WeChat Official Account – Extensive Guide for Brands in China

With over 1 billion active users, WeChat is one of the most popular social media platforms in China and a must-use tool for any company targeting Chinese consumers. If you are a brand looking to break into the Chinese market, you will need Wechat marketing and to set up a WeChat Official Account. This comprehensive guide will show you how to get started and make the most of WeChat for your business.

What Are WeChat Official Accounts?

You can think of WeChat official accounts (also known as WeChat Business Accounts or WeChat public accounts) as the WeChat equivalent of Facebook’s brand page. So, suppose you’re using a Facebook page for your Western audience. In that case, the WeChat official accounts platform is curated specifically for the Chinese market.

A WeChat Business Account can be opened by either individuals or organizations, like:

  • Celebrities and Influencers
  • Businesses
  • Government organizations
  • Media outlets

Since there are a lot of Chinese WeChat users, the platform is a great entry point for international brands. However, the Chinese market is sensitive to the realness of the accounts they interact with. So, they always prefer to follow WeChat official accounts over any other account to get information or buy products.

You can use your own WeChat official account to gather followers, create targeted content, redirect to your eCommerce platform, and even send push notifications of your campaigns.

In fact, the WeChat official accounts platform has a lot of features that you can leverage to engage your audience, such as:

  • Use it as a broadcast messaging app to send group messages to your followers
  • Managing your official account’s comments
  • Get analytics on your OA’s performance
  • Individually reaching out to Chinese users using WeChat’s direct-messaging app

You have to remember that not all these features are available for each account type. That’s why it’s also essential to consider your business needs and resources when opening an official account for your brand. We’ll discuss what account type fits your business more in the following sections.

Why You Should Create a WeChat Business Account

A WeChat official account is crucial for your brand’s success in the market. But you may be thinking, why not just open an ordinary account instead of an official one? The answer lies in the array of features of marketing tools and the level of confidence that you’ll get from your WeChat official account followers. Moreover, you’re also competing with numerous brands in China that are already using an official account for their business. If you don’t want to be at a disadvantage, then you’ll undoubtedly want to create an official account for your brand in China.

Official Accounts Are Necessary for Marketing on WeChat

Official accounts lend your brand an organic channel for growth. Since a Chinese user doesn’t have access to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, you can reach them through their own WeChat account. You can use your official account to promote your product to your audience and even send them notifications on your brand updates. You’ll also save on marketing costs since WeChat will display your content directly on the interface of Chinese WeChat users.

Since the platform is designed to make sharing WeChat content easier, especially in groups, then your brand’s official account has the potential to reach as many people as possible. The only thing that you have to do is to create quality and share-worthy content on your official accounts.

Another excellent feature for WeChat official accounts is sending messages in bulk. This allows for broadcasting brand updates and getting in front of many followers easier. A regular WeChat account doesn’t have this feature. Bulk messaging is perfect for businesses like eCommerce since it enables a more targeted approach to updating your audience.

To illustrate, a WeChat official account can send as many as 8 messages (which depends on the account type) to all subscribers in one promotion. An official account will post up to 4 promotions each month. You can use this to maximize your brand’s visibility to your WeChat official account followers.

Chinese Consumers Prefer Official Accounts To Get Brand Information

As we said before, Chinese users want to engage with real accounts. One way to ensure this is through the check badge WeChat grants to all official accounts. Many users in China prefer to skim through a brand’s WeChat official account rather than go through search engines and find a brand’s website. Therefore, creating official accounts is the way to go since WeChat functions as the go-to application in China, including finding out more information about the brand you’re planning to purchase from.

WeChat official accounts can act as your substitute for websites. In fact, the official accounts behave like websites where you can find important information like:

  • Your contact details
  • The products you sell
  • Your values as a brand
  • Other supporting content like WeChat articles, images, and videos

While official accounts are mainly used to interact with existing followers, these business accounts still play a role in attracting new followers and increasing the success of your brand on WeChat. Once they subscribe to your WeChat business account, they’ll receive notifications from you for each promotion campaign you initiate for the brand.

Types of WeChat Official Accounts

As we said before, there are different types of WeChat Official Accounts to choose from. Your options will largely depend on who you are as an organization and your needs to succeed as a brand in China. Here are the official account types that you can apply for in WeChat:

WeChat Work aka Enterprise Account

The first account type that we’ll discuss isn’t really optimized for marketing. In fact, you’ll only create an enterprise account (or a corporate account) if you want to have more efficient communication with your team using a WeChat official account. While enterprise accounts are not designed to communicate with your audience, it’s still an essential tool to craft marketing strategies and manage your teams using WeChat.

