WeChat Official Accounts launched August 23rd, 2012. There have been many changes over the years, but one of the constants has been confusion regarding 1) how to setup an account and 2) what type of account to register. If you’re in a hurry, the account with the most features is a verified WeChat Service account registered by a Chinese business (domestic or foreign ownership). If you want to keep reading, the first question — how you will register — is largely based on your company’s corporate structure:
China vs. International Platform
|⚠️ Note: The China WeChat platform (mp.weixin.qq.com) is a separate entity from the international WeChat platform (admin.wechat.com). China WeChat Official Accounts are visible to all WeChat users, while international official accounts are not visible to Chinese WeChat users (any user with a +86 phone number). “Not visible” means Chinese users can’t search for your account, can’t scan your QR code, and can’t follow you. As of November 2017, the WeChat China platform finally has an English interface!|
Subscription vs. Service Accounts
Your next decision is whether to register a Subscription account (订阅号 dìng yuè hào) or a Service account (服务号 fú wù hào).
We have written separately about WeChat at Work accounts, formerly Enterprise Accounts, that are meant for internal company use and have a separate backend at work.weixin.qq.com. This article is concerned with the corporate accounts your customers will follow.
Below is a table highlighting the basic differences. If you really want to dig in, check out our detailed overview of WeChat platform features and developer interfaces.
Note that some advanced features, such as WeChat Pay, must be applied for separately. Also note that the features and interfaces available to Overseas China Service Accounts (海外特殊认证的国内服务号), and the requirements to obtain them, vary by region as they are administrated by different Tencent business development teams.
Registering WeChat Official Accounts as a Chinese organization
To register an official account on the WeChat China Official Account platform you will need a Chinese business license with relevant documentation, as well as a Chinese citizen to register as the account administrator. To be clear, a China WFOE (Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise) is a Chinese company and can directly register WeChat Official Accounts.
To begin, head to the WeChat Official Accounts Platform and click “Register now”.
1. Create an Account
Email addresses can only be used once per account, so you’ll need to enter and verify a unique email address, as well as create a login password.
2. Choose your Account Type
If you’re still unsure of which account type to choose, seek advice before proceeding. Unless you’re a media company, we generally recommend Service accounts for our clients. Once you’ve registered your account, it is very difficult or even impossible to change types.
3. Enter your Organization Details
Once you select your organization type (government, media, company, or other) the appropriate form will ask for your organization’s and account administrator’s basic information.
This step requires you to register an administrator who has a Chinese national ID (身份证 shēn fèn zhèng) and a +86 mobile phone number. A short code will be sent to the phone number to authenticate. The admin will also need to scan a QR code to bind his or her WeChat account. One person can serve as the administrator for a maximum of five WeChat Official Accounts.
|⚠️ Important Point: The administrator’s role is frequently misunderstood. Your business owns the account, not your admin. As the owner of a Chinese WeChat Official Account, you should control the email address and password to login to your account. You can add yourself as an operator after you register the account, and your admin will never need to be given login credentials for your account. After you’ve added yourself as an operator, you only need your admin for a couple tasks: adding other operators and resetting your developer AppSecret. You can change your admin at any time with their cooperation, or you can remove him or her without their cooperation by re-verifying your account at any time. Your company owns the account.|
4. Select Authentication Method
There are three different ways to authenticate your business. If you plan to verify (认证 rènzhèng) your account anyway, we recommend the last option for “WeChat Verification”, which requires a 300RMB (~US$50) annual fee. WeChat verification is the only option that provides the gold badge on your profile and access to advanced platform features and interfaces.
5. Create an Account Profile
You’ll need to pick an account name, enter a short introduction to your account, and select your “operating area”.
Your account name is required to be unique. Spaces and most special characters are prohibited — only Chinese characters and alphanumeric characters. If you find someone is already using your business name, WeChat has a nifty feature that will display the account, and if you think it qualifies as trademark infringement, you can report it. If you’re curious, check out this 2014 post on how bad trademark infringement on WeChat used to be.
Once set, your account name can only be changed by going through the WeChat verification process again (and paying another 300RMB). Your account introduction can be changed up to five times per month.
If you chose WeChat Verification as your authentication method, your account is now registered in a temporary status. You’ll need to complete the verification process within thirty days. We were able to register and verify an account for this blog post in less than twenty-four hours.
In the meantime, WeChat drops you right into your new account backend and you’ll be able to upload a profile photo and setup other basic features while you wait for verification.
7. Add operators
As discussed in grey boxed note above, if you are a non-Chinese account owner, you’ll want to add yourself as an operator so you can login without the assistance of your admin. To do this you will need to have 1) a bank card linked to your personal WeChat account, 2) you need to follow your new account, and 3) you will need your admin to scan a QR code. One personal WeChat account can be an operator for up to five WeChat Official Accounts.
Get started in Settings < Security Center, and click Details on the first row.
In the second section under Operator management, click on the green button to add an operator. You can have up to five long-term operators and up to twenty short-term operators (one-month expiration).
A pop-up window will open and you’ll need to select your user from among your account followers.
After you “Invite to bind” your admin will need to scan a QR code. Once they’ve approved, you’ll receive a template message in WeChat to accept the invite.
Congratulations! You’ve now got your very own WeChat Official Account! 🚀
Registering China WeChat Official Accounts as an international entity
A more recent platform development allows agencies to register Overseas China Service Accounts (海外特殊认证的国内服务号) for international businesses. This process allows non-China businesses to register accounts visible to Chinese users, unlike international accounts.
Tencent still must approve your application and registration is limited by region and business industry. Favored regions such as Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, France, England, United States, Canada, Australia, and several others, can generally register an account with no additional requirements. Verifying these accounts will normally require a committed WeChat advertising spend or a subscription to a Tencent Cloud product. Other regions such as Malaysia, Germany, Vietnam, and Russia, require a committed advertising spend just to register an account. Don’t expect to register through this process if your business is involved in regulated industries in China, such as pharmaceuticals, supplements, gambling, etc.
This process generally takes two to three months and will cost about US$1,000. We frequently send companies to walkthechat.com for help. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
Registering an international WeChat Official Account
If you decide on an international WeChat Official Account, go to apply.wechat.com to submit your application. Again, accounts registered at WeChat.com are NOT visible to Chinese users.
The international account registration and verification process is an opaque pseudoscience. Some regions of the world (see the almost alphabetical list in the screenshot below) are supported better than others. In our experience, only established, large companies will hear back from the international WeChat team. If you register and don’t hear anything, try the “Check Progress” link, send emails to email@example.com, or try to reach the local WeChat team in your region on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere.