Appealing to China: How can brands better utilize WeChat?

If the title piqued your interest, you likely already know about WeChat. You know China’s entire population uses it for, well, everything, but can you comfortably say you know how to use it to market your product or services? 

Sure, most brands understand the basics — open and account, push content, but here’s where things start to go wrong; your follower count doesn’t grow, none of your content performs the way you expect it to, and the resources you’re pumping into making each post, just don’t seem to be paying off. 

Does it sound familiar? 

WeChat is unlike any social media in the West, not only in terms of functionality but also in the speed at which it has evolved. Users today interact differently with brands on WeChat than they did even just 24 months ago, but most brands have not changed the way they use the platform to interact with consumers. 

I don’t believe there is a secret sauce, or some kind of one-size-fits-all hashtag, or scheduling strategy, but there are several fundamental learnings that can help you to create a strategy that will fit your brand and your objectives. 

Let’s cover 3 of them today:

PURPOSE

Marketers try too hard to compare WeChat to social media channels used in Western markets, but the truth is, it can’t really be compared to social media at all.  

Instead, think about WeChat as your website + your email newsletter. 

First, let’s talk about WeChat as your website: 

Create navigation tabs for your Official Account that are clear and informative. Populate your menu with clear links to purchase your products (if applicable), articles and information that tell your brand story, inspire visitors and provide useful tools such as membership or loyalty club access. 

How you can do a menu layout on Wechat. Courtesy of Author

WeChat as your email newsletter: 

WeChat is not a discovery platform, even though it has opened up more and more over just the past year alone, it should still be thought of as a lead nurturing solution, not the first touchpoint someone will have with your brand. 

As such, think of WeChat as your newsletter, something that a user has specifically opted into because they want to regularly hear from your brand. From here, we can understand that there are several critical factors that will contribute to the success of your “newsletter” 

  • Title: Remember, your WeChat content isn’t just getting sent to someone’s email inbox, it’s being sent directly alongside personal chat messages. This makes it even more critical to have a title that follows the following guidelines; 
    • Attention-grabbing 
    • Clearly communicates content value 
    • A friendly tone, communicate like you’re a friend sending a message 
  • Frequency: The number one reason users unfollow official accounts is too many messages, yet the second reason is that accounts are sporadically active. With most official accounts you’ll be allowed to send 4 messages per month. Ensure these are evenly distributed, evaluate whether or not you get a higher ROI with just 3 messages or even 2. Avoid sending 4 messages one month, and none the next. Consistency over a long period of time is key. 
Image Source
  • Segmentation: Chinese consumers expect a high level of personalization, yet few brands implement this practice on WeChat. Instead of using WeChat to cast a wide net, nurture your current followers through segmentation and send targeted content. Letting go of vanity metrics will help you build more active and engaged followers who will be much more likely to convert. 

This brings us to the second point: 

METRICS

Most marketing managers are too focused on metrics like followers and reads, when they should be more focused on open rate and how active followers are. Focusing too much on gaining followers likely means you’re trying to cast too wide of a net. 

Remember, WeChat gives brands the unique opportunity to send content into a user’s personal chat feed, if content is too broad or too pushy, you’ll lose valuable customers. 

Start focusing on open rate: 

  • Separate your content out into different category types, determine which category receives the highest open rate
  • Try segmenting your users to determine which content works best among specific groups 
  • Look at how timing affects open rates. Most luxury brands send their content on Thursday or Friday evening, however there is no data to support that this is the best method. Try different days and different times to find the best for your audience, or choose a unique day and time and stick to it so that you train your followers to always expect content at a certain time.

WECHAT TOOLS FOR BETTER ENGAGEMENT & DISCOVERY

Most brands don’t realize that WeChat provides a few basic tools for free that can help you better engage and serve your followers. 

[Engagement] New follower message: 

This is your first opportunity to engage a new follower and pull them further into the funnel. Instead of a generic follower message like “Thanks for following me” or even a simple introduction of your brand, give the user an opportunity to interact with your account by giving them options to receive content or information. 

[Engagement] Keyword triggers: 

Set up keyword triggers to ensure any user who sends your account a message will be replied to immediately. Anticipate common questions like “where can I buy” and link basic information to keywords like “where” and “buy” so that the user receives a message with this information right away. 

*It’s always important to follow up later with a detailed response — don’t forget that messages can only be responded to within 48 hours. 

[Discovery] Hashtags: 

As of September 2020 WeChat now allows accounts to tag content with up to 5 hashtags. Once an article is tagged, it is collected among other content carrying the same hashtag and can be publicly discovered.  

[Discovery] Channels:

Early in 2020 WeChat released the Channels feature, an open feed dedicated to video. A user can open their Channels feed and discover new content, see what their friends are watching or follow specific accounts. By posting a video on Channels you can link directly back to an Official Account article, providing a new method for discovery. 

Use these 3 fundamentals to guide your WeChat strategy, but always remember to test and experiment constantly. China moves at an incredibly fast pace, consumers and platforms can shift at the drop of a hat. Be flexible and ready to try new strategies as different tools and trends become available. 


Olivia Plotnick is a WeChat & China Marketing Specialist. She helps brands in China understand and execute strategies to reach consumers on social media. She has managed social media accounts for brands in China across different industries and has helped to manage and grow several nonprofit organizations in Shanghai. After working in several agencies in China, Olivia now runs a boutique social media marketing agency based out of Shanghai. 

Disclaimer: This article was written by a contributor. All content is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the writer. If you’d like to contribute, you can apply here

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