When a company plans to enter the Chinese market, having a presence on WeChat is essential. Every month, more than a billion users interact with this social network, offering incredible marketing opportunities for companies in every sector.
In addition to its incredible popularity, for many years, WeChat had also become well known for the limitations imposed on foreign companies trying to use it for their operations in China.
However, since May of 2018, things have changed significantly. Today, opening a WeChat Official Account, also known as WeChat Business Account, is much easier for a foreign company. The registration process is now similar to that used by a Chinese company.
Before examining the details of the new WeChat rules, it is important to understand what a WeChat Official Account is, why it is important for a company to have one and how to register it.
What is a WeChat Official account?
WeChat Official Accounts are the tools the WeChat social network provides for companies to interact with their customers. WeChat Official Accounts can be compared to Facebook pages.
Just as on Facebook, when a business opens their Official Account with WeChat, it has the possibility of acquiring followers. By means of WeChat, a company can get in touch with its followers through messages, or by directing them to a website or online store.
It is of no surprise that because of its vast user base, WeChat has become one of the most used and successful marketing tools in China.
There are several types of WeChat Official Accounts. The ones most used by companies are the Subscription Account and the Service Account. It is up to the foreign company to decide which of these fits best with its marketing strategy. In fact, one of the biggest differences between these two accounts is the frequency with which they allow you to interact with your audience.
The WeChat Subscription Account allows you to send one message per day to your users. This option is great for creating and maintaining a consistent relationship with your followers.
This account is particularly appreciated by E-commerce or other companies that need to share with their audience promotions, new articles or services, to advertise events, or something else. One message a day allows you to have a constant presence on WeChat.
However, you should consider that this account is limited in other respects. For example, the Subscription Account does not support WeChat Payments and vouchers, geo-localization (which allows you to understand where users are connecting from), or even the use of multiple QR codes (which enables you to analyze where the traffic comes from).
The Service Account is particularly different from the Subscription Account because it limits communication with your audience to only four messages per month. However, the account will appear in the “Friends” section of the chat section of WeChat, guaranteeing greater visibility.
Although this account is limited in the number of messages you can send, it does allow you to collect more information about your audience, such as their geographical location and where the traffic is generated. Many companies find this information indispensable when planning and optimizing their offers.
Clearly, it is not possible to define which type of account is the best. This assessment is strictly subjective to each company and how they intend to develop their marketing campaigns.
Can overseas companies Register a WeChat Official Account?
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, as of May 2018, new rules have been introduced that mark an important change in the way foreign companies open a WeChat account.
This new policy now allows companies from over 100 countries to open a WeChat Official Account using their foreign license.
Until May 2018, a company that did not hold a Chinese business license had only two options available to open a WeChat Official Account.
One option was to make a special request to Tencent, the company that owns WeChat, to be registered with a foreign license. The process was rather complicated, took several months to complete and required an initial payment of over $1,100 and an annual payment of about $100. In addition, this was only possible for select countries only.
The other option was to register the account through a Chinese company. The procedure was much faster and cheaper but had a large disadvantage in that the foreign company was not the owner of the account. If, at any time, a problem with the Chinese company occurred, the foreign company could lose the use of the account.
Now, these roadblocks have been removed. The new policy allows for more than 100 countries to register their accounts using same procedures as Chinese companies. Moreover, when the account is opened, there is no longer a need for an initial investment in WeChat Advertising, WeChat's tool for sending advertising messages.
However, please note that European countries are not currently included in the new policy. Therefore, companies based in the old continent will continue to face difficulties in opening a WeChat Official Account without a Chinese business license.
In this link you can check the list of countries that are able to open a WeChat Official Account freely (the list is only available in Chinese).
Benefits of having a WeChat official Account as a foreign company
The advantages of having a WeChat Official Account for a foreign company that wants to operate in China are countless. That is why companies were willing to embark on the complicated registration procedures of the past in order to have their account visible in China.
Gain visibility in China
WeChat is used daily, and by more than a billion users every month. WeChat is part of Chinese daily life. They use this platform for a multitude of tasks ranging from simple messages to event reservations and online shopping. A presence on WeChat offers both visibility and credibility to a foreign company.
Continuing Communication with Your Audience
WeChat allows you to send messages to your followers for marketing purposes.
In addition, WeChat may also be used to gather customer opinions, answer customer questions about products or services, provide customer support, and more. By using this tool correctly, you can build customer loyalty.
For example, you can set up welcome messages, or other auto-responders, that lighten the work of the company and generate user satisfaction.
Membership and Loyalty Programs
Offering a membership or creating special programs for repeat customers are very popular tools in China. WeChat allows you to manage these programs that are successfully used both to boost sales and to increase the level of customer satisfaction.
An Official Account grants access to WeChat advertising. This tool is much like Google ads and is used to reach even more potential customers.
WeChat Mini Programs and WeChat Web Apps
WeChat Mini Programs are a relatively new tool offered by Tencent. The Mini Programs are comparable to apps but can be used without having to download or install them on your device. They can be used to support a website, an E-commerce website, or function in a totally independent manner.
Since their launch, they have continued to gain popularity and have now become an important marketing tool.
Alternatively, you can develop WeChat Web Apps. These tools are like the Mini Programs but offer more functions. For example, they can be shared through WeChat Moments and they support several languages, not just Chinese, as do Mini Programs.
Steps to Register a WeChat Official Account with an Overseas Business License
Here are the steps for registering a WeChat Official Account:
1. Go to https://mp.weixin.qq.com/ and click the Register button to start the signup process.
2. Select whether you want to open a Subscription Account or a Service Account.
3. Enter you email address and click on the Send Code button to receive the verification code.
4. Look for the verification code in your email and type it into the field: Email Verification Code.
5. Set a password for your account, agree with the terms and condition, and click Register.
6. Select the country of origin of your company and fill in the required information about your business.
7. You will be asked what verification method you want to use.
Even though you have three options, we recommend you use the WeChat verification since it will give you access to premium features on your Official Account.
8. Create an account profile.
Keep in mind, that for the name, you can only use Chinese and alphanumeric characters. Spaces and special characters are not allowed
9. Click Done and the registration process is finished.
Remember to verify your account within 30 days to start using your WeChat Official Account.
Opening a WeChat Official Account for a foreign business is simpler today than ever. Doing so opens new opportunities for foreign businesses who want to expand their presence in China.
If you need assistance in opening your WeChat Official Account, or if you want to manage a successful marketing campaign on WeChat, contact QPSoftware.