The rise of WeChat has been well documented with the application certainly the most discussed element when it comes to prospective clients enquiring about marketing services in China.
It is indeed a fascinating and powerful tool for any business in China but WeChat is not simply a ‘magic bullet’.. intelligent, long term strategy is required to promote a business and increase their visibility and reputation on China’s dominant social network.
Here I want to outline some key strategies for growth and explore what makes WeChat such an effective tool for marketing a business in China.
IT’S SIZE.. THE WHALE OF CHINESE SOCIAL NETWORKS..
WeChat is the largest social platform in China with over 860 million monthly active users. Spend even a short amount of time here and you will quickly realize how embedded in the social fabric of the nation this app is.
The huge potential for any business is evident, there is the potential to tap into a vast, active and largely captive audience that are highly engaged in the ‘WeChat Universe’.
It begun life as a simple IM platform before morphing into the fully fledged, behemoth of a network we know today. It is arguably the most integrated social media tool in the world with services ranging from; messaging (via voice, video or text), image sharing, e-wallet/payment services and financial services to geo-location mapping, taxi bookings, cinema, travel bookings & news feed updates.. The list goes on.
Because of it’s size and scope it can be quite complex for new companies entering the WeChat sphere, where do you start and how to focus on the most practical solutions?
OFFICIAL ACCOUNTS – A POWERFUL LAUNCHPAD
The first step for most will be setting up an official service account. This allows you to promote content, attract followers and link your account to a ‘mini site’ hosted within the WeChat app itself. Developing this Mini Site is very important for the presentation of company information & product & service details.
The APP is often fondly referred to as the ‘WeChat Times’ because so many Chinese use it as key source of their information, they even treat searching on WeChat like a search engine.
The key with an official account is to develop quality Mandarin Chinese content that is aligned with you brand but tailored for the end user in this different market place. Quality content can drive a lot of traffic to your account.
BRANDS AND COMPANIES ARE HIGHLY VALUED ON WECHAT
There is a different attitude when it comes to businesses marketing themselves on WeChat & social media in general, it is typically seen as a positive thing by Chinese users who embrace capitalism as a hugely popular philosophy. Companies & brands marketing themselves is not deemed to be a nuisance or intrusive like it is in the west with ‘social commerce taking off like never before.
‘SOCIAL MEDIA COMMERCE’ IN CHINA IS WORLD LEADING: WECHAT STORES
‘Social Commerce’ in China has taken off with a hub of innovation in this field. In China social media has embraced e-commerce as a powerful ally. WeChat offers official ‘stores’ which can be linked to an official account. These ‘micro stