You have probably heard of the social platform called WeChat, right? The renowned social network is becoming a popular interest to western marketers now. With 1 billion monthly users (China’s number 1 social network) and about 200 million users outside of China, WeChat is on its way for global success.
This new marketing tool is beneficial to both B2C (Business-To-Customers) and B2B (Business-To-business) as a gateway for mass audience reach. Without a strong presence in this app, your brand wouldn’t stand a chance.
Let’s take a brief history tour of WeChat shall we…
WeChat began as a project at Tencent Guangzhou Research and Project centre in October 2010. It was launched in 2011 and reached 100 million users in 2012. At first, WeChat was a simple instant messenger app before turning into a fully-fledged integrated social network app for smartphones.
Now, WeChat has evolved into a huge app with multiple features:
These Fifteen Features include:
1. Texting/Voice Messages
2. Phone/Video Call
3. Translate Button
4. Moments (Wall)
6. Modify Nicknames
7. Broadcast Messages
8. WebApp (For Computer Desktop)
9. Decide who can view your posts
10. See who's nearby
11. Send "Red Envelopes" (Money Gifts)
12. Transfer Money
13. Get a Taxi
14. Book tickets
15. Send Gifs
With these highly functional features, users can easily interact with one another. But can we integrate this in our brand’s digital strategy? YES!
WeChat’s success directly reflects its flexibility and ability to connect users anytime, anywhere. WeChat app is both accessible using smartphones and on desktop computers making it easier to use. The variety of services it offers and the ability for its users to run their entire life through one application is astounding. In fact, external website links are opened within WeChat itself, which functions like a browser. You are still within WeChat even when directed to an external source. As a result, there are a higher number of WeChat interactions and therefore greater exposure to content. A platform like this is perfect for digital marketing.
Now let’s look at the features that can be used to maximise digital marketing strategy.
Businesses can launch official accounts on WeChat. These are distinct from general user accounts.
Official accounts allow for the creation and customisation of your own mini-site within the WeChat application, you can also provide your own unique content and customer services, this acts as a key area for WeChat branding.
There are two different varieties Subscription and Service:
With official accounts you need to attract followers. On WeChat, users can only see content posted if they are already subscribed to your account. Therefore, many businesses use their official WeChat as a site for promotions and exclusive offers for subscribers, this strongly incentivizes the Chinese who have developed a strong culture of following official accounts.
You attract followers through exclusive WeChat promotions, the sharing of quality Chinese tailored content, and through interacting with users. There are many large groups on WeChat focused on specific topics where you can start conversational threads linked to your area of expertise. Users will often share content on their moments if it is interesting and engaging, there is a much stronger culture of sharing posts in China which you can utilise with the right WeChat content.
From a marketing perspective the monetization of WeChat is fascinating. WeChat can be linked to a user’s bank account where they can make payments via WeChat itself. Users collect QQ coins, transfer money, top up their mobiles, pay utility bills and make payments all via WeChat.
A social network developing in line with e-commerce in this fashion is unique.
For western business here are the two most useful functions:
Your content on WeChat needs to be developed for WeChat users. Incentives to follow your account should always include friends and family, if users share it to their immediate social circle can also benefit. The Chinese greatly trust the views and opinions of their close social circle and you can attract whole groups in this way.
In terms of adapting your digital marketing strategy you need to research your target audience; asking which WeChat groups they are already active in? You need to be presenting valuable information and connect with users in order to facilitate group conversations. Creating your own group (of up to 500 people) is a great way to start sharing your own content and promotional offers.
It is cliché, but it’s true that the Chinese are still very fond of cartoon animation and more intense colour palettes. It depends on your brand and how you seek to market yourself, as opting for more subtle and neutral imagery can help you stand out from the more traditional Chinese approach.
All content needs to be adapted into simplified Mandarin Chinese however with the adoption also of more colloquial language on WeChat. It is ‘conversational’ marketing to a certain degree.
The wide scale phenomenon of the QR code is quite unique to China. WeChat has built itself around the effective utilisation of the QR code. Users scan each other’s codes to add one another but also to link to official, subscription accounts. There is a significant opportunity for offline to online marketing here with physical products featuring QR codes. In China the QR code is now part of the physical environment in cosmopolitan cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Well placed QR codes drive traffic but also allow for cross promotion on different social media outlets and forums. Weibo (akin to Twitter) is the second largest social network and often features images as posts embedded with QR codes linking to WeChat accounts.
China is a wholly digital marketing territory; offline activities are primarily concerned with bringing consumer leads online.
WeChat is the main site for the Key Opinion Leader, the Chinese on social media are strongly influenced by these ‘influencers’ who have already established significant online followings around them.
For branding this is particularly effective when they share content or links to your official accounts and praise the quality of your product or service. KOL’s can be recruited by businesses to promote them, this is an aggressive initial market entry strategy that works well but can prove to be costly, it is not ultimately sustainable as you do need to build up your own e-reputation.
For marketers developing links with influencers is crucial initially.
WeChat is arguably the most developed social network on the planet, geo-location services are now starting to be used for marketing purposes.
Based on a user’s location, content ads can be streamed at the bottom of pages that are specifically tailored to the user’s preferences. A key area for this is in retail, consumers enter the shop and then need to follow the account for a limited-edition discount for example. It links digital to concrete physical activity in a revolutionary way from a marketing perspective.
To wrap it all up, WeChat is an innovative and intelligent network that needs to be understood deeply for effective marketing activities. With a significant e-reputation and visibility developed on WeChat, brands and companies will generate leads digitally in China. You need to be seen on this gateway network to China in order to succeed in the aptly named ‘mysterious orient’.
If you have any further questions or projects in mind, please get in touch with the Elephant in the Boardroom.