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WeChat Official Accounts

How to Install WeChat Plugins

WeChat just made it much easier for businesses to manage Official Accounts with the launch of certified third-party WeChat Plugins. Businesses can now enhance much of their account functionality by adding plugins to their WeChat Official Account, similar to WordPress.

Up until now, it was difficult for Official Accounts to work with more than one third-party provider. This meant service providers pretty much had to build a product that did everything to be competitive. By simplifying how businesses work with third-party products, it will enable more specialized solutions for Official Accounts. Businesses can now enable multiple WeChat plugins customized for specific functions or industries such as e-commerce, hospitality, and CRM.

Installing 3rd-Party WeChat Plugins

  1. Certified platform providers will have a button on their site to add them to your authorized plugin list.
  2. Login to your WeChat Official Account Platform and click on the “Add Feature Plugin” (添加功能插件) in the side-bar menu. WeChat Official Accounts Certified Service Providers Rights Management
  3. The providers name should now be listed on the second tab, Authorization Manager (授权管理).
  4. Click to enable the provider’s WeChat plugin.

Grant Access to Specific Functionality

At the start, Official Accounts can grant third-party access to six different bundles of platform rights:

  1. Messaging and Event Management (customer service, broadcast, and template messaging, etc)
  2. Follower Management (user profile data, user location, and user groups)
  3. Account Management (menus, advanced QR codes, basic official account data)
  4. OAuth2.0 (allow users to log-in to apps and websites with their WeChat ID)
  5. WeChat Store Management
  6. Duokefu Software (enable/disable forwarding of customer service messaging to Tencent’s Duokefu software)

Both subscription and service accounts can use the Authorization Manager feature, but the Official Account must first qualify for the relevant functionality on its own. For example, the Official Account must first apply to WeChat for the WeChat Store authorization before it can grant those rights to a third-party. Official Accounts do not gain any rights by proxy via a third-party provider.

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WeChat Official Accounts

Managing Multiple WeChat Official Accounts

switchboard-operators

One of the foundations for a brand’s success on WeChat is setting a unified brand strategy for managing multiple WeChat official accounts. In our last post, we wrote about helping your customers find your official accounts by policing fake accounts and trademark infringement Equally important for large brands, with potentially hundreds of official accounts, is your internal strategy. Let’s look again at what a BMW customer or sales lead sees when she searches for “BMW” or “宝马” official accounts. Not only does she have to filter through several fake accounts, she also has to navigate over two-hundred individual dealerships. 

wechat-manage-multiple-accounts-bmw-search-results wechat-manage-multiple-accounts-baoma-search-results

Like any brand with outlets or subsidiaries, individual BMW dealerships have their own management, their own deals that they offer, and of course their own WeChat official accounts. How can BMW funnel users to the account that will best be able to help them? What are the best practices for protecting your brand standard experience and providing unified messaging across multiple channels?

Standardize Your WeChat Account Branding

Looking at the list above, BMW account names mostly follow a similar format to designate the dealership. Their icons are mostly similar and many of the dealers have verified their accounts. At the same time, there’s no obvious unified account for BMW and we get different results searching in Chinese versus English.

These issues aren’t unique to auto manufacturers. Chains, franchises, and subsidiaries of any kind need to provide both a brand standard experience and localized service. It’s important to have policies in place to avoid confusion, and help customers find your accounts.

  1. Set account name and branding conventions. Have all of your subsidiaries register WeChat accounts that follow a specific name format makes it more likely that they will appear together in search, and helps distinguish them from fake or similarly-named accounts (fan clubs, etc.). Provide a template for your subsidiaries to use when creating their icon. Note: You cannot change an account name or WeChat ID after it is set, but the icon can be updated once every thirty days.
  2. Verify all official accounts. WeChat lists verified accounts first in search results, and the verified badge gives customers confidence that they have found an official channel.
  3. Set an account promotion strategy. Most account discovery is happening through QR codes. Help customers by standardizing where they can find your QR codes, both offline and online. Consider requiring that any subsidiary promotional materials include your brand’s official account QR code alongside the subsidiary QR code.
  4. Enforce content and usage guidelines. This is an obvious one, but there are special considerations for WeChat. Beyond what content and how often accounts broadcast messages, how fast are you as a brand responding to customer service inquiries? If subsidiary accounts are using WeChat menus, consider setting a template so when a user visits another subsidiary account, that location’s contact information or local specials, for example, are in the same place.

