In my practice as an SEO consultant in China, I often get approached by foreign companies that are looking to increase their online presence on the Chinese market. Naturally, foreign companies are not only looking at Chinese marketplaces but are also interested in the most popular Chinese social networks.
And when it comes to social networks in China, WeChat is one of the first to consider. With over 700 million monthly active users in 2016 WeChat (or微信Weixin in Chinese) is only the most popular social network and arguably the most downloaded mobile application in China!
Today Wechat’s influence in China’s online space is undisputed and it’s not surprising that more and more companies are looking for ways to sell products and engage with clients on WeChat.
To answer business needs, WeChat supports the co-called official accounts: an alternative to Facebook Pages, where companies can broadcast messages to all WeChat users who are following the company’s official Wechat account.
However, there are few VERY important things that every foreign company should bear in mind when speaking of official WeChat accounts, and I’ll cover them in this article.
Fact 1: WeChat exists in two versions WeChat and Wei Xin
The first thing you’ll need to consider before registering an official account is that WeChat has a domestic and international app version.
The Chinese version is called Wei Xin (微信) and the international version is called WeChat. The international version of WeChat is translated in English and uses Google maps, while the Chinese version WeiXin, is in Chinese and uses Baidu maps.
Fact 2: WeChat has 3 different types of official accounts
There are 3 different official types of accounts: subscription, service, and enterprise.
Only the first two can be used as marketing communication channels, the enterprise accounts are only used for internal company communications and project management.
Fact 3: The registration process of Official Wechat Accounts depends on the origin of your company
The first thing you’ll need to consider before registering an official account is the origin of your company. The procedure for registering Official Wechat Accounts by Chinese companies is completely different than the procedure applied to foreign companies.
In fact, companies holding a non-Chinese business license are only allowed to open Official accounts for the International Wechat app version, while companies with a Chinese business license are also allowed to register Official accounts for the domestic app version Wei Xin. So, Chinese companies are given more visibility, because they can have accounts on both Wechat and Wei Xin.
Some people refer to these as Chinese and International Official Wechat Accounts.
Fact 4: The account registration procedures on WeChat and Wei Xin are also different
Because of the tough control of the Internet space in China, Chinese companies are required to present a long list of papers and bank account details in order to open an official Wechat account.
Opening an account as a foreign company, on the other hand, is very straightforward and the list of required papers is much sorter.
The websites used to register the accounts are different.
In fact, it’s very easy to open an Official account if you’re a foreign company BUT (and here’s the tricky part!) the WeChat accounts registered by foreign companies are accessible only to users of the international version of the app. Which brings us to fact number 5 …
Fact 5: The different WeChat versions offer a different level of access to official accounts
When it comes to official accounts, there is one BIG difference between the two WeChat versions: users of the Chinese version Wei Xin, do not have access to WeChat Accounts registered outside of China.
In opposite, users of the non-Chinese version WeChat have access to both Official Accounts registered inside and outside of China.
As you now understand this fact is of the highest importance in making sure that you’ll target and reach the right/desired audience on WeChat.
Fact 6: The international version of WeChat has much fewer users than the domestic version
And speaking of WeChat audience: WeChat has over 700 million monthly active users (MAU), but only 70 million of them use the international version of the app. Almost all Chinese users have WeiXin (or the Chinese version).
Fact 7: Official Wechat Accounts registered by foreign (non-Chinese) companies have very limited reach in China
Now, when you know Facts 3 and 4, you understand that if you want to use Wechat to establish your presence as a business in China and to engage with potential customers on the Chinese market, it doesn’t make any sense to open an Official Wechat Account as a foreign company.
A non-Chinese Official Account has a very limited reach over the Chinese speakers and your company or brand will suffer from low visibility.
If your goal is to engage with users in mainland China, which is quite likely given the fact that WeChat is that popular only in Mainland China, you’ll need a Chinese Official Wechat account.
If you don’t have a legal entity in China, do not hesitate to contact me for a free consultation on how you could open a Chinese Official Wechat account (yes, it is possible!). And if you have a Chinese company and you need some assistance with registering your official Wechat account, get in touch with me today!