The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to WeChat for Business (2019)

Dragon Social Limited
  • Date Published
  • Categories Blog
  • Reading Time 16-Minute Read

Interested in knowing how to use WeChat for business? Here’s the simplest step-by-step guide! Learn about set-up, campaign ideas, tools, and more!

Let’s start with an amazing fact. A country with over 1.4 billion people has no access to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Meanwhile, more than half of them are using one online social service to chat with friends, make voice and video calls, play games, split lunch bills, make online payments, and even send red packets during Chinese New Year.

This is no joke. WeChat is spreading at rocket speed in China. With 41% of the total population of China logging into WeChat every day and use various functions for daily tasks as of 2016. As of September 2018, the number of monthly active users for Weixin and Wechat was clocked at 1.082 billion, nearly 2/3 of China’s total population.  WeChat is taking over China in both social and commercial aspects. It has grown into the largest and most influential social network in China. So how can you use WeChat for business?

a mobile phone on a table displaying a WeChat screen

WeChat’s usage in China is ubiquitous, you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who DOESN’T use it in China.

Let’s begin with finding out which type of WeChat account matches your needs and goals.

Which WeChat Account Fits You Best?

WeChat is an essential and outstanding marketing tool for businesses to enter the Chinese market. Setting up a WeChat official account allows brands to reach out to a huge audience and raise brand awareness in an effective way. Official accounts are available to media, government organizations, individuals/celebrities, and businesses. Let’s look at three types of WeChat official accounts: subscription accounts, service accounts, and enterprise accounts.

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1. Subscription Accounts (订阅号)

WeChat subscription accounts focus on information and brand communication. They are used much like a daily news feed. They can publish once a day to subscribers and publish 1-6 articles each time. All updates are sent to the users’ subscription folder with no push notifications.

Subscription accounts are the only type of official account that is open to individuals, such as bloggers and celebrities, as the others require a company business license. Subscription accounts are most suited to individuals and brands that are content-based or information-oriented, such as media publications.

Mobile phone screens showing WeChat subscription pages

2. Service Accounts (服务号)

WeChat service accounts focus on customer service, API integrations, e-commerce, and CRM. They offer more robust functionality as compared to subscription accounts. Verified service accounts can also register for WeChat Pay and set up a WeChat Store. After verification, service accounts have access to 9 advanced APIs that enable the brands to create additional apps and functions such as Instant Customer Service, GPS, Payments, etc.

Service accounts can publish up to 4 times per month, with 1-6 articles each time. When the posts are published, the updates appear as push notifications in followers’ chat lists. Compared to subscription accounts, the posting frequency of service accounts is lower, but the visibility is higher due to push notifications.

Service accounts are the best choice for businesses with a large audience or with large customer databases, such as airlines and hotels. For hotels and airlines, in particular, booking systems can even be built within the app.

Mobile phone screens showing WeChat service accounts

3. Enterprise Accounts (企业号)

While subscription accounts and service accounts target external markets, WeChat enterprise accounts are primarily for internal communication and management. The use of these types of accounts is similar to what many businesses use Slack and Workplace by Facebook for. They are not available to the public nor marketers. Users of corporate accounts must be verified internal staff in order to follow the corporate account.

With third-party APIs, corporate accounts have multiple internal management functions, such as internal chat rooms, video conferencing, and resource sharing. These accounts offer functionality similar to other workplace chat apps like Slack and Workplace by Facebook. Corporate accounts have high visibility and high security as users have to follow the account and then be added manually by the account owner entering their name, phone number and WeChat ID.

As of December 2017, 1.5 million businesses in China were using WeChat enterprise accounts, with 30 million users subscribed to these accounts. 

Latest Update (February 2nd, 2018)

According to the latest post from the WeChat admin team, the maximum number of official accounts able to be registered by an individual has been reduced from 5 to 2. For companies and organizations, the number of official accounts per business license has been reduced from 50 to 5.