Interconnect Your Official Accounts

If your brand uses WeChat for sales or customer service, subsidiaries can be valuable but challenging to integrate into fluid conversations. In our initial consultations with clients,  one of the most helpful exercises we do is map out all the possible user flows through their various officials accounts. Where are unknown/first-time users routed? If you’re not providing 24/7 support, how do you manage offline messages? How can you transfer conversations from your brand to a subsidiary and vice versa?

WeChat Userflows: What’s Possible

Take for example a hotel guest, who makes a last-minute booking through Marriott China’s WeChat account. At the end of the booking, can they hand off the user to the concierge at that property so she can book an airport pick-up?  Can they prevent the customer, who they already have in a dialog, from having to exit the conversation and page through all of Marriott China properties before finding the correct hotel’s WeChat account?

WeChat does not currently support either internal (agent-to-agent) or external (official account-to-official account) routing. However using WeChat’s public developer platform, Grata provides out-of-the-box internal routing for WeChat and can custom arrange solutions to solve for almost any external routing configuration. This works for brands operating under one consolidated WeChat official account or brands managing multiple WeChat Official Accounts.

WeChat Official Accounts routing UX diagram

The Value of Networked Accounts

The value to brands of interconnecting official accounts should not be underestimated. Here are four of the biggest gains:

  1. Shared WeChat CRM Database – One of the most important tasks when using WeChat for business is identifying who a user is from an often nondescript WeChat User ID. If you’ve already done this for a follower of one of your official accounts, why not make that information available when that user messages any agent across your entire chain?
  2. Simplified Account Discovery – Using Grata a follower of any one of your WeChat official accounts can be connected to any agent across your entire brand. Lessen the burden on your customer to locate the right official account and make brand loyalty more convenient.
  3. Cost Savings – It might be impractical for your outlets to all offer 24/7 support, or support in multiple languages, but one centralized customer care team makes this achievable for many brands. The central team can pick up messages in the off-hours, and subsidiary agents can transfer multilingual conversations to a native speaker with one-click.
  4. Brand Standard Quality of Care – If you want to roll out a consistent quality of care across your entire chain, the only way to really support this is by having visibility into all your brand’s official accounts and having a centralized customer care team to step in if any single subsidiary isn’t able to support the initiative. You can also share digital content and prepared responses across your brand so every subsidiary is using brand standard messaging.

If you want to learn more about how Grata can help you manage your brand’s WeChat Official Accounts, contact us, or if you already have a verified WeChat Official Account, take us for a free test drive.

Photo credit: rajomo1 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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WeChat Official Accounts

Reporting Trademark Violations in WeChat

Search for the official account of a famous brand on WeChat, and you might be in for a surprise.

wechat search results fake accounts report trademark violations rolex 1b-wechat-report-trademark-violations-fake-rolex-account 1a-wechat-report-trademark-violations-fake-rolex-account

There are close to one hundred accounts that use the name “Rolex”, for example, and more than one of them appears to be verified. How is a user to tell them apart? What if it’s your brand with dozens of copycat accounts showing up? How can you direct users to the right one?

Fake official accounts are everywhere, particularly for famous brands. Here’s a screenshot of what comes up when you search for “BMW”:

wechat-report-trademark-violations-real-and-fake-bmw-accounts

A little bit of looking under the hood is all it takes to figure out that many of these BMW official accounts likely have no official affiliation with the brand.

There is formal process to both register and verify your WeChat official account, but there is still room for fraud. While examples of trademark infringement by verified WeChat official accounts are less frequent, they still exist.

Not all Verifications are Equal

We see similar results for most luxury brands, such as Louis Vuitton here:

3-wechat-report-trademark-violations-verified-louis vuitton-accounts

These official accounts are claiming to be Louis Vuitton, but they are actually gray-market import services. Most of the accounts even have the gold checkmark on their logo, meaning they are verified. If we look at their account page, we see that they did their verification through Tencent Weibo (a Twitter-like service also owned by WeChat’s parent company).

