Updated: Jan 15, 2019
If you reside in China today, you know it’s merely impossible to live here without using WeChat. Chinese check their WeChat app regularly, with an average daily usage of over an hour each day. WeChat has become the dominant communication tool in China, topping other messenger apps and email.
But WeChat is far from a regular IM app: Users can use WeChat to pay their utility bills, send packages, book a taxi and even track their physical activities and share it with their friends. WeChat opens its entire ecosystem through its APIs. Businesses can call WeChat APIs to make their offerings available to WeChat's 1 billion monthly active users.
Therefore, businesses entering the Chinese market cannot afford to be absent from WeChat. A WeChat Official account is the equivalent of your company’s Facebook page in China, and if you don’t have one – you don’t exist. Furthermore, because copycats and fake brands are prevalent in China, without an official account users are likely to think that your business does not exist here.
When opening a business in China, there are many things to learn about WeChat and social media marketing. As a business owner you have to learn how to be seen on WeChat, make an action plan that outlines your goals and budget, and find ways to implement your ideas. Also, you must decide what content to publish and where, and choose the tools you need to measure the success of your efforts on WeChat.
Different types of WeChat accounts
There are many types of accounts on WeChat. Here is a short outline of the different types of accounts:
· Personal accounts: Regular accounts of WeChat users. They are meant for individuals and are not meant for marketing purposes.
· WeChat Official Accounts (公众号): Accounts for companies or individuals wishing to promote themselves or make advanced use of WeChat for business. They are the equivalent of Business Facebook pages, and any number of users can follow them. There are different types of WeChat Official Accounts:
i. Subscription accounts (订阅号): Allowed to send 1 push message per day to their followers and are stacked together in a dedicated folder appearing alongside your friends in the "chat" section of WeChat.
ii. Service accounts (服务号): Appear like individual accounts in the "chat" section of WeChat. They are extremely visible, and have additional features compared to subscription account, such as WeChat login, WeChat payment and geo-localization. However, they can only post 4 messages per month.
· Mini-programs (小程序): Mini-programs are not official account, but they can be integrated with official accounts. Mini-programs are, as of today, unavailable for foreign companies.
How to pick the right WeChat Official Account?
If content is your core product and essential to you (e.g. you are a media outlet), a subscription account is right for you. If content is not at the core of your business model, and especially if you don’t have the resources to create intriguing content on a daily basis, then a service account might be a better fit for you.
How do I open an official WeChat account?
Setting up an official account requires a Chinese business license. Therefore, there are two main ways to acquire an official WeChat account:
Option 1: Register a company (WFOE - Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise) in China. It is a costly and lengthy process, and in the end you will acquire a business license. This is the legitimate procedure, but one that requires a large investment.
Option 2: Use a third-party business license. For WeChat purposes, you can “borrow” a business license from another Chinese entity. This will allow you to pick your own account name, logo and description, but the legal name of the company will also appear on the account. Another downside is that the account will be attached to the Chinese legal entity. Since February 2017, it's possible for you to transfer followers to your own account once you set up your company in China at a later point in time.
By Regina Zhang
Ms. Zhang is an independent WeChat consultant and workshop instructor, a serial entrepreneur who founded 3 startups in social media in China. Former Co-Founder at OCheng, helped Sephora increase WeChat fans and sales and made WeChat their #1 online sales channel in China. OCheng is a social media marketing startup that provided services for global brands entering the China market. She is laureate of the prestigious Forbes China 30 Under 30 in 2017. Any topics regarding using WeChat for business, including WeChat official accounts, promotions, WeChat shops, content marketing, follower conversion, etc. Please feel free to contact Ms. Zhang through WeChat: qianqiannian002.