If your company is already operating or plans to operate in the Chinese market, you have probably heard about WeChat. How could you not? For marketers in general and B2B in particular, it is one of the most important marketing platforms in China.
How can you leverage it?
*Before we begin, WeChat has a Chinese version and an international version. The Chinese version is called Weixin and is the version we’ll refer to in this post when we say WeChat.
Who are you, WeChat?
WeChat is the Chinese super-app. Actually, it’s much more than an app, it’s an entire ecosystem, a digital operating system. It enables individuals and businesses in China to live, work, communicate, pay, and even develop software simply and effectively.
What can WeChat do?
WeChat offers an amazing range of features. It was launched in 2011 as an instant-messaging service (similar to WhatsApp) and slowly added hundreds of other features: a news feed where you can catch up with friends, businesses, and celebs (Facebook), make digital payments (Bit), purchase online (Amazon), call an Uber, order food (Wolt), and some 200 more services.
In this article, we’ll focus primarily on those WeChat features that help increase awareness and generate leads.
Who uses WeChat?
By and large, everyone. Much like Facebook, WeChat has a diverse and wide audience of 1.25 billion people, of which nearly one billion are Chinese.
How can you use WeChat to achieve your marketing objectives?
What do we mean when we talk about marketing? As marketing professionals used to finding customers in western social media channels, we often think of ads, increasing awareness, and lead generation. But WeChat enables us to think bigger.
Before we dive into the details, it’s important to understand that having a WeChat page is a must for businesses that want to succeed in the Chinese market.
Chinese audiences make wide use of social media searches, which means that most of your potential customers will search and learn about you in WeChat before they even think about visiting your website.
WeChat offers two account types for businesses – a subscription account and a service account. The subscription account is very similar to business pages in Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. It enables you to post a substantial amount of content and one ad a day. Even though it may sound little, each post comprises eight articles, and an article is any piece of content that includes any type of rich media – text (with a generous word count), URL to a website, picture, GIF, and video.
Content marketing in WeChat
This account enables you to post organic content very similar to the way we do it in western platforms – with two exceptions.
The first distinction between content marketing in WeChat and content marketing in the west is the fact that WeChat is a less of a ‘suggestive’ platform. In other words, when users open an account, for example on Twitter, they automatically see posts of pages/users and/or hashtags (#) that may be of interest to them or that they can follow. Simply put, a user can be exposed to new content relatively easily.
In WeChat it’s slightly more complicated. When users open an account, if they don’t proactively follow another page or user, they just won’t see anything. In other words (and this is somewhat frustrating), a business will have to spend a lot of time and money on a business page to achieve significant exposure to its content.
The second distinction is WeChat’s antiviral policy. Once WeChat’s algorithm realizes that a discourse on a particular topic develops in a short period of time, it significantly limits the exposure of the content on that topic. Why? There’s no official explanation. It may be related to the fact that the platform wants to be paid for distributing content virally, or because the Chinese government prefers to keep public discourse under control. But since there’s no official explanation, let’s not make assumptions.
What other options are available in WeChat?
With the service account, you can manage a CRM system. It allows sending messages directly to a registered customer (as in WhatsApp), manage customer lists via tags, charge for services, and more. Therefore, many businesses in China manage this type of account with a customer service department working behind the scenes.
Let's talk turkey – advertisements in WeChat
When it comes to advertising, the Chinese app provides slightly fewer options than its western counterparts, especially in respect to building audiences based on existing data (such as an email list). This is because, unlike Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, WeChat has very diverse sources of revenue beyond data collection and ad sales.
The app allows targeting audiences according to:
- Demographics: age, location, gender, interests, education, and status (single, married, in a partnership, etc.). Like Facebook and Instagram, businesses can target audiences according to these definitions. But as B2B marketers this will not be enough for you in most cases.
- Behavior: business page trackers, users who use your app (if it was set up on the WeChat development platform), users who downloaded coupons, and people who responded in a certain way to your ad in the past (like, comment, or click).
WeChat lets you segment audiences based on in-app behavior. Facebook, on the other hand, currently offers more advanced target-based options than its younger Chinese sister.
And what about LinkedIn? There’s no comparison at all. When it comes to targeting according to job title, industry, or seniority, the professional social network still offers a much richer (and effective) menu.
- Lookalike audiences with similar behavior to an existing audience, for example, from a list of customers who purchased in your online store.
What formats can you use?
Businesses can advertise on WeChat in two main formats:
- Banner ads – banners that appear throughout the app, similar to Google’s GDN
- Moment ads – promoted posts that appear in the feed of the audience being targeted
If your budget is limited, it is recommended to use banner ads, which allow cost per click (CPC) pricing compared to moment ads that allow exposure-based pricing (cost per thousand impressions, CPM).
Last but not least, when you open an advertising account in WeChat, you must first load $5,000 to the account and only then you can start publishing.
To sum up, the following are the two main takeaways about the WeChat brand that you should remember:
- It’s a platform that every business penetrating the Chinese market must have a presence in
- With the right expertise, businesses can benefit from a rich variety of marketing options
If this was not enough of an explanation, you’re welcome to visit our content area and learn more >> APAC marketing blogs
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