WeChat Official Account: a simple guide

Thomas Graziani New WeChat features

WeChat Official Account are drawing a lot of interest these days, as WeChat has risen to dominate the Chinese social media space (Chinese users spend ⅓ of their smartphone time on WeChat).

We will address the follow questions:

  • What is WeChat Official Account Click here
  • How do users find your WeChat Official Account Click here
  • What are the different types of WeChat Official Accounts Click here
  • Creating a WeChat Official Account with an oversea business license Click here
  • Creating a WeChat Official Account with a Chinese business license Click here
  • Step-by-step guide for WeChat Official Account Creation (Chinese license only) Click here
  • WeChat Official Account verification Click here

 

What are WeChat Official Accounts?

WeChat Official Accounts are the WeChat equivalent of a Facebook page: they are an interface a brand can use to:

  • Gather followers
  • Send them push notifications
  • Redirect them to a website / e-commerce

Most WeChat Official Accounts appear in the “Chat” section of WeChat. This is the section of WeChat which is most similar to WhatsApp / Messenger. Upon sending notifications, WeChat Official Accounts are brought to the top (we’ll see nuances about this topic in the section regarding different types of accounts)

Users can then open the account to access a conversation interface where they can either click on push notifications or access information through the bottom menu interface

How do users find WeChat Official Accounts?

There are several ways WeChat users can find and follow WeChat official accounts.

  1. Finding an account from the WeChat social timeline (also called WeChat Moments)

The most common way of acquiring new followers on WeChat is through WeChat Moments (the WeChat equivalent of the Facebook timeline). Upon clicking on your article, users can access your account page by clicking the name of your account at the top of the article.

  1. Scanning a QR code

Unlike in Western countries, QR codes are a very popular way to access content. WeChat users can scan QR code which are included into web pages or articles within WeChat (by long-pressing the QR code) or offline by using WeChat’s embedded QR code scanner.

QR are perfect for any offline use: they can be added inside your stores, on your products, during your events. They are also ideal for online conversion, for instance at the bottom of an article written about your brand by a Key Opinion Leader (KOL)

  1. Search

WeChat contains a search tool for Official Accounts. However, this tool is not very “fuzzy” (you have to write the name of the account fairly accurately) and is not really used for discovery. It is mostly useful if users are already familiar with your brand and trying to find it on WeChat by typing its name.

  1. Shared namecard

You can share the name card of a WeChat Official Account in order for a friend to follow it. The name card can be shared directly to a specific friend, or to a group. It can’t however be shared on your timeline.

  1. Offline payments

After an user completes a payment with WeChat Payment offline, it is possible to invite them to follow your WeChat Official Account

  1. Advertising

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

What are the different types of WeChat Official Accounts?

There exist several types of WeChat Official Accounts:

  • WeChat Subscription accounts (订阅号): can send up to 1 push message per day to their followers and are grouped together in a dedicated folder appearing alongside your friends in the “chat” section of WeChat. Subscription accounts can be created either with a Chinese ID (in which case their features would be limited, especially access to the WeChat API) or with a local Chinese business license.
  • WeChat Service accounts (服务号): appear as friends in the “chat” section of WeChat. They are extremely visible, and have additional features compared to subscription account (in particular WeChat login, WeChat payment and geo-localization). However, they can only post 4 messages per month.

  • Enterprise accounts (企业号): are meant for internal management of companies. They require both the account and the follower to approve each-other. Their content can’t be shared to unauthorized users. They are perfect for a company wanting to spread an internal newsletter.
  • WeChat mini-programs (微信小程序): are a new type of accounts launched in January 2017 by Tencent. They are mostly used for offline applications when user are only meant to use the APP once. They can’t send push notifications. As of March 2017, WeChat mini-programs seem to struggle to get significant traction.

As Enterprise Accounts are mostly used for internal management, and WeChat mini-programs are struggling to find relevant use-cases, most companies will usually gravitate around either Subscription or Service account.