It is extremely important to stay up to date with the regulations of WeChat. The Dragon Social team keeps up on the latest trends and regulations put out by Tencent. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

How to Set up a WeChat Business Account?

The WeChat logo

To register a WeChat official account for most businesses in China, you will need the following:

  • Chinese Business License obtained by a local company or WFOE (Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise)
  • Chinese ID of a Chinese National with a WeChat payment account

However, there are three ways for your business to register a WeChat account if you don’t have a Chinese Business License.

Option 1: Register a Company in China

After setting up the company, you’ll have the business license required to register an official account. However, this approach is not recommended as it takes a huge amount of time and money to set up a company in China. For more information on setting up a company in China, this post by Sapore Di China lays out the procedure quite well!

Option 2: Use a Third-Party Business License

You can use the business license from another Chinese legal entity to register an account for your company. Each Chinese company can register up to 5 WeChat accounts, so companies with extra slots on their business license are often willing to sell them for extra cash. The price they charge can range from a couple hundred USD into the thousands.

This method does have its risks. Ultimately, the account is tied to the company that provides you with the service, so choosing a reliable provider is absolutely essential. Imagine purchasing an account for a few hundred dollars, investing in promoting the account, only to have it shut down or held ransom by an unreliable partner.

Although the account will be attached to the Chinese legal entity, you can still decide on the details of your account, such as name, logo, and description. The name of the account sponsor would only be found on the information page of the account. WeChat also allows people to transfer official accounts now, which means you can transfer your account from a third party business to your own company later (if you eventually decide to open a company in China).

Option 3: Use Your Own International Business License

WeChat faces a lot of scrutiny from the Chinese government as it controls a huge amount of user data and can easily shape public opinion through its platform. This means they must be incredibly careful with what types of people or companies can register accounts and publish content on the platform. This unique situation has led Tencent to be very strict in its approval of international companies without a Chinese business license.

As of May 3rd, 2018, WeChat has begun accepting applications from all foreign countries. However, these applications are processed on a case-by-case basis, so, unfortunately, it’s not a certainty you’ll be able to obtain an account with your business license. The process is quite complicated. As an example of what’s required, this is what must be provided by a Hong Kong registered company:

List of Documents Required for HK Company WeChat Official Account Registration

  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Business Registration Certificate
  • Annual Report (If Available)
  • ID Card of Intended WeChat Operator/Admin (This should be someone who will be with the company long-term)
  • Business Bank Account Number
  • Letter from Bank
  • Proof of Business Operation (Photos of the Shop/Screenshots of the Website)
  • Company water bill or electricity bill or bank letter to prove the BR address
  • Recent 3-month mobile phone bill of WeChat operator (The same person who provided the ID)
  • Company shareholder information (this is to comply with the national KYC practice for anti-money-laundering)

As you can see this is quite extensive. Reviewing all of this and ensuring everything lines up properly can take quite a lot of time. If you’d like someone to handle that for you click the link below and we’ll help you get started!

How to Use WeChat for Business from a Marketing Viewpoint?

With approximately 1.082 billion monthly active users, WeChat is a powerful marketing tool in China. WeChat marketing offers a powerful way to connect with customers, build a database and collect feedback. If your company plans on doing any business in China at all a WeChat official account is an absolute must!

However, WeChat isn’t the be-all and end-all of marketing in China. As a relatively closed social media platform, follower acquisition is tough! Content created on the platform is distributed only to followers and there are no options to boost posts outside of your user base. Many speculate that nearly 90% of the views on WeChat are only on about 10% of the accounts on the platform. Promotion is key, as organic content can’t travel far on its own unless it goes viral.

1. QR Codes

WeChat automatically creates a QR code for each official account, and the app itself has a built-in QR code scanner. You can also customize the QR codes to match your branding perfectly. These codes can be posted in all of your marketing channels, such as on other social media networks (not Weibo you might get penalized), product packaging, brochures, or even in your brick-and-mortar stores. QR codes are a great way to entice customers as they allow you to offer discounts, promotions or free WiFi access. With just a simple scan, you can boost both sales and followers of your official account.