If you have already worked with other corporate accounts in Slack or Teams, working with WeChat enterprise accounts will be a breeze since they offer similar functionality.

The features of an enterprise account include:

  • Resource sharing
  • Creating internal chatrooms
  • Video meetings

Working with this account type is also very secure since only verified members of your organization can follow your official account. Even then, they still need to be added by the OA’s account owner to communicate with the rest of the team.

Of course, there are still features that allow you to communicate with your external audience. However, we highly recommend the following two account types if you’re aiming for external communications instead of an internal one.

Subscription Account

WeChat subscription accounts are best suited for brands emphasizing content creation and brand communication. For instance, media outlets and magazines use a WeChat subscription account to keep their followers updated on their content. Think about subscription accounts as your users’ daily dose of content, like a newspaper or Facebook’s news feed feature. The only difference is that all the content they’ll see is coming from you.

wechat official account - subcription account

When a user has a WeChat subscription on your official account, they’ll see your account under the WeChat subscription tab, where your account is lumped together with other subscription accounts.

There are a few caveats to a WeChat subscription account, though.

Firstly, there are no push notifications. Your WeChat followers won’t know if you have new content posted on your account page. You can fix this by posting new content on your subscription account consistently.

Secondly, you can only publish content once a day. There are 6 articles that you can post for each publication. All these updates will be sent to your followers’ subscription folder without any push notifications. The reason why there’s a limit to your daily publication is because of the way how WeChat search works.

Basically, the more recent your content is, the more it will be prioritized by WeChat Search. Hence, the limitation was placed to prevent brands and businesses from spamming content on their walls to get on top of the search engine.

If you’re a content-centric brand or a small business that wants to expand in China, then WeChat subscription accounts are an excellent choice. While WeChat subscription accounts don’t have as much visibility as service accounts, this account type allows you to publish more content for your followers.

Service Account

WeChat service accounts offer a more robust set of perfect features for eCommerce businesses and other service-oriented brands. To enhance your marketing efforts, you can manage customer relationships, add WeChat API integrations, and even collect data from your followers.

Furthermore, verified WeChat service accounts can access more advanced features like WeChat Pay integration and setting up their own WeChat store. These features can elevate your WeChat business accounts’ customer appeal since they make your followers’ shopping and payments easier. Moreover, a verified service account can use other advanced APIs like:

  • Instant customer service
  • Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • Payments
  • HTML pages

As we said before, a WeChat service account is more visible than a subscription account. The higher visibility is thanks to its ability to send out notifications every time you publish something on your wall. In addition, service accounts can also be seen on your dashboard and are not nestled in a separate folder. This means that your followers will see your WeChat service account more often and interact with it more.

However, service accounts are also limited in their publication, like a subscription account. In fact, you can only publish 4 times a month and 6 articles in each publication, which is far less than what you can publish in subscription accounts. This limitation is similar to subscription-type accounts since WeChat doesn’t want brands to spam their followers’ notifications with endless updates from the brands they follow.

With features like WeChat Pay, WeChat Store, and allowing users to receive push notifications, the service account is perfect for large businesses with an extensive customer database. The comprehensive set of features of WeChat service accounts even includes building an app specifically for your service. You can even address customer concerns and feedback through a service account which is challenging to do with other account types.

WeChat Mini Programs

Aside from an enterprise, subscription, or service account, a brand can also use a relatively newer tool called a WeChat mini program. A mini-program is also a form of a WeChat public account. While technically not an official account type, a mini-program is one of the hallmark features of WeChat since it has endless possibilities in terms of functionality.

For instance, WeChat mini-programs can set up a store, booking system, and even games that WeChat users can enjoy. Unlike other account types, though, a mini-program is designed to be used beyond online purposes. A mini-program is excellent for brands that want to advertise their service and what users can get when using them. Consequently, several mini-programs are used to demonstrate how good a product is and redirect users to a brand’s official account, where they can explore more about that said brand.

Both the account types of Mini Programs and enterprise accounts are not recommended for brands that want to scale in China. Instead, they should use either a subscription or service account to utilize their marketing-centric features.

If you think that a service and subscription-type accounts are not for you, you should look at these other two WeChat public account types.

How To Create a WeChat Public Account

Let’s say you finally picked an official account type. The next step would be to create one. Sounds easy, right? However, international brands may struggle to do this since there are some requirements that they have to meet before they can create one. You will need the following documents to register a WeChat official account:

  • Chinese business license
  • Chinese ID with a WeChat Payment Account

Brands with a Chinese legal entity will find it easier to apply for an official WeChat account. They just have to provide a scanned color copy of their Chinese business license, pay RMB 300 as a verification fee, and provide a Chinese ID of someone with a WeChat payment account.