In-depth comparison of WeChat Subscription and Service accounts

Service accounts generally have more advanced API functions than Subscription accounts:

To put it simply, the only real advantage of WeChat Subscription account is their ability to post articles on a more frequent (daily) basis.

The general rule of thumb to pick a WeChat Official Account is therefore the following:

  • If content is the core of your product offering (you are a media, newspaper, magazine, etc.) then Subscription account is the right choice for you
  • In most other cases (especially e-commerce cases), Service account is the right choice as it offers more visibility and features. The fact that the Service account appears as a friend is also particularly useful when sending order notifications and using the account for customer service purposes

Creating a WeChat Official Account

Creating a WeChat Official Account with an oversea company:

In order to abide with the local regulations in terms of media content, WeChat makes it difficult for foreign companies to create WeChat Official Accounts.

There are two main options for foreign companies wanting to have an account on WeChat. Both are included in WalktheChat e-commerce platform advanced package.

  • Option 1: using your own oversea business license (go through a special application process). Tencent has a case-by-case application process for companies wanting to create a WeChat Official Account. It’s a longer application procedure (about 2-3 months) and costs $1,120 USD for the first year and $120 USD for subsequent years (if you do it with WalktheChat). It however has the great advantage of enabling you to create an account entirely controller by your oversea structure. This process removes the risk of temporarily relying on a third party structure which has control over your followers (reach out via info@walkthechat.com to learn more)

Pros

– Your company owns the account legally

– The account looks more authentic to consumers since company’s legal name will be displayed on the information page

Cons

– Higher annual verification fee charged by Tencent $120 (instead of 300RMB for Chinese company)

– Takes 2-3 month to setup

– Such account enables overseas companies to run WeChat Advertising

– Such application is only possible for companies registered in the following countries/regions:

Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, France, England, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia*, German*, Italy*, Vietnam*, Finland*, UAE*, Indonesia*, Cambodia*, Netherlands*, Philippines*, Russia*

*Tencent require companies from these countries to invest at least $2,000 USD into WeChat advertising in order to grant the WeChat Official Account.

Country list may change depending on Tencent’s policy, contact info@walkthechat.com for the latest regulation

  • Option 2: use a 3rd-party Chinese license to create the account. In this case, your account will have your name, description and logo, but will still be linked to the legal entity which created the account. This is a good way to get started fast. If things go well and you decide to later create a company in China (which will then be able to create a new account), you’ll be able to transfer your followers to your new account.

WeChat Official Account creation

Pros

– Fast to create (7 business days)

Cons

– Ownership of such account belongs to the 3rd-party Chinese company

– If the industry of Chinese business license is different from your business, it may raise questions from your consumers

– Such account will not be able to run WeChat advertising (you can promote via other methods.)

See below for a step-by-step Official Account creation guide.

Important: do not use the English back-end of WeChat (http://admin.wechat.com/) to create your WeChat Official Account if you want to target Chinese users. Accounts created via this process will not be visible from Mainland China.

 

Creating a WeChat Official Account with a local Chinese company:

Most of WeChat Official Accounts are created using a local Chinese Business License (on the WeChat Official Account website: https://mp.weixin.qq.com)

The main requirements to create such an account are:

  • Business license of a company in China (营业执照)
  • Access to the bank account of this company (the verification fee has to be paid by this company, or a small amount is sent to the company as a “verification code”)
  • The Chinese ID (身份证) of a mainland China citizen with a WeChat Payment account linked to his/her bank card

This creation process usually takes around 1 to 2 weeks and the only cost (if you handle it on your own) is a 300 RMB verification fee (about $50 USD)

See below for step-by-step Official Account creation guide.

 

Step-by-step guide for WeChat Official Account Creation

What do I need?

