WeChat is a strong marketing tool for brands entering the Chinese market. In addition, each company has to decide if you want to open a Wechat service account as a foreign company or as a Chinese company. If you have a legal business entity in China, you should be allowed to apply for a Chinese account (check below).
What to consider when opening a WeChat official account if you are a foreign business
Before you continue reading, make sure that you understand and consider these facts about Wechat official accounts that every non-Chinese business should know. The most important thing is to know 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 Chinese version is available for download on the Chinese app stores, while the international version is (logically) enabled on most app stores that are outside of Mainland China. Even if you download WeChat from a Hong Kong app store, you will find the international version. For that reason, the international WeChat version has much fewer users than the domestic version. 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).
Tencent operates the two app versions in very different ways, and they have enabled different services on each app version. For example, the international version of WeChat uses Google Maps, while the Chinese version uses Tencent maps. The international Wechat doesn’t support mobile payments (in most countries), while the Chinese WeChat is a preferred mobile payment and mobile transfer tool in all China. There are many other differences between the two applications that I I won’t be covering here, but this is to let you know that we are almost speaking of two different app products.
Can you open a WeChat official account (in China) if you are not a Chinese business?
Considering the above-mentioned information, you now understand that if you want to use WeChat to establish your business presence in China, it doesn’t make any sense to open a Wechat Official Account as a foreign company. A non-Chinese Official Account has a very limited reach among Chinese speakers, and your company or brand will have limited visibility. But the problem is that only Chinese companies are allowed to register Wechat Official Accounts on WeiXin (the Chinese Wechat version).
The registration process for a WeChat official account as a Chinese company is more complicated and entirely in Chinese. To open and operate a WeChat official account as a Chinese company, you need to present:
- Chinese mobile phone number
- Chinese ID (身份证)
- Chinese Wechat Account with Wechat Pay enabled
- Chinese Business License (营业执照)
- Chinese Organization Code (组织机构代码证)
What to do?
The registration process and the app version on which your account will be available depend on the origin of your company. The registration process for a WeChat official account as a foreign company is much easier and the platform is entirely in English. To open and operate a WeChat official account as a foreign company, you simply need to present to Tencent:
- an official company certificate,
- short company presentation,
- work email and person for contact.
However, if you follow the typical process, you’ll have a limited reach in China and WeiXin. But you still can open and operate a WeChat official account as a foreign company in China! You’ll need to use the services of an intermediary agency, such as my company, to do so.
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 Wechat Official 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!
Three WeChat Official Accounts
Before registering your WeChat official account, you need to consider what type of account your business needs. WeChat now has 3 types of official accounts:
- Subscription Accounts (订阅号)
- Service Accounts (服务号)
- Corporate Accounts (企业号)
In this article, I will be showing you how to apply for a WeChat official subscription account (订阅号), but you can use this step-by-step guide to register a WeChat service account as well! This is a more advanced version of the subscription account that supports 4 broadcast messages per month, push notifications, custom menus, and other features. However, not all companies need a WeChat service account (服务号). Consider your business needs and marketing goals.
I will cover the different types of WeChat official accounts, their features and differences in another article.
How to register a WeChat official service account?
DISCLAIMER: This article was initially written in 2017 when Tencent’s platform to register official WeChat accounts in China was entirely in Chinese. Today, the platform is translated into English as well, but the registration process hasn’t changed much.
Step 1: Go to the WeChat official website
Go to Weixin’s official accounts platform and select register an account.
Step 2: Register on the WeChat official website
Register using an email address and set up your password.
Step 3: Select the account type you want to open
In this article, I will be showing you how to apply for an official WeChat subscription account (订阅号). So, on this page, you should select the first option: subscription account.
Step 4: Confirm your account type choice
Next, the system will notify you that once you’ve made, your choice it can’t be modified. This means that you can’t switch from one account type to another once the account is registered.
Confirm by clicking on the first button.
Step 5: Select 企业(Company) Account type
Tencent allows both companies and individuals to register Wechat official accounts. So as a next step, you need to specify whether you are a company, an individual, a media, a government body, or another type of public organization. Select 企业(Company) at the bottom.
Step 6: Fill in the company information
After you select 企业 you’ll see a drop-down form appearing on the page: Please fill in the required information about your Chinese company:
- Company name (exactly as written on the business license)
- Business license number (15-digit business license registration number)
At this stage, you don’t need to select an authentication method (last two options) and you can leave it blank for the moment.
The automatic translation of this page looks like this:
Step 7: Fill in the Account Operator’s personal information
On the same page below, you’ll have to fill in the information about the “Account Operator”. Account operations bear legal responsibility for the content that’s been published and shared on the account. Make sure the account operator is aware of that. Only Chinese ID holders can be account operators.
On the page, the account operator needs to fill in their personal information :
- Full name (exactly as written on the national ID card)
- ID number
- Phone number
Step 8: Verify the Account operator’s phone number #1
What follows is a two-step verification process. As a first step, the account operator needs to request a phone pin upon clicking on the button “Get verification”. The cold received by phone needs to be filled in just below.
Click on 继续 (Carry on/Continue) at the bottom of the page to go to the next step.
Step 9: Verify the Account operator’s phone number #2
As a next step of identity verification, a QR code will appear on the screen. The account operator needs to scan this QR code with their personal WeChat account. Important: they should have WeChat payment enabled and verified before doing that. Tencent will use the WeChat payment verification they’ve already done to confirm the identity of the operator and “make the connection” between their phone number and ID.
Step 10: Complete business authentication
And the last step of the process to register Wechat official account is to verify your business. Usually this is done by authenticating your bank account by Tencent. Currently, they are two ways to do so :
- Automatic verification via Wechat Pay – Wechat Pay has to be enabled on your business bank account;
- Manual verification – Tencent’s team will need to manually verify your business bank account. The manual service will cost you 300 RMB and Wechat Pay has to be enabled on your business bank account;
Please note that business authentication methods change very often, and it is likely that, by the time you read this article, Tencent has made some changes. If that’s the case, refer to the instructions you see on the screen.