Unlike WeChat, individuals can verify Weibo accounts, and with little more documentation than an ID card and a mobile phone number.  Once that Weibo user links their verified Weibo account to their WeChat official account, the account looks and behaves like a verified WeChat official account. This is important because verified accounts are given preferential sorting in search results, as we see in the image above.

Another funny thing we see with these search results for Louis Vuitton is that some accounts are even spoofing the gold verified checkmark by adding it themselves into their logo. Very clever indeed!

4-wechat-report-trademark-violations-fake-verified-checkmark

Reporting Trademark Violations in WeChat

Confronted with these obstacles, your customers can have a hard time searching for your brand on WeChat. This is one reason most official account discovery is happening offline by scanning QR codes. Organizations need to be proactive in protecting their brands on WeChat. While WeChat can’t police your brand for you, they do provide a convenient but little known reporting mechanism within the app. Use it! Here’s how:

1. Follow the offending account

Once you’ve spotted someone violating your trademark, follow the account by selecting it from the search list and following it.

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2. Report the account

From their account profile page, select “Report” from the menu in the top-right corner.

wechat fake account report wechat report trademark violations

3. Select your complaint and submit

You’ll be given a menu with reasons to choose from. Make a selection and tap the “Send” button in the top right corner.

7-wechat-report-trademark-violations-reason-screen

Please let us know what results you have in the comments section. We would assume that the more accounts that report violations, the faster you will see resolution. Good luck!

(Update 7/14/14: Following a report by Tech in Asia, WeChat removed most of the scam Louis Vuitton accounts shown above. Most of the other examples remain, however.)

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WeChat Official Accounts

How to Verify WeChat Official Accounts

Once you have registered your WeChat Official Account, you will need to verify it to access all of the advanced WeChat platform features such as a user’s location, surveys, third-party apps, payments, and more.  Verifying WeChat Official Accounts also allows followers to trust that they are dealing with a genuine account.

Verify WeChat Official Accounts outside China

For organizations outside of China, send an email to bd@wechat.com to request verification for your account. Include your account information and submit a tagline describing your business that will be published on your WeChat profile.

If you are unsure whether or not your account is verified, sign in to your account at admin.wechat.com, navigate to “Settings”, and select “Account Info”:

WeChat-Official-Account-Admin-Platform-Account-Info

Note: Users of the Chinese version of WeChat, Wei Xin (微信 or wēixìn), currently do not have access to WeChat Official Accounts registered outside of China. In contrast, non-Chinese WeChat users have access to both Chinese and non-Chinese Official Accounts.

Verify WeChat Official Accounts in China

To verify WeChat Official Accounts for Chinese organizations, you will need the following:

  • Your account manager’s Chinese ID (身份证 or shēnfènzhèng)
  • Chinese Business License (营业执照 or yíngyè zhízhào)
  • Chinese Organization Code (组织机构代码证 or zǔzhī jīgòu dàimǎ zhèng)
  • Verification Application Letter (申请公函 or shēnqing gōnghán) available here
  • A WeChat Payment account with at least ¥300 in credit

As with the registration process, the verification process is entirely in Chinese.

Getting Started

Start by logging into your account on the WeChat Official Account Admin Platform, navigate to “Services” (服务), and select “Service Center” (服务中心) from the left sidebar menu. Click “WeChat Verification” (微信认证), the orange box with the check-mark icon.

P1- Customer Service Center

Beginning your Application

You’ll see a prompt that introduces the process, explains the benefits of verifying WeChat Official Accounts, and notifies you of the ¥300 (~US$50) auditor fee.

P2- Intro to Renzheng

1. Terms of Service

Your first step is to agree to the Terms of Service by ticking the checkbox at the bottom. Click the green button to continue.

Verify WeChat Official Accounts New Terms of Service

2. Application Form

Next select the appropriate form based on your organization type. For this explanation, we’ll be verifying a company.

