Marketing in China 101: Should you get a WeChat account for your Business?
So, Chinese customers are a big part of your target market and you’ve heard about this WeChat thing they all use. But you’ve also heard a few conflicting things about how to use and how to get an account. We’re here to break it down for you and help you decide if getting on WeChat is right for your business, and how best to do it.
How businesses use WeChat
While WeChat is very different to Western Social media, like Facebook, we find it’s really useful to use Facebook as an analogy for the different types of account. As a consumer, anyone can register for an account on WeChat which incorporates functions that are very similar to Messenger, with a section to find and view Pages, which are typically run by companies, you can join Groups, and there is even a simple News Feed to post to. However, the main function is sending messages directly to your contacts. When you first download the app, it looks very similar to Whatsapp.
WeChat personal account
Many businesses hear about WeChat because their customers, and often their staff, are using WeChat via personal accounts to message each other. If you deal with a lot of Chinese customers, especially in Mainland China, you’ll often be asked by your customers to send you information on WeChat. Getting a personal account, with the name of your business, is a great first step to getting onto WeChat and getting familiar with it, and opening up lines of communications with customers who use it as their preferred tool.
However, if you really want to build your brand among Chinese customers, you’ll need to get an Official Account, which is the equivalent of a Facebook Page. Much like in Facebook, if you’re only interacting with your customers via a personal account and do not have an official looking business page, you’re not going to look professional to your customers.
Official Accounts – the Facebook Page of WeChat
Continuing the Facebook analogy, your Official Account is the page that represents your business, and even gets an orange tick of approval to show you are a verified business (like the blue ticks you see on Instagram and Twitter). With an official account, you have many, many more functions. Customers can message your business directly to begin engaging, you can share long articles with information about your business or products, and you can even set up an e-commerce store very easily, to begin transacting with customers. The most important advantage is building your brand with your audience.
The other great advantage, is that your account will sit in the list of chats that your followers see on their home screen when they open their account (For example the Ray White and McConnell Bourn accounts in the image above), and every time you post your followers get a push a push notification on your phone.
Where Official Accounts start to look different, is rather than a news feed with a variety of accounts, you post articles, and those articles can link to further functionality (often with a QR code). If you run an ecommerce store, it functions like an ‘app’ in WeChat that sits in a special area (Go to Discover > Miniprograms), saved to the users account if they have opened your app before.
Because each post is so high impact (getting a push notification on your phone as though you have a new message from a friend), WeChat limits businesses to one post per week, but you can post up to 6 articles in that post. There are other account types which allow more frequent posting (and less high impact notifications), but these are not currently available to businesses outside of Mainland China.
Here is what your account looks like – with a list of recently published articles.
And here is what an article looks like:
Why do WeChat Official Accounts function this way?
WeChat was originally built as a copy of Whatsapp (which is now owned by Facebook!), but has long since evolved into its own global leader in tech. The difference, is with such a massive population in China, it has evolved based on the culture, trends and needs in China. Which is where the core functionality and the parts that are front and centre of the app are different to popular western social media, which are all about newsfeeds and public status updates. WeChat is more focussed on direct private chats with your existing network, and subscribing to news, information and brands you want to hear from regularly.
A big part of this is to do with the Chinese business and marketing culture. In China, doing business is typically about taking the time to build a relationship first, even for what we would consider the simplest of transactions. In the West, we see a product or service, get the information we need to know it is going to meet and needs and to assess the price (which may be a bit of negotiation), and make the deal. When the deal is done, it is held to. Instead, in China, you need to build a relationship with that business (and it may be multiple people in the business), often meeting 3, 4, 5 or more times in ‘get to know you’ situations – think having tea, going for dinner, getting drinks, discussing each other’s families and hobbies, before you can even begin to talk business. It’s all about building trust. Rather than the mechanism of trust in business being a contract on paper, the mechanism of trust is really getting to know each other.
The higher the value of the goods, services or deal, the longer this process will take. When large companies in the West are trying to do big deals with Chinese businesses, this process can take years. When it comes to faster moving consumer goods, it obviously isn’t such an extensive process. You aren’t required to visit a barista in China 3 times before they sell you a coffee!
What this translates to in the world of WeChat, is that posting longer, more informative articles and content is a great way to build trust with your followers over time. Give them information, value, and don’t just hard sell, and you’ll build that relationship digitally. Over time, your followers will grow their trust in your brand, and take up your call to action to contact them and learn more.
What about advertising?
Just like Facebook, WeChat does have an advertising network. You can sponsor posts in ‘Moments’ which is the News Feed of WeChat, have banners in articles, and in apps (Mini Programs). There are a lot of regulations on advertising, designed to protect consumers, reduce fraud, and ensure companies are operating within the Laws and regulations in China. In industries like health, skincare and cosmetics, advertisers usually need to be already operating in China to ensure they are meeting industry regulations.
Anything that encourages foreign investment is a no-go, which includes real estate where there is no Chinese investment.
