WeChat (Weixin) doesn’t really need any introduction but if you want to talk numbers it has 767 million active monthly users in mainland China alone (as of Jan 2017).
For those enticed by the opportunities of the Chinese market, the question is not whether your business should be on WeChat, but which type of account you should use.
Subscription, service, enterprise, verified or unverified? I don’t blame you if it’s all a little hazy, after all, Facebook and Twitter make it incredibly easy to get a business online. China’s digital landscape, however, is unique and a little complex – but those who can navigate it will reap the rewards!
Let’s look at some of the key considerations for any social media strategy and how service and subscription accounts weigh in:
As a service account, your business will appear in a user’s chat feed amongst personal contacts and groups. Clearly a good place to be as users spend a lot of time scrolling and browsing here, and if they really like you they can pin your account to the top of the list. Probably even more valuable,your followers will receive a push notification every time you post new content.
You’ve essentially been invited to a user’s inner circle, so this is a chance for you to build top-of-mind awareness and keep that proactive engagement going in the long run.
Surely that will just lead to spamming? No, WeChat has limited this to 4 posts per month – it’s a user-centric platform after all (if only Facebook cared so much about us!).
With a subscription account, your brand is housed in the ‘subscription folder’ along with dozens of others. Crucially, the user must actively choose to read your latest post – no push notifications. As a new brand entering the market, this can be challenging, therefore, try to keep users coming back without the need for incentives (e.g. promotions and giveaways). However, as a subscription account allows you to send one message per day, it might just be the perfect choice for content-based businesses like BuzzFeed.
Word of mouth is incredibly powerful in China so making sure your customer service is up to scratch should be a priority.
Available for both service and subscription accounts, WeChat allows you to manage customers incoming messages with a Message API. Additionally, service accounts have access to template or event-based messaging, as the name suggests, specific messages can be triggered by different actions rather than an individual message to the customer.
This is particularly important for e-commerce as it can be automated for delivery updates, feedback messages etc. and is not included as part of the 4 messages per month limit. In fact, this could be adapted to any customer life cycle not necessarily just for e-commerce.
A word of warning – avoid using it for outbound marketing or you might feel the wrath of WeChat!
CUSTOMIZATION AND INTERACTIVITY
Both types of account allow you to customize the menu at the bottom of the chat interface. However, the service account gives you that bit extra and you can really create a much more unique and interactive brand experience.
Ticket reservation, check-in services, online stores, games, in fact, any mini-mobile site can be integrated into a service account, so you don’t need to build a standalone app.
For example, McDonald’s integrated store finder detects the user’s location and provides directions to the nearest store. CuraLife, a provider of homeopathic supplements, lets diabetes sufferers digitally record and track their blood sugar levels, receive advice and purchase products – all within WeChat.
FOLLOWER INSIGHT AND CHANNEL ANALYTICS
With a service account, you have slightly more sophisticated data analysis tools at your fingertips for segmentation, channel traffic, and follower insight.
Aside from the basic profile of your followers, you can also detect user location – perfect for location-based marketing. Even more useful is the ability to create multiple ‘parametric’ QR codes and track the performance of each placement e.g. on a flyer, on a website, at an event etc. Now you can finally get some feedback on whether those leaflets did the trick or not!
But wait, there’s more! Combine this with the ability to embed path rules i.e. QR codes routing directly to different products, services or campaigns depending on placement. Sales, customer service and user analysis could all benefit from this targeted approach.
This is where service accounts really come into their own, especially for cross-border e-commerce! Your WeChat store is integrated directly with WeChat’s E-wallet, which makes it a seamless process for customers browsing and buying products.
Your product can be bought in one click without the customer even leaving the app (Note: This is not a feature of a subscription account whether verified or not).
What’s the point in a subscription account, then?
Service and subscription accounts aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive! It’s not uncommon to see companies making the most of the customization features offered by a service account, as well as setting up a dedicated content marketing channel using a subscription account.
(A brief word on the enterprise account – this is more for internal company use, think of it as WeChat’s answer to Slack or Trello).
VERIFIED OR UNVERIFIED?
Like Facebook and Twitter, it’s a straightforward way for users to guarantee the authenticity of the account (or stop people trying to pass off a fish eye for a pearl! 鱼目混珠). As a business, not only will you receive a gold badge next to your name and rank higher in search results but certain advanced features (WeChat Payment, WeChat geo-location etc.) are only available after an account has been verified.
For both subscription and service accounts, verification also unlocks the world of WeChat advertising… but that’s for another time!
OPENING AN ACCOUNT
It’s important to realize that whilst users with the foreign version of the app can access content and accounts from both inside and outside mainland China, accounts created by companies outside of China are not visible in mainland China.
To open a service account, you’ll need to be a registered company in China or an agency can act on your behalf. By comparison, a subscription account is slightly easier to set up, but you’ll still need an excellent knowledge of Mandarin and a Chinese ID number!
Want to know more about the potential WeChat has for your business? Get in touch, we’d love to chat to you!
Abi is a digital marketer currently living in Chengdu. Originally from the UK, she’s still trying to train her taste buds to cope with Sichuan spice!