SERIES: Chinese Social Media 101

As we discovered last week, WeChat was at its inception a social platform to bring together friends and family. It has since developed into an invaluable tool for Chinese businesses too. WeChat Official (or Public) Accounts take communication to the next level, providing a direct way for companies to spread brand awareness, offer customer support, and sell their services all in one place. There are three types of WeChat Official Accounts which together cover all online needs for businesses: Subscription, Service and Enterprise.

The Enterprise Accounts serve as an internal chat system and task manager for companies, but we are going to focus on the two most innovative forms of WeChat Official: Subscription Accounts and Service Accounts. Both forms of Official Account have proven to be extremely successful marketing tools for professionals across China, and are highly recommended if you are looking to do business there. As it stands, the Official accounts are only available in Chinese, so you will need to entrust a Mandarin speaker to help you embark on your WeChat Official journey.

Subscription Accounts

Subscription Accounts are WeChat's answer to a newsfeed. They are a great way to share updates, company achievements and generally promote your brand. If your marketing revolves around a lot of content sharing, this is a great option to increase awareness of your business.

Anyone from a celebrity to a blogger, media platform and business can blast out content to fans and customers up to eight times in one day. These will all land in one place – the user’s ‘Subscription’ folder. If users like the content they can share it in their ‘Moments’ (sort of like sharing on Facebook). This is where the magic lies. The more subscribers you have, the faster the content will be shared, and this in turn gives your posts a higher position in the reader’s newsfeed.

The aim here, therefore, is to create shareable, high-quality content. There are a few basic tips which can ensure greater Subscription success:

  • Make sure you soften your advertising in your message: readers are unlikely to share a sales pitch
  • Cover relevant issues, use story-writing to sell your products, onboard writers with a fresh tone and use graphics where appropriate. The more creative, the better!
  • An eye-catching title is key – WeChat headers tend to be short, sharp and attention-grabbing to stand out from the crowd

Simply uploading a post and hoping for organic growth can be risky and time-consuming, so many companies are dipping into their budget to ensure maximum exposure of their content. You can pay an established Subscription Account to post your content from their account, and it is also possible to draw in customers through uploading money into red envelopes, which form as a reward system. It is useful to know, however, that although it is possible to reward users for each share, it is costly and does not always guarantee people will read it.

The Subscription Account can also provide some limited functionality, such as maps to find your nearest store or buttons which can link to your site, so it is advisable that your website is optimised for mobile use before setting up an account.

Service Account

The Service Account goes above and beyond the newsfeed format, extending to become a way for people to order your products or services directly online. The advantages of having a Service Account are clear: the easier it is for a customer to use your product, the more likely they are to use you on a regular basis. Think of having a McDonald’s Service Account as if you have downloaded a McDonald’s app: not only can you follow updates, but you can now order a Big Mac too. The most interesting aspect of the Service Account is its advanced functions that allow you to pay for your services using WeChat coupons or WeChat Pay. Many users of WeChat order taxis and breakfast through company’s Service Accounts without having to enter in any extra payment details.

They are also the most direct way to connect your customer base to your business. As with Subscription Accounts, you can send updates and news stories to readers – however, your company’s messages will show up in the same area as messages from friends. This means Service Account posts have a much higher guarantee of being read by the customer than if they are jostling among the others in the Subscription category. There is only one disadvantage to posting through Service Accounts: posting frequency is limited to four times a month (up to two articles per post) to ensure customers are not overloaded with notifications.

When using the Service Account to post to customers, think carefully about what you want to send. You only have four posts so make sure to plan them well in advance and keep them relevant and useful. A great way to leverage your Service Account is to provide live customer support. There are a few third party companies like YiChuang who have had a lot of success with this, turning their Service Account into real-time chat support.

Service or Subscription?

If you are interested in setting up an Official Account on WeChat, make sure you choose the right type for your business. Subscription Accounts are more suitable for businesses who have a lot of content they want to share, but but whose services can’t be neatly packaged into a Service Account. The Service Account suits companies who want to push a product that is ready to be sold or ordered in a few taps, and who have a website that is optimised for full mobile functionality. If you really want to push the WeChat Offical boat out, you can register for both a Subscription and Service Account.

Happy chatting!