In today’s WeChat Essential Tip, we’ll be covering the basics of official accounts (OA’s). If you want to use WeChat for business (e.g. marketing or mobile commerce), you simply must have a solid grasp of WeChat official accounts and how they work. Official accounts provide a formal way for companies to interact with their customers thru WeChat. Since WeChat has become so ingrained in Chinese society, there are few organizations that can ignore it, with all local companies pretty much now having some kind of presence on the platform.
Chances are you already follow a few official accounts. You can check which ones you are subscribed to from selecting ‘contacts’ then ‘official accounts’.
Just as with your normal contacts, scrolling to the bottom of this list you will see a total of how many you are subscribed to. (187, that’s far too many surely)
Official accounts look quite boring when you first enter them. They all look very similar. There’s probably some buttons at the bottom in Chinese that you might not understand. They can send you articles but it doesn’t really look that different from a chat thread with one of your friends.
While at first seeming a bit plain and ugly, perhaps boring even, official accounts can do many, many things. For example, some We Chat accounts are quite similar to downloadable apps (below is the McDonald’s store finder available through their WeChat official account).
There are 3 kinds of WeChat official accounts and we’ll now look at each one briefly in turn:
- Subscription Accounts
- Service Accounts
- Enterprise Accounts
Subscription Accounts (订阅号 – ding yue hao)
If you are reading this article on WeChat then you are benefiting from a subscription account right now as this article has been published through our China Channel subscription account.
Shameless plug for our WeChat Official Account 🙂
Subscription accounts are often used much like a daily news feed, as they can push 1 new update a day to their followers. This could be a single article (as we currently do with China Channel) or multiple articles bundled together into one larger news update.
On your timeline Subscription Accounts are all thrown together in your Subscription Accounts Folder.
Few people read everything that is in their Subscription Account Folder. If you do then you probably don’t follow many accounts yet. The folder acts similar to an RSS feed. It’s a place to collect articles from sources that you are interested in.
Interesting articles from Subscription Accounts usually only end up being widely read once people post them on their moments. This is exactly what WeChat wants, as in this way only the best articles rise to the top and are noticed.
Service Accounts (服务号 – fu wu hao)
Service Accouns have several benefits over subscriptions accounts, especially regarding business functions. Firstly, a Service Account message will appear alongside your friends’ messages (see below).
WeChat only allows Service Accounts to push 4 updates per month to their followers. If unlimited Service Account updates could be sent out, this could quickly annoy WeChat users. Most businesses, therefore, accept the 4 update quota.
You can see from the dates here that posting is much less frequent on this example Service Account
Service Accounts can do much more than subscriptions accounts. They have access to much of the full range of functions available through the WeChat platform such as taking payments, ‘shake’ or using WeChat coupons (see previous article)
WeChat service accounts are evolving quickly, allowing users to do a variety of tasks e.g. book taxis and order breakfast.
Taxi ordering directly through the WeChat official account (no need to download an app)
Breakfast ordering: payment and pickup all arranged within WeChat, again no separate app needed
Some companies are now using both subscription accounts and service accounts. Subscription accounts allow for daily news updates, while service accounts allow for advanced options and increased visibility on a user’s timeline.
Enterprise Accounts (企业号 – qi ye hao)
These company accounts are not visible to a normal user, they are designed for organizations’ internal processes and secure communication.
These accounts are visible in the timeline in the same way as service accounts. The messages and management of these account are much more secure than normal chat threads.
Many Chinese companies are naturally using WeChat on a daily basis for internal communications anyway, as it’s the default way to message people (Chinese have little problem using the same app for business and social). Enterprise accounts give them a much better way to structure and manage this process.
This is just a brief intro in the world of WeChat official accounts. We’ll be covering more in further articles soon. Want more hot tips on how to use WeChat like this one? This article is part of the China Channel WeChat Essential Tips series where we are giving away more free info on WeChat. Follow us on WeChat by scanning the QR code to follow our official account.