An example of QR Code Branding & Design by Yimu Kangdao, a rice company in China

An Awesome example of QR Code Branding & Design by Yimu Kangdao, a rice company in China!

The discount chain store EMart in Korea built a huge 3-D sculpture, showing a hidden QR code. With a quick scan of the code, it brought WeChat users to the EMart’s official account, increasing sales and followers.

Emart's 3D Sculpture of a QR Code in South Korea

Emart’s 3D Sculpture of a QR Code in South Korea

2. WeChat Content: Valuable, Emotionally Appealing, and Useful

Creating high-quality content on WeChat is absolutely essential and one of the most important parts of successfully maintaining a WeChat Official Account Content should be informative, useful, and of consistent quality to maintain your base and attract new followers. According to recent research, 49% of the WeChat users would share an article on WeChat if they believe it’s useful. People can get bored easily and you need to create content that is interesting and educational in order to stand out and draw traffic.

Research shows that video is booming lately on social networks. GIFs and videos are compelling visuals that can support your storytelling, especially for industries like fashion and beauty, food and beverage. Short-video, in particular, has become incredibly popular which can be seen with the rise of platforms like Douyin/TikTok and Kuaishou.

Chart showing which types of content users like to see on WeChat moments

In 2018, short videos have only become more popular!

WeChat Search

Coming up with new content on a regular basis can be incredibly difficult and if you outsource it, downright expensive. WeChat’s closed system makes it incredibly frustrating as well, as you could create the best piece of content in the world and watch it get little to no traction on the platform. WeChat introduced a search feature in 2018, that many brands have hope to make use of to improve the velocity of their content.

The search function on WeChat is still relatively new, so extensive research and testing has yet to yield any concrete strategies for dominating WeChat search. If it’s like any other search engine, keyword optimization could help drive traffic to relevant articles. This is something to consider in the content creation process.

The “Wow” of WeChat

WeChat recently underwent a massive update in January 2019. Some of the biggest changes were a redesign of the overall look of the app and add a “time capsule” feature similar to Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook’s stories feature.

A lesser-known addition was the “Wow” feature. When reading articles posted by subscription accounts if users click on the like button, the article will be shown to all the user’s contacts under the “Wow” tab under WeChat’s “Top Stories” section. This drastically increases the importance of likes in terms of content as it gives the content another opportunity for it to spread organically.

two mobile phone screens showing WeChat's 2019 updates

Scheduling Posts to Go out at the Right Time

Since WeChat accounts are very limited in the amount that they are allowed to post, you should make sure that each post goes out at the right time for the maximum effect. Most articles tend to go out during business hours in China, making it one of the most competitive times to post an article.

When posting an article on WeChat there are two things you should consider with the timing of your article.

  1. Picture your target user. When do you think they’d be reading on WeChat? Commuting time, After work, or maybe even Sunday morning?
  2. Look for times when readership numbers are up and competition is low. This prevents your article from getting drowned out while still getting a good amount of views.

3. Location-Based Marketing

WeChat can detect user location, enabling brands to target potential customers nearby. This function also comes along with features like “Shake”, “Look Around” and “Drift Bottle”. This feature covers more than 300 cities and 2,500 counties nationwide. Leveraging your WeChat followers’ location information can be beneficial for online and offline businesses.

DiDiDaChe, is a taxi-hailing plus personal transport app, similar to Uber. It uses WeChat to access the user location while the user can track the driver’s distance from the pickup address.

How WeChat integrates with taxi-app, Didi, for payment and location tracking

How WeChat integrates with Didi for payment and location tracking

4. HTML5 Campaigns

HTML5 (H5) Campaigns are a great way to encourage customer engagement. Brands can launch H5 campaigns with a variety of creative features, such as voting, games, quizzes, and more! To motivate your audience and encourage participation, it’s good to provide attractive incentives, such as discounts and gifts to go along with the campaign. However, remember that since WeChat is a closed platform so to promote the campaign you’ll need to encourage sharing, work with KOLs, or invest in WeChat advertising to truly take advantage of the campaign.