After providing these documents, the brand will have to determine the official account name, contact details, and a scanned copy of the authorization letter. The letter should have a company stamp to be accepted by WeChat’s review team.

However, most international brands new to the market may not have these documents. So, how exactly can they create their official account? Here are the two alternatives that brands take to complete their WeChat official accounts:

Register a Local Chinese Business License

First, brands can create a WeChat official account overseas by using a Chinese commercial license for WeChat official account registration. The most viable example for this method would be registering as a wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE). However, this method requires a considerable investment and a very long time to accomplish.

Huge international brands can certainly afford to spend many resources and time to acquire a Chinese business license as a WFOE. On the other hand, if you’re a small brand that wants to expand in China but doesn’t want to spend as much, then we recommend that you look into the second alternative for WeChat official account registration.

Use a Third-Party Business License

Using a third-party business license for your business account is the most popular option for foreign brands. This is because it’s cheap despite some limitations that come with it. For instance, you won’t be able to handle the account independently. Although the official account name is your brand’s, users will still find the third-party business account name associated with the said official account. While this may not be a big deal for some, it might actually affect the brand recognition of your WeChat official account. Secondly, since you don’t handle the account independently, you risk the official account being held for ransom by your Chinese business partner.

But how on Earth can a local Chinese business open an account for you? The answer is pretty simple: a WeChat account can open 5 WeChat official accounts at most. Firms with a legal entity in China can use these extra slots for an additional WeChat official account for extra cash when they sell these slots for a WeChat official account overseas. You will then pay a monthly fee for your WeChat official account that the business is renting for you.

If you’re concerned with the long-term viability of this option, WeChat actually allows the transfer of a WeChat official account from one owner to another. However, this is only possible if you finally decide to register a business license in China.

Your Own International Business License

Another method to open a WeChat business account is using your own license overseas. Keep in mind that this is a case-by-case basis, so it’s not guaranteed that your WeChat official account registration will be granted by the reviewing committee of the platform.

There are also critical differences between a WeChat official account registered with a Chinese business license and a WeChat official account registered with an international license.

For example, opening a WeChat official account using an overseas license will take as much as 3 months. In contrast, it only takes a week if you use a Chinese business license. Secondly, the annual registration fee for a WeChat official account overseas is more expensive, costing around USD 99. A WeChat official account using a Chinese business license only costs RMB 300 per year.

Reviewing these differences can be pretty extensive and tricky. Our usual recommendation is to find a Chinese business partner that you can work with or register your business in China to open your WeChat official account.

Steps To Create Your WeChat Official Account

If you have all the documents you need, creating a WeChat official account can be fairly straightforward.

Firstly, you have to visit the WeChat official accounts platform to register your account. Afterward, you’ll have to choose which official account type you will use for your brand. You will then have to create a user account and provide an email. This email will receive a confirmation link that you have to click to verify the user account.

And then you’ll need to fill in organization details like:

  • Company type
  • Company name
  • Business license number
  • Bank account information
  • Account administrator’s ID name, ID number, and mobile phone number.

Afterward, you have to choose which verification method to use for your official account. It’s either scanning your ID or sending a verification code to your mobile number. This authentication method will give you the check badge icon commonly associated with WeChat accounts.

WeChat Verification

Unverified accounts run the risk of losing critical features of official accounts.

Since the WeChat team wants to ensure the genuineness of a WeChat official account, a verification fee is needed before you can open one. As we said before, the verification fee costs RMB 300 for brands with a commercial license from China, while USD 99 for overseas brands that want to open an official account. Furthermore, the length of the verification process depends on what kind of commercial license you have. If it’s a Chinese one, you can expect the process to take around one week.

If it’s an overseas license, then WeChat verification may take a few months at most which depend on the familiarity of your business and the relevant documents you have during the process.

Tips To Launch Your Official Account

Let’s say you finally created your WeChat official account. You paid your verification fee and registration fee and sorted out all your documents. What’s next? Well, of course, it’s time to finally launch your official account. The problem is, you don’t know where to start. In this section, you’ll learn all the best practices that make for a grand WeChat official account launch:

Use a QR Code

QR codes are great at driving traffic, even in offline channels. This is especially true with a Mainland China citizen who uses QR codes for many things like grocery payments, discovering more product information, and even booking transportation services. There are a lot of applications for QR codes, and one of the most popular ways is generating organic traffic for official accounts.

You can stick your QR code on basically anything in your marketing strategies, such as social media networks, brochures, and even product packaging. You can also assign a QR code to your promotional campaigns and discount events.

You can also use a QR code with WeChat pay if you’re a service account.

