Here is an overview for beginners to the WeChat platform on how to open an official WeChat account. This is one of the most frequently had discussions we have with prospective clients. As a non-Chinese entity it can be more difficult but here we will explore your options.
WeChat recently hit a record level 877 million daily active users on the platform. The barriers for entry onto WeChat are actually an advantage for savy businesses that seize the chance to market themselves on China’s largest and most active social network.
There is a clear division between how Chinese and non-Chinese operations are dealt with. If you have a CBL (Chinese Business Licence) you can simply apply under your business name with a Chinese representative. If you are not a registered business in China there are a series of options that can be taken depending on budget, time frame and your business concept.
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Registering for a Wechat Official Account as a Chinese organization:
To register an official account through WeChat’s self-service platform, you will need the following:
- Chinese ID (身份证 or shēnfèn zhèng)
- Chinese mobile phone number
- Chinese Business License (营业执照 or yíngyè zhízhào)
- Chinese Organization Code (组织机构代码证 or zǔzhī jīgòu dàimǎzhèng)
The registration process is entirely in Chinese. Head to the WeChat Public Platform website for a step by step application.
From here the procedure is simple for Chinese registered businesses, ensure you have a Chinese representative to manage the set up as their ID photo and number is required.
You will need to wait for verification and select whether you want to open a Service or Subscription account.
Typically opening a service account is the preferable option for most businesses.
Registering for an Official Account as a non-registered entity in China
Application via WeChat Directly
The honest truth is that the process for registration is a little unclear, few guidelines have actually been provided and one gets the impression this is deliberate. The platform are selecting & prioritizing the most innovative concepts and ad opportunities through such a selection process.
WeChat have famously been reticent to discuss in depth how the application process works for foreign entities but here is the current protocol:
Go to: wechat.com
You will need to outline to WeChat how you plan to use your account, you need to pitch to them the business concept; how you will use the account and what the USP of you being on WeChat actually is. What can you provide to the Chinese end user that is of benefit?
When it comes to proposals you can consider a number of factors:
- Design (HTM5 format for WeChat)
- Page Layouts
- Will the official account be connected to a WeChat Store.
- What is your promotional strategy?
- What is your proposed ad spend.
Business credentials are important, you need to include:
- A local phone number
- Business email address
- Documentation to prove the existence of the company (business licence, tax form etc.)
The more documents you can send, the better. Give copies of anything that further validates the existence of the business – even send business cards!
Budget 200 000rmb (USD 30 000 )
A high marketing spend is typically required (recommended minimum 200 000 RMB in ad spend) which will also need to be detailed. This includes moments ads & display ads.
Judging from WeChats behaviour, it seems the platform is seeking to be selective with handing out applications to companies that are more likely to invest in innovation in the development of their campaigns, as well as promoting their WeChat presence in other areas. WeChat is a hub of innovation so presenting a strategy to them that demonstrates this is beneficial.
In terms of accounts directly authorized by WeChat the company favour larger companies who are perceived to have the marketing resources that would promote WeChat as a safe and trustworthy platform, so bear that in mind when making your application. After your account is approved, WeChat will send your WeChat ID and password, which you will need to log-in on admin Wechat Platform
You can also check the progress of your application using your email address and application number here.
Alternatively, try to contact a WeChat representative for your country ( a quick Google search should pull them up!)
Service or Subscription Account?
You need to detail whether you will select a service or subscription account, typically service is best for the majority of businesses.
- Access advanced WeChat public platform features
- 4 broadcasts per month. Broadcasts are received from the business as a contact in the users message feed directly
- Business has a 48 hour window to reply to user messages
- Push notifications
- Custom menus for all service accounts
- Payments (API) supported for all verified accounts
- Better for businesses that want to put out content on a more regular basis (news letters, e-mags etc).
- No Push notifications
- Business has a 48 hour window to reply to user messages
- Businesses must be verified and use WeChat API. No customisation
- No support for payments
It is vital to mention whether you wish to have access to WeChat’s advanced features and developer tools. If it’s not in your proposal, it will more than likely be left out.
Setting up an account with a third party
The other strategy is to use a local third party agent to set up an account, this would be hosted on your behalf. The plus is it’s the most convenient and fastest way to get set up, the downside is that you do not own the account, it is owned by the party that set it up.
With third party accounts there is also a small chance that they can be shut down as the process is not fully authorized, businesses doing this have to be aware of that risk. You cannot transfer or merge an account with another one in terms of followers, they are linked solely to the initial account set up.
Registering a business in Hong Kong
Hong Kong companies can apply for official WeChat accounts at present (although like with anything in China there is a possibility this might change), if an entity can be registered in HK it can be a lot easier to apply for official account registration through a Mainland representative.
As with many processes the barriers to entry have thus far restricted many international brands from entering the Chinese market.
Once an account name has been created in cannot be changed, account summaries can be updated but only once per month. Accounts cannot be attached or transferred to another account, WeChat have changed the rules on this a number of time but it is no longer allowed.
This highlights the importance of a proper initial set up.
WeChat is a great platform for marketing & business growth but it is one of many approaches that can be taken, it all depends on your budget and expectations. Baidu, E-Forums, PR & News Applications are also nifty ways of generating high levels of traffic, leads and for building your brand and reputation.
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