Coach, for instance, ran a campaign called “#MyFirstCoach” in 2015 to celebrate Mother’s Day. WeChat users, who uploaded a photo of themselves and their mothers, could have a chance to be featured on Coach’s homepage and win a Coach wristlet.

Coach's WeChat Mother's Day Campaign in 2015

Coach’s Mother’s Day Campaign in 2015

5. WeChat KOL Promotions

WeChat KOLs (key opinion leaders) are popular accounts that already have a large number of subscribers. Brands can search KOLs on WeChat or through marketing agencies. The cooperation model usually requires you to prepare or confirm the content with KOLs who then publish it on their WeChat accounts to promote your brand. These posts are usually sponsored by brands but the price can vary wildly depending on their number of followers or average page views. Many celebrities in China have become KOLs as an extra source of income.

KOLs like Becky Li use WeChat to promote products

Becky Li is famous for helping to sell over 100 Mini Coopers in under 5 minutes with her promotions on Weibo.

KOL Research Resources:

  • Newrank: Ranks KOLs on WeChat (Only in Chinese)
  • Parklu: KOL Platform allowing users to launch campaigns directly from the platform

6. WeChat Advertising

WeChat advertising is an effective, way to boost followers in the early stages. You should create a good amount of content to ensure that you keep your followers after having them arrive on your account prior to launching an advertising campaign.  WeChat provides three advertising options for verified accounts: Moments Ads, Account Ads, and KOL Ads. For more information on WeChat ads, you can check the official website here. 

  • Moments Ads: These advertisements are shown in the users’ WeChat Moments, which is similar to the Facebook Newsfeed. The minimum budget for activating Moment Ads is $50,000 RMB (approximately $7,500 USD). This can be somewhat flexible depending on the company applying to purchase advertisements. This money can then be spent to purchase ads with a variety of targeting options. The price of the ads varies depending on the cities and target audience group.

These ads can only be purchased on a CPM (Cost-per-mille/cost per 1000 impressions), there are currently no CPC ads available in this format. The ad can include the company name, a 40 character description, a link to an HTML5 page, and either 6 pictures or 15 seconds of video.

A BMW WeChat Moments Advertisement

A BMW WeChat Moments Advertisement. Source:

  • Banner Ads: This is a flexible and cost-effective approach. You can target a specific target audience and these type of ads offer both CPC and CPM pricing models. Again the minimum price to activate the advertiser account and purchase these ads is RMB 50,000 (approximately USD $7,500)  The advertisement is shown at the bottom of the articles of WeChat official accounts with high subscription and view rates. As these types of ads have a CPC model, they can be a stable way to grow your WeChat presence. With a few test campaigns under your belt, you should be able to come up with a predictable return on investment from using these ads. Most companies report a cost per acquisition of RMB 8 – 20 per follower (USD $1.2 – $2.95)

An example of a WeChat banner ad

WeChat banner ad

For more information, please read our WeChat Advertising 101 Guide.

Conclusion: How to Use WeChat for Business

WeChat is more than a social networking app. WeChat is an ideal platform to fill the gap between online and offline marketing and is a great way to connect with customers and build greater brand awareness. Don’t miss out this huge opportunity if you want to enter the Chinese market!

So Who Are We?

Dragon Social is a leading digital marketing agency that specializes in helping companies that want to enter China. Digital marketing can be very different in China as the platforms are very different from other countries.

Many companies outsource their marketing because they understand that they do not have the knowledge. WeChat is a complex platform that can be difficult to navigate, especially for smaller or medium-sized companies.

Dragon Social can create and customize a specific digital marketing plan that will amplify your business and take the stress of moving into a new country away from you. If you would like to find out more get in touch!