Advertising has a minimum spend of about AU$10k, at about $2k per month, and there are also a range of content limitations to be aware of. Generally, these fit into the bucket of not using any misleading language, adhering to similar rules media would have such as using appropriate language and not spreading false information, fraudulent products, scams or activities, content design to collect personal information. WeChat is very high tech in how it moderates these things, and any ads with such content will be automatically disapproved, and your account may even be blocked.
With so many nuances, it is really important to work with an experienced WeChat advertising agency to make sure your content is suitable from the get-go and you won’t have any advertising issues.
What if you’re a restricted WeChat Advertiser?
If you’re in one of the categories that can’t advertise or need to be operating in China, all is not lost. As Chinese consumers are so focussed on trust building, advertising isn’t always as effective as, for example, a Facebook campaign in the West. They are a great way to get in front of people, but you still need to build that trustworthy content. WeChat articles from an Official Account also have an SEO aspect to them – people search keywords and discover your content, more so than if you’d just set up a new Facebook Page which requires advertising to grow it.
There are also other great ways to promote your account if you are totally restricted from advertising, or not ready to meet the minimum campaign spend.
WeChat Influencer Marketing
This is a really popular option with real estate advertisers in particular. You may not be able to run an official advertising campaign, but you can work with WeChat influencers (called Key Opinion Leaders in the world of WeChat) to promote for you. These can range from individuals with cultural influencer, to WeChat accounts designed to share news updates.
WeChat Group Marketing
Many WeChat users join groups around particular topics. We see many groups where people are subscribing for updates and discussions around immigration, job opportunities, real estate, investment opportunities, specific product recommendations and more. These are groups that are specifically looking for information, and great to join and post into.
However, to post into these groups, you should still have an Offical Account that showcases your brand. This allows you to build followers as you promote, create links to articles that promote your products (you can’t do this with a personal account), lets viewers discover your other content to build trust and builds your brand.
How do I build my WeChat followers?
Great, you’re ready to get a WeChat account and post exciting content. But who’s going to see it? Just like a Facebook Page, if you build it, you need to tell them to come! Any social media presence requires time and marketing to built their followers. Excitingly, it is actually a bit easier to discover your page through WeChat as users often search keywords. However we recommend all of our clients to:
- Email your database and invite them to follow you on WeChat. A competition or Giveaway is a great way to do this
- Add your WeChat QR code (every account comes with a unique Qr code to scan and instantly follow) to all of your marketing materials – website, emails, brochures, flyers, even your other social accounts – there will often be crosser
- Add it to signage around your business – POS signs, cards to hand out, on the front window of your store, on any outdoor ads you run
- For real estate clients, we encourage them to add a QR code to a post that contains a translated listing to their signboards, flyers and property brochures. This tells Chinese buyers they can scan the code to see the translated listing, so it also doubles as a translated, digital brochure.
- Ask your Chinese customers and clients if they use WeChat, and tell them to follow your account! You should also have a personal account so they can add you – it’s the new business card
- Put your personal WeChat account ID or QR code on your business account
- Send links to your new WeChat articles to your contacts in WeChat (you can create a group to do this on one click) and share them to your ‘Moments’ aka News Feed
What if no one in my company speaks Chinese?
You’ve come across a very common problem for international companies wanting to run a WeChat strategy, and we’re pleased to say we have designed our whole business around providing the solution. We built WeTools to solve this challenge for international business. With WeTools, simply upload your content in English, add the images you’d like in your post and hit the ‘translate’ button. Our human, certified, native Chinese speaking translators will then translate your post into Chinese, ready for you to post or schedule in advance. \
Create your article in WeTools:
Hit translate, then you’re ready to publish up to 6 articles together at once, or you can schedule them in advance:
WeTools is designed to make using WeChat as easy as posting to Facebook, with a simple, intuitive interface. When you run a WeChat Official Account, the WeChat equivalent of Facebook Business is very complex and many parts are actually in Chinese. WeTools totally simplifies it to the key parts you need to take control of your content.
What’s more, we’ll also help you translate all of your incoming enquiries with our Message Interpreter service. Our translators will help translate your conversations back and forth so you can build relationships with your clients.
Watch a full demo of WeTools and learn more about how to translate and publish articles, in line with WeChat requirements here.
I’m ready to get an Official WeChat account, what’s next?
We’re so glad to hear it! As you might have guessed from the restrictions above, all foreign businesses need to go through a verification process to get a WeChat account. It can be completed in as little as 1-3 days if you have all your documentation ready, but usually takes a week or two when there is back and forth with the Verification team to clarify everything you submit. For a full guide to the process, read our article on how to get a wechat account here.
WeChat will charge $99 USD for the verification, and it can be pretty complex. You can do it yourself, or we offer a managed service at WeTools to do it all for you and negotiate with WeChat on your behalf for only $299 AUD (plus GST for Australian companies), not including the WeChat verification fee. To get started, sign up with WeTools, and our registration will guide you through everything you need to submit then we’ll take care of the rest.
If you try it yourself and get stuck – no worries just reach out and we can help!
Got any more questions? No problem! We’re here to make WeChat easy – just reach out any time via our contact form for a chat.