With the rise of social media, companies have become aware of how these platforms can be used to develop their business.
Executives are now investing in Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social media channels, not only for branding purposes but to develop new leads as well.
When it comes to China, there’s one app in particular though that dwarves the rest of the competition: WeChat has over a billion users and is central to much of the average Chinese citizen’s routine, with 61% of users saying they check the app at least 10 times a day.
If WeChat is where Chinese consumers spend such a large amount of time, it’s a no-brainer that businesses should leverage this level of attention to their advantage. WeChat is universal in China and there’s no doubt your target market is there as well, so it’s time you use the super-app to your advantage by creating a WeChat Official Account.
Which WeChat account is right for you?
For businesses, WeChat offers two different types of accounts, service or subscription accounts, both with their pros and cons that need to be taken into consideration.
Subscription accounts are generally used for very active profiles, as they allow you to post once per day and maintain regular communication with your audience. These types of accounts work best if there’s a constant need to share information and portray yourself as a thought-leader or influential business.
However, the problem is that Subscription Accounts don’t sit directly in “Chats”, but in a subfolder called “Subscriptions”. While WeChat users do receive a red notification on the overall folder for all Subscription Accounts they follow, it’s not immediately clear what account the update is coming from.
This means that although you can post regularly, the visibility for these posts is quite low.
Further, subscription accounts offer less functionality with an inability to link your account to a WeChat store.
With all this considered, the subscription account is best suited for bloggers, media sites and Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) that push content frequently.
Service accounts on the other hand, have a much greater focus on businesses whose main objective is promotion and brand awareness rather than content creation.
Although service accounts can only post four times a month, what you lose in communication you make up for in brand engagement. When you send an update via a Service Account, the message goes to the top of the conversation list in Chats with a push notification to your followers, making it highly visible.
These accounts have much more functionality which allows you to link your WeChat stores to the account, and therefore are better for transaction, service delivery and relationship management.
Therefore, for most businesses the service account is the best option.
How to set up an official account
As well as there being two types of accounts, there are also two main ways to apply for an account on WeChat.
Mainland Chinese legal entity
If you already possess a legal entity in China, the best method is to apply for an official WeChat account using your local legal entity.
The disadvantage of this approach is that you need to have your Chinese legal entity already to be eligible to apply via this route – a process that can be time-consuming, costly and complex.
If you don’t already have a Mainland China Legal Entity, there is no need to apply just to be able to open a WeChat account though. There is an option for foreign businesses as well.
Overseas legal entity
International companies can apply for a WeChat Official Account through a WeChat partner using their overseas legal entity.
It’s worth remembering that you can only apply for service accounts through this, but this is usually the better account for businesses in any case.
After the account is approved by WeChat’s parent organisation, Tencent, which may take up to three months, you will have full control of the account.
Some international businesses “borrow” the local legal entities of a third-party organization which will allow the account to contain their branding, name and content.
However, this often leads to disputes under who controls the account as well as harming the brand as customers will question the authenticity of an account under a different legal entity, so it is best to steer clear of this method.