Create Quality Content for the Chinese Audience

There are many ways WeChat users enjoy quality content from brands. One of them making sure that the content is specifically designed f0r your target audience. But how will you know if your content is appealing to your audience?

While there are no absolute measures of quality, there are several things that you can do to create engaging content for your followers:

  • Use of GIFs, stickers, infographics, videos, and other visually-appealing materials.
  • Creating content that meets the three U’s: unique, unusual, and useful.
  • Writing guides, tutorials, and putting frequently asked questions in your articles.
  • Choosing eye-catching headlines that elicit curiosity and other emotions.

The rise of short-form videos, particularly Douyin, is also a trend that you need to look out for. You should create content targeted at this niche since it’s likely that WeChat users also consume this type of content. In fact, WeChat launched Channels which is its take on a short video platform.

Apply WeChat’s Geo-Based Features

WeChat’s location-based features help brands and businesses in targeting their desired audience. This is very useful for companies that only target people in a specific location like a city or region.

A great application of these features is taxi-hailing services that use a person’s location to find the nearest taxi cab.

Work With Key Opinion Leaders

Another strategy to launch your brand’s official account is working with KOLs or key opinion leaders. Your account won’t have a large following initially. It will take some time to establish a solid presence in China. KOLs collaborations are a great way to speed up getting followers since they already have a large base of followers.

You can search for a KOL in WeChat or through a marketing agency and work with them through product placements, product reviews, or just giving your brand a shout-out in their own accounts. Working with KOLs will help you gain credibility in your niche since these people are recognized as subject matter experts in their respective industries.

Of course, a KOL collaboration is a form of paid advertising in WeChat. Hence, it will cost you money to work with them. That’s why it’s crucial to choose a KOL that fits your brand values and key messaging. Don’t just go working with KOLs with the most followers since you might not hit the right market for your brand.

Use WeChat Advertising

WeChat advertising comes in different forms, such as:

  • Banner ads
  • Moments ads
  • KOL ads

We’ve already discussed KOL advertising in the previous section, so we’ll just discuss the first two types. Unlike KOL advertising, Banner and Moments ads have a more predictable outcome since you pay WeChat based on clicks and impressions.

Banner ads are displayed at the bottom of a WeChat article of another public account that encourages users to follow your official account. These banner ads will be shown to your target audience. Still, you won’t have absolute control over what specific account these banners will appear on.

On the other hand, Moments ads are advertisements displayed on a user’s Moments feed which is the WeChat equivalent of the Facebook feed. The targeting is the same as Banner ads and can include the following elements:

  1. A brand name and profile picture
  2. An ad description of up to 40 characters
  3. Direct links to your official account or some other page like an HTML5 web page
  4. 6 images or videos of up to 15 seconds

The cost for Moments ads is measured per mile (CPM), which means you’re paying for every 1,000 impressions your Moments ad will get. Banner ads are more flexible in terms of cost since it offers both cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-mile (CMP) options.

Create Branded Stickers

Any brand with a public account can use branded stickers that users can download for instant messaging and interacting with their Moments feeds. Branded stickers are great since they provide a much-needed break from the long lines of text you typically see in WeChat’s instant messaging app and provide a broader range of visual expression. Creating a branded sticker will help brand recognition and give your public account more exposure since users can see your general account name as the creator of these stickers.

Official Account KPIs That Matter

Want to know how well your account is performing? Then you should take a look at these key performance indicators that you can access through WeChat public account analytics. Here are some KPIs to gain insight from your OA:

Number of Engaged Followers

This metric tells you how engaged a follower is. While having many followers is great, it’s useless if a large chunk of them doesn’t engage with your public account. If you like to create more engaging content, you should look at your most engaged followers and determine what’s working for them.

So, how can you measure a user’s engagement level?

As a rule of thumb, an inactive follower will have zero engagement with your public account. An active follower will have one or more engagements with your brand. An engaged follower will have at least three interactions with your brand.

Unsubscribe Rate

While all the hype is centered around gaining as many followers as possible, another important metric is keeping your followers from leaving you. It has been observed that the cost of acquiring one new follower is equal to the cost of retaining 15 followers. Therefore, you will be saving more money if you invest in preventing existing followers from leaving your brand.

Journey Completions

WeChat Journeys are WeChat’s equivalent to email funnels. Therefore, getting a user to complete a journey means that they are highly engaged with your public account. Having a higher rate of journey completions indicates excellent content and the likelihood of getting sales conversions from your WeChat public account.

WeChat Conversions

The last metric, and perhaps the most important one, is WeChat conversions. After all, most businesses aim to convert their followers into buyers or whatever they want them to become. A higher conversion rate means a high-performing public account.

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