The most frequent inquiry we’ve had over the past few years is “how do I set up a WeChat Official Account if I’m based outside of China?” Until recently there was no straightforward answer, but that has finally changed! Foreign businesses can now register a China-accessible WeChat Official Account. This will be welcome news to many foreign brands who have long been forced to go to the extent of registering a China-based entity, commit to a large sum of WeChat advertising, or pin their hopes on a ‘trusted partner’ in China who effectively owns the account no matter how much you’ve invested in building it. To make the news even sweeter, brands can transfer followers from established WeChat accounts to these new accounts.
Anyone who has stepped foot in China in the last few years will be aware that China’s super app is the top of the pecking order for brands hoping to engage consumers with interactive communications, service, entertainment, and commerce – a platform that has no equivalent in the West. Chinese users spend over three hours a day on WeChat versus just 20 minutes Americans spend on Facebook.
There are plenty of reasons to rejoice the change, yet brands should be cautioned from simply believing that just having a WeChat account is a silver bullet to win over Chinese consumers. Engaging users on WeChat is becoming increasingly difficult, with more than half of WeChat users losing followers last year.
The breadth of WeChat’s functionality and ecosystem is something we could only dream about a few years ago, providing us a way to reach and engage Chinese consumers, yet most marketers continue to use it just as a platform to collate and push out content – much of it being irrelevant. Hence the wholesale fall in engagement.
Maintaining a WeChat account of any value isn’t cheap, so as a brand, it’s prudent to ensure that you’re investing intelligently and in the right places to lure in budding customers and advocates. Chinese consumers are bombarded daily with brands hoping they’ll follow their WeChat account. Unless the official accounts can provide a genuine incentive for consumers, they will flounder with few followers or engagement, effectively throwing good money after bad.
Brands who are realising the value of a WeChat account are those who understand what customers are using WeChat for and seeking from accounts, and what is specific to their industry or category, from both a content perspective, but also the helpful or entertaining services that WeChat offers beyond the push messages.