Verify WeChat Official Accounts Choose Organization Type

The top part of this form is your company information. Refer to your Business License, Organization Code, and registered bank account for the following fields:

Verify WeChat Official Accounts Enter Company Information

The next section is personal information regarding your WeChat account manager, who must be a Chinese citizen.

Verify WeChat Official Accounts Enter Account Manager Information

Finally you’ll also be asked to upload several documents.

Verify WeChat Official Accounts Upload Supporting Materials

Fill in the Application Letter as shown below, have the account manager sign it, and then stamp with your company chop.

Verify WeChat Official Accounts Application Form

3. Account Name

There are a number of policies governing the name you use for Verified WeChat Official Accounts. In general, WeChat encourages you to use your official company name, in part or in whole, or a registered brand name if you have an officially registered trademark (商标注册证 or shāngbīao zhùcè zhèng).

In practice, you can use non-officially registered names if you are willing to give up the gold verified badge on your WeChat profile.  You will still have access to the advanced platform features, however.

Verify WeChat Official Accounts Confirm Name

4. Payment Receipt

Tick the box and enter your contact information if you would like an official receipt (发票 or fāpiào) mailed to you for the ¥300 verification audit fee.

P7- Receipt Form

5. Payment

As of June 23, 2014, WeChat now allows you to use your company’s registered bank account (the one you entered in step 2) to settle the ¥300 verification fee. You can also use WeChat Payment as before. You need WeChat 5.0 or higher and a linked payment account.

P8 - QR Code

P9 - Success

Scan the QR Code on the screen with WeChat. A success screen should appear.

Application Processing

Your information is sent to a third-party verification service to be processed. It usually takes three to five business days to complete. The verification service will likely contact you by phone to confirm application details. If you paid your verification fee using WeChat, the verification service will also confirm your registered bank account by making a ¥1.00 deposit for which you will need to produce a deposit slip. If you paid using your registered bank account, then the payment itself will serve as confirmation. No ¥1.00 deposit will be made.

When registration is complete, you will receive a notification the next time you log-in to the WeChat Official Account Admin Platform. You will also notice the gold verification badge on your profile and access to the advanced features in your Service Center.

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WeChat Official Accounts

What are the differences between WeChat’s Service and Subscription Accounts?

As the WeChat Public Platform (微信公众平台 or Wēixìn gōngzhòng píngtái) is still a relatively new phenomenon for most organizations, we frequently get asked about the basics of WeChat Official Accounts. One of the first things to decide as a business is what type of account to register.

When registering a WeChat Official Account, organizations can choose either a subscription account (订阅号 or dìng yuè hào) or a service account (服务号 or fú wù hào).  If you are a registering as an individual, you can only register a subscription account. Businesses have the further option of verifying an official account to rank higher in search results, get a gold badge next to their account name, and have access to even more platform features.

We break down the differences in the graphic below, but in the most simplest terms, subscription accounts are for pushing content and service accounts are for advanced features such as interactive menus, customer service, and e-commerce. Check out our additional infographic for the full list of WeChat Public Platform features and developer tools.

Tencent is constantly making updates to WeChat Official Accounts so expect these details to change. For example, the most recent tweak on April 15th increased service accounts broadcast message quota from once per month to four times monthly.

WeChat Official Accounts Infographic

WeChat Official Accounts - Differences between WeChat Service Accounts and Subscription Accounts

As the WeChat Public Platform (微信公众平台 or Wēixìn gōngzhòng píngtái) is still a relatively new phenomenon for most organizations, we frequently get asked about the basics of WeChat Official Accounts. One of the first things to decide as a business is what type of account to register.

When registering a WeChat Official Account, organizations can choose either a subscription account (订阅号 or dìng yuè hào) or a service account (服务号 or fú wù hào).  If you are a registering as an individual, you can only register a subscription account.

We break down the differences in detail in the graphic below, but in the most simplest terms, subscription accounts are for pushing content and service accounts are for advanced features such as interactive menus and payments.

Tencent is constantly making updates to WeChat Official Accounts so expect these details to change. For example, the most recent tweak on April 15th increased service accounts broadcast message quota from once per month to four times monthly.

WeChat Official Accounts Infographic

WeChat Official Accounts - Differences between WeChat Service Accounts and Subscription Accounts