posted by companies in WeChat.
Like how WhatsApp differs from WhatsApp Business, WeChat has Official Accounts for business use along with their normal consumer accounts. Businesses use the WeChat Official Accounts Platform to manage them.
But perhaps the biggest difference between WeChat and western messaging apps is WeChat Pay.
Why Use WeChat for Business?
Unlike other messaging apps, this is a very simple question to answer. If you’re looking to market or to support customers in China or Chinese customers abroad you definitely need WeChat Business.
WeChat is the most commonly used app in China with 973 Monthly Active Users. That means you’ll get access to about 74% of China’s 1.3 Billion people just through one app. Since most of everything can be done inside the app the average user spends about 70 minutes a day on WeChat. In China, the app accounts for 34% of all data transferred over the internet.
However, WeChat Business isn’t just about targeting Chinese users in China. It’s also about accommodating the massive Chinese diaspora around the world. More and more Chinese people are using WeChat to pay around the world. In Japan, the number of stores that accept WeChat pay increased 35x from 2017 to 2018.
There are special WeChat Business accounts designated for business use. Known as the WeChat Official Account, businesses are provided with the WeChat Official Accounts Platform to manage them.
These are the three main types of WeChat Official Accounts:
Subscription Accounts (订阅号)
Service Accounts (服务号)
WeChat Work (企业号)
Read on as we go through what each of these accounts entails and how to get started with one!
WeChat Subscription Accounts and WeChat Service Accounts allow users to build a relationship and communicate with their customers. WeChat Work accounts are to be used as internal company messengers much like Slack. We are going to cover the Subscription and Service accounts.
WeChat Subscription accounts are for celebrities or small single individual businesses that need to post a lot of content. Compared to other messaging apps business accounts WeChat Business Accounts have more restrictions designed to stop companies from creating a poor user experience with too many push notifications.
As such, WeChat Subscription Accounts tend to focus more on dispersing information and maintaining brand communication. As such, they are commonly used by celebrities or small single individual businesses that need to constantly post content to engage with the masses.
The WeChat Subscription Accounts work like a daily news feed. All updates go straight to the users’ subscription folder with no push notifications.
However, WeChat limits the number of posts to prevent incessant spamming by accounts in a bid to stay at the top of the WeChat search engine. As such, Subscription Accounts can publish once a day to subscribers, with up to 6 articles each time.
These posts show up in WeChat Moments, roughly equivalent to Facebooks News Feed. WeChat Moments does not prioritize posts it thinks you will like. Moments simply shows posts from your friends and the accounts you are subscribed to in chronological order. Thus, replacing the use of email newsletters in China.
Having more articles posted is better for discovery as the WeChat search function also shows articles that are relevant to your search. If your objective is to get the most content into the WeChat platform as you can, this is the account for you.
Naturally, there are downsides to a WeChat Subscription Account. As shown above, subscription accounts are nested inside a folder on the contacts screen. Therefore a new message would not send this account to the top of your screen like a friend messaging you. But a Service Account can.
WeChat Service Accounts are for small, medium or even enterprise size businesses such as airlines, cruise lines and hotels. Unlike WeChat Subscription Accounts where you can only post updates, a WeChat Service Account gives you access to many more sales and service-oriented functions.
These include interesting features such as customer service, API integration, CRMs as well as opening a WeChat store and processing payments. Imagine adding your own Mini Programs and processing booking services, customer service functions and online check-in all from WeChat!
That being said, as the WeChat Service Account sits on the first level of contacts, you are no longer hidden behind the subscriptions folder. Thus, whenever you send a broadcast, your WeChat Official Account will jump to the top of the contact list and a push notification will be sent. But with great power comes great responsibility and WeChat limits you to 4 broadcasts per month. So make sure to use your broadcasts wisely.
WeChat enterprise accounts are primarily for internal communication and management, similar to workplace apps like Slack. There are countless intonations and functions available, such as internal chat rooms, video conferencing and shared files.
Users of corporate accounts must be verified by internal staff in order to follow the corporate account. As such, they are not available to the public and are not used for marketing.
Compared to creating accounts on other instant messengers, things are complicated in China. The Chinese government needs to have control over the companies who can spread information on a mass scale. Thus, registering an Official WeChat Business Account and verifying costs money (~90USD) and requires you to provide documentation. If you’d like to register on your own, the steps are below.
Creating the account itself is rather easy. Start by visiting the WeChat Official Accounts Platform page and click register now at the top.
Selecting an account type is the next step.
We’d advise you to open a service account, which is best of both worlds between supporting your customers and sending them marketing messages.
Create a user account.
All you need to do here is provide an email that you’ll be using to log in and manage you’re WeChat Official Account in the future. WeChat will send you a verification code and you’re on to the next step.
Select your country.
The documents required to register your account are slightly different depending on if you are creating an account as a mainland company or as an overseas company.
Provide your identification information. The next step is to provide identification information for the person who will operate the WeChat Official Account and for the company that will own it.
To create your WeChat Official Account you’ll need to provide:
Your company’s officially-registered name
Your company’s registration number
The account operators name
The account operators mobile phone number
The account operators Passport ID number
Choose an account name and provide a description. In this section, you will create your account name. This will become your WeChat account id so choose wisely, and a short description for your account.
That’s it! You’ve created a WeChat Official Account. Now you’ll be able to log into the WeChat Official Accounts Platform. Once you’re logged into the platform you will receive the following notification.
You won’t be able to send any broadcasts until you verify your account.
Did you think the hard part was over? Take a deep breath – and maybe a 5-minute coffee break – before we jump right back in!
The good news is that you can start the verification process right from the notification.
Input additional company information
You’ll need to fill in the following information:
registered office address
office phone number
Scope of business (description of business activities)
Name of the bank your company is registered
Bank account number
Names of companies legal representatives (company directors names)
Validate contact person
Next, you will have to provide information about a company contact person. It is vital to fill in the information accurately and precisely. This is because the verification staff will contact you to go over the verification documents.
You’ll need to provide:
Contact’s full name
Mobile Phone number
Verify with SMS
Landline phone number
Upload supporting documents
Following, you’ll need to provide the supporting documents for all the information you have provided earlier on. Do note that you will have to scan all your documents in colour before submission to ensure a smooth verification process!
You’ll then need to provide:
Your Business license
A signed and stamped official application letter that can be downloaded from the system
Company contact’s mobile phone statement/bill which lists his/her name, phone number and payment history in the past 3 months
Company contact’s ID/Passport/Driving license copies, twice if it’s the same
Reserve your official account name
Once all the documents have been submitted, WeChat will ask for your account’s display name. We suggest going with “optional vocabulary” as you will not have to provide additional documentation.
However, if your brand name is trademarked, select “trademark name” instead and upload the relevant documentation. If you’re a news agency, use the “media name” option and upload your broadcast license.
Pay the fee
Once everything’s done and submitted, you will be asked to pay a $99 USD fee. Do ensure that you enter the bank information given to you as is to prevent your payment from being rejected. A bank fee may be charged in the process.
In 5-10 business days, you’ll receive a call from a third party agency that reviews the documents.
Now that you have a verified WeChat Official Account it’s time to integrate that to SleekFlow for support and marketing! Read more about that with our guide here.
SleekFlow can offer a one-stop WeChat service account application service. The process would be around 2-3 weeks. The WeChat account could be connected to the SleekFlow platform for monitoring, automated marketing, and other practical CRM features. Let’s Go China with simply one platform!
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