In March this year, Tencent announced that WeChat hit 1 billion monthly active users worldwide. The numbers will continue to grow and businesses globally are looking to leverage WeChat as one of the key (if not main) platforms to engage with consumers in China. However, opening a verified WeChat account with a foreign business license has proven to be a rather challenging task for many business owners. There is often conflicting information circulating so it might be helpful to dispel some of the myths out there.
It is possible to open a WeChat account with a foreign business license; this process will typically take between 60-90 days as the business is required to go through a ‘whitelisting’ process and commit to a minimum advertising fee within WeChat or alternatively activating WeChat pay (more on this later)
Key takeaway - you can open a WeChat account with a foreign business license, it will take between 60-90 days
In the past, if a WeChat account was opened with a foreign business license, it wouldn’t be visible to the domestic Chinese market. This issue has been rectified with the presence of Tencent in Europe. If you register your WeChat account with a foreign business license, it will be visible to the Chinese market, but there may be certain feature restrictions and only service accounts can be applied. These feature restrictions however can be lifted through further discussions with Tencent.
Tencent Europe is also driving mini programs for overseas markets in the coming months, enabling your WeChat account to be as similar as possible to accounts opened with a Chinese business license.
Key takeaway - WeChat accounts opened with a foreign business are visible in China.
If you have an existing WeChat account registered with a third-party provider (such as distributor / agency) and you want to transfer the ownership back to your business - that’s not an option for now. WeChat accounts can be only ‘transferred’ from one entity to another if they are both registered under a Chinese business license. It may sound painful to some brands that have already racked up an impressive following but if the account is registered under a third-party you won't have ownership of your social media - to achieve this you’ll need to register a new account. And then you should have a strategy to drive your existing fans to follow your new account - this is where a creative marketing campaign can be effective.
Key takeaway - avoid opening your WeChat account under a third party or you are at risk of losing control of your content
The annual verification fee is currently 120 USD (as opposed to 300 RMB with a Chinese business license) and the minimum media spent for European businesses is £6,000 for 6 months. Be aware if you have been advised of a higher mandatory spend. This amount will be used to advertise on WeChat Moments ads or ‘click-to-follow’ banners that will help to drive brand awareness and recruit new fans.
Alternatively, if e-commerce is being considered, the media fee can be waived by activating WeChat pay with a PSP (Payment Service Provider) Tencent partner. Bear in mind that if you require support from an agency to help with the registration process there will likely be an client servicing fee.
Key takeaway - Setting up a verified WeChat account does not need to break the bank
Tencent is agnostic when it comes to working with agencies that help foreign businesses open verified WeChat accounts. Even though Tencent Europe has a trusted partner list, there is no ‘#1’ agency that is the sole partner of Tencent.
Key takeaway - It is important to do your research when selecting the best digital partner to help set up your social media