Over the past year, Tencent has made significant changes to the process for opening official accounts on WeChat. The good news is that overseas businesses can now register for an official account themselves, without needing a Chinese WeChat account or minimum ad spend like in the past. The bad news is that overseas businesses now must register for their own official accounts, since the number of accounts linked to one business license has been reduced from 20 to 5 to now 2, meaning that a China-based agency cannot set up the account on your behalf using their own business license anymore.
We’ve addressed the major questions that these changes bring up below, along with basic instructions for signing up for a new official account.
Will people in China be able to see my posts if I’m an overseas account?
Yes. Previously, overseas WeChat users could apply for an official account, but that account’s content would only be visible outside of China, defeating the purpose of marketing to people in China through WeChat. But now, verified overseas official accounts’ posts are visible in China, too.
What information will I need to prepare for the application?
Before you get started, make sure you have: the full official name of your company, your company registration number (the same number as on your business license), your company registration location, business office address and office phone number. For banking information, you’ll need your business bank account name, which should be the same as the official name of your company, the name of the bank, your bank account number, and the name of the legal representative or business manager for your company’s bank account. You will also need to submit your Business Registration Certificate or Business License (This can be submitted as original photos, colored scanned copies or stamped copies), and a registration and verification application form, either signed by the company’s legal representative or stamped with the company’s official stamp, and scanned in color.
Start the process by clicking ‘Register now’ on the WeChat Official Accounts Platform webpage
How do I get started?
Start by going to this page (this link should take you directly to the English-language version, but if the page is in Chinese, you’ll just need to select English from the drop-down menu in the top right corner), and then clicking on ‘Register now’. You will then be prompted to choose which kind of account you want to register. At present, you can only actually choose ‘service account’.
But what if I want a subscription account?
As of 2018, Tencent only allows overseas official accounts to be registered as service accounts, so it’s not possible to open a subscription account without a Chinese business license. The downside to this is that service accounts can only publish content four times per month (as opposed to once a day for subscription accounts), but within that one post, you can include numerous articles. Service accounts also have the advantage of having more functions, including payment acceptance and location-based services. Moreover, although service accounts can’t post as often, their content is more visible, and will show up in followers’ chat feed with a notification. Subscription accounts’ content goes into a separate subscriptions folder. Generally speaking, existing NTO and DMO accounts tend to be subscription accounts, with airlines and cruise lines opting for service accounts. As of November 2018, there’s no news that any existing subscription account would need to change into a service account, just that new overseas accounts must be service accounts.
Content from subscription accounts goes into a feed in WeChat users’ subscriptions folder (left). But the accounts themselves look very similar once you go into them – compare Zurich’s subscription account (center) with Starwood’s service account (right). As of 2018, overseas users can only opt for a service account.
What happens after I select the account type?
You will then be prompted to fill in your email address and choose a password, and fill in a verification code sent to your email. In the next step, you will need to choose your region. Many of the regions are listed in Chinese only, even if they are overseas. If you can’t find your region, pick anything except ‘Chinese Mainland’, as you will be able to change it later. Next, you will choose your account type (only ‘service account’ is available) and press ‘select and continue’. Next, you will need to enter your company’s name and registration number (this will be the number on your business license), as well as information about yourself, including your ID number. This can be your passport or driver’s license number, so you do not need a Chinese ID card. Next, you’ll need to enter the desired name of your official account. Be careful inputting this, as it can only be changed twice a year. Below, you’ll enter a description of the account. This can be changed later. Next, you will be prompted to verify your account.
Do I need to verify my account, and what’s involved with this?
Yes, accounts that are not verified will not be able to publish public posts. You will need to pay USD 99 to start, and pay this fee again once every year to keep your account verified.
Rather than going into the step-by-step process of verification, we will instead provide some general information. This is because overseas account verification is a new and not fully developed function, often changed by Tencent, and also affected by the third party verification company that you’ll be passed on to by Tencent, as each of these companies may have slightly different rules and requirements. You will need all of the business information as outlined in the second question above, which you enter into the account application forms online. These verification documents will then by reviewed by a third party company. This will all take a minimum of two weeks to be processed, but it is very often longer than that.
How long before I can start using my official account?
Accounts set up using overseas business licenses take much longer to get up and running than those using a Chinese business license. We estimate a waiting time of around two to three months, depending on your business or organization. The minimum time frame is two weeks, but this is only if the account is not linked to a government entity, there are no questions at all about any of the documents submitted, no missing documents, and the payment goes through the first time without any problems. If the domain of the WeChat account is a government entity – including all national, regional and municipal tourism boards, even if they are registered as a business entity – there’s an additional filing process required by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), and this takes three months.
This is so complicated. Do I have to do it all by myself?
No. Although you will need to supply information including your business license, an agency like Dragon Trail can still help to complete the whole process on your behalf – we have already done so successfully for several clients.
If you have additional questions about registering an official WeChat account or would like a pdf walkthrough of the current process, please get in touch with us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.