WeChat has been leading the social media scene in China in recent years and its…
If you want to sell in China, or promote your business, then you need to use WeChat, but should you use an WeChat Official Account Or WeChat Mini Program? Once it was a lesser known “Chinese only” chat app. It dominates Chinese internet use and has mostly replaced cash. We have an in-depth series of articles covering almost every aspect of WeChat. If you need some extra know-how, check out the links at the end of the article.
The Important WeChat Facts And Figures
- In 2020 WeChat passed 1.7 billion users – well above the 1.4 billion people in China today – double the number of people on Instagram in 2020 and not far behind Facebook messenger and WhatsApp.
- Keep it simple – generally, every Chinese person in China is on WeChat.
- Every Chinese person outside China is on WeChat.
- I lived outside China for 3 years. I was still using WeChat as a default chat app with everyone I met in China.
What Most People Don’t Get About WeChat
- WeChat is not a chat app
- WeChat isn’t a payment system
- It is isn’t an alternative to Facebook or WhatsApp or Uber
- It is ALL of them – one app that accompanies every mainland Chinese citizen everyday
The Secret About Smartphone Usage In China
People don’t usually see that smartphones are cheap in China. Having a smartphone and a SIM card became the norm. You don’t need a laptop and an expensive home internet subscription. You bypass computers and prefer a smartphone. You use all the everyday features you need before you walk out of the store.
It is cheaper, quicker and easily more efficient than a home internet connection.
Using WeChat is easy for the Chinese. It was designed to avoid typing in Chinese (which is really hard), so it is super easy to send voice messages. This is one un-noticed factor. WeChat made speaking via message so easy that it just felt normal very quickly. Communication in China became really easy and efficient and the app snowballed from there.
The Short Story Of WeChat Taking Over China
Chinese consumers skipped computers and went straight to mobile
WeChat dominated by adding features quickly
It became the your everyday companion
The Big Options For Your WeChat Campaign:
1. A subscription account
2. A service account
3. A mini-program
This is not an ” either or” type situation. It is about the goals you set for your online campaign and the business you do. Our checklists help you decide which mix is best for your business.
Jargon : ” Official account” means a registered account used for business or the promotion of content. It is not a regular personal account – as you could have a personal facebook account, and then also a professional page in your own name. That professional page works in WeChat as a subscription account.
WeChat Subscription Accounts (订阅号)
The subscription account is the content account for WeChat. Think RSS feed, news feed, Facebook business page or Instagram for influencer use. This is all about content.
Your WeChat subscription account can publish daily to your audience. These updates g0 to the user’s subscription folder inside WeChat and the user won’t get a push notification.
WeChat feeds your subscription folder with the most recent posts – hence the once a day limit. It doesn’t want WeChat turning into a Twitter-like situation where there is so much re-posting that you reach overwhelm.
Subscription accounts are open to individuals as well as Chinese businesses (but not overseas businesses). We see subscription accounts work really well for influencers, public figures and bloggers or niche enthusiasts. They work really well in a way that Instagram feeds are often used – high on entertainment value, but no direct e-commerce. Brand building and putting out content is the game here.
WeChat Service Accounts (服务号)
WeChat service accounts are the e-commerce home of your WeChat campaign. These have the power to deal with e-commerce, customer service, API integrations and even CRM. This is the hub of the of your WeChat business..
With a WeChat Service account you can set up a WeChat shop and take payments. Content for service accounts is a little different. You can broadcast 4 times a month to your audience with up to 6 articles per broadcast.
These come in as push notifications directly into a follower’s chat. A service account is less about interest in your brand, and more about converting leads and maintaining a relationship with existing customers.
Service accounts are great for businesses looking to develop repeat buyers by making the most of an ongoing relationship with your brand. The fact that you can do customer service in a WeChat service account is extremely convenient for your customers. Speed of reaction in China is a much bigger deal than in most other countries.
What Are WeChat Mini Programs?
A WeChat mini program is a special tool that doesn’t really have an equivalent elsewhere. It is literally a small app contained inside the WeChat ecosystem.
You can search for them in the same way you do on an app store, except inside WeChat. So what exactly do they do? Well, they are apps, just like any other – small games, giff creators, and also e-commerce tools.
WeChat mini apps are small and so easy to create – limited to 10mb in size they have limited abilities, but are really good for being shared by WeChat users. You can create a fun mini-app that can get you quick conversions and interest in your brand. They can link back to official accounts, or just be used as a first blast of awareness to your audience. These little apps are nimble and powerful if you want to push your brand awareness around China quickly.
Mini-Programs And Conversions
For e-commerce they can be create leads and conversions. In 2019 1.1 billion daily transactions were carried out on mini-programs alone. Because they are small, you can easily push out these apps to WeChat users to drive engaged interest in your brand as well as test out new ideas without commitment.
The downside of being small is that they are limited in what they can do, but the upside here is that you can create several for different engagement purposes or segments in your audience.
It is important to note, that to create and publish a mini-program, you will also need to open an Official WeChat Service Account, to gain access to the API, have website hosting in China, including an ICP license.
Over 20 million active ‘official accounts’ as of early 2019.
WeChat mini programs generated $123 billion in 2019, with average daily transaction volume doubling year-on-year (source: https://www.businessofapps.com/data/wechat-statistics/)
The Shortlist To Remember:
- Users subscribe to an official account (subscription/service ) with ongoing content .
- A WeChat Mini Program is not a subscription tool
- Official accounts can therefore foster relationships – more difficult to do with a mini-program
- Users can opt to keep a mini-program in their account for ongoing interaction
- Mini-programs are more likely to convert customers, whereas official accounts build relationships, brand recognition, etc. Content needs are much greater for official accounts, you need more resources and consistency to keep one running.
- Official accounts allow for targeted messaging, increasing audience, advertising, etc.
- Mini-programs and official accounts can pull traffic to your website, although mini-programs allow for easier conversions within the app
- Mini-programs have a low barrier to entry – Very efficient for quick exposure / low content required / testing offers
- Large brands or companies with more China internet savvy tend to mix and match these tools for a comprehensive marketing funnel.
What’s The Best WeChat Solution For You? WeChat Official Account Or WeChat Mini Program?
WeChat official accounts and WeChat mini-programs are both useful tools to promote and sell online in China today. Both large and small brands and already taking advantage of this. If you combine using a mini-program with all the e-commerce benefits of an official account then you are in a strong position to build an audience as well as convert your visitors into customers.
If your business is more content heavy, then look to a subscription account in order to pump out more material to your potential buyers.
Can you create quick conversion with an amazing offer in one quick move, then a mini-program is the way to go. As we mentioned, these tools are not an either or solution.We recommend that you think about the ecosystem and play around with some ideas about which combinations could work for your business before getting started.
If you’re not so familiar with the WeChat ecosystem then read our other articles to fill in any gaps in your WeChat marketing knowledge.
If you still have questions after reading those, then drop us a message and we’ll be happy to help. We like answering in-depth WeChat questions.