  1. Email: Use for registration
  2. Chinese business license 营业执照 (a scanned color copy, or a photocopy with business seals)
  3. Organization certificate 组织机构代码证
  4. Company’s Chinese landline phone number (may receive a verification call from Tencent)
  5. A Chinese account operator (with a WeChat account that enabled WeChat payment)
  6. Chinese staff’s Chinese ID number 
  7. Chinese staff’s cell phone number 
  8. Name of the WeChat account (The name cannot contain space or symbol. It can only be English letters, Chinese charters, or numbers. Some sensitive words may have restriction.  For example, country name, popular brand name. The name must be unique.)
  9. Short account description
  10. Profile picture
  11. The Chinese bank account, bank name, and bank address. The bank account name must match the name on the Chinese business license. You should be able to check the bank statement of this bank because Tencent will send a deposit with 6 digit verification code to this account. 
  12. Type of account (Service account or Subscription account)

WeChat Official Account Creation

Step 1.

Go to https://mp.weixin.qq.com/ and click on register

account-creation-1

Step 2.

Choose the type of Official Account that you want to creation. The general rule is, if content is the core of your business, choose subscription, otherwise, choose service account. See section above for more detail.

account-creation-2

Step 3.

Enter email information and click on 注册 button to register account.

account-creation-3

Step 4.

Check your email (including the spam mail box) to search for a verification email. Click on the link to verify your email address.

account-creation-4

Step 5.

After you click on the link, you will be taken to a page to choose the types of the account.

account-creation-5

Step 6.

A warming says once you choose the types of the Official Account, you cannot change afterwards. (If you choose subscription account, it’s possible to upgrade the account to a service account. But if you choose service account, you cannot change the account type of subscription account.)

account-creation-6

Step 7.

Choose the type of organization.

account-creation-7

Step 8.

Enter the company information

account-creation-8Step 9.

You will have two options to verify your bank account.

Option 1:

You will need to make a transfer (usually with less than 1RMB) from your company’s bank to Tencent. With this option, you don’t have to verify your Official Account.

Option 2: 

Tencent will make a transfer to your bank account, and you will need to check in your bank account to find a verification number in the note of the transaction.  In this case, you will need to verify your Official Account within 30 days in order to keep your official account.

account-creation-9

Step 10.

Enter the information of the account operator.

account-creation-10

Step 11.

Confirm company name

account-creation-11

Step 12.

Enter the Account name information.

Tencent have a lot of restrictions on that name you can use. The Official Account’s name must also be unique.

account-creation-12

Step 13.

Click on confirm button.

account-creation-13

Step 14.

Depending on what you choose in Step 9, you will either need to send a specific amount to Tencent to verify your bank account (option 1), or you can continue with the Official Account verification steps.

Good job for creating your Official Account!

WeChat Official Account Verification

A verified account looks more professional. Some of the advanced features are only available after account has been verified (such as WeChat Payment, WeChat geo-location).

Here is how you can verify your Official Account

Step 1.

Go to WeChat admin backend, go to account setting (公众号设置) on the left side menu. Click on the blue button next to WeChat verification (微信认证).

account-verification-0

Click on the green button to start the verification process.

account-verification-1

Step 2. 

Verify either through text message or the Account operator’s Chinese ID.
account-verification-2

Step 3. 

Click on agree with WeChat terms of use.

account-verification-3

Step 4. 

Fill out the form.

account-verification-6account-verification-7account-verification-8
Step 5.

Enter the name of your Official Account

account-verification-9Step 6. 

Enter the Fapiao information.

account-verification-10

Step 7. 

Make the payment for 300 RMB verification fee with your WeChat payment account. account-verification-11

Step 8.

Good job for making to this step!

Tencent will pass your application to a third party verification company. They will call the account operator to verify information within 1-5 business days.  Make sure the account operator knows the full legal name of the company, company’s registered address and other information related with the Official Account.

That’s it!  After the verification call, congratulations, your Official Account will be verified. Now you can start posting articles on your account.

Conclusion

WeChat Official Accounts are an essential part of the marketing strategy of any strategy wanting to enter China. They’re used anywhere from product packaging to online campaigns. Although the creation process is more complex for oversea companies, it is nonetheless possible and a must-do in order to engage with Chinese customers in a meaningful and efficient way.

Want to start selling on WeChat? Sign up now for a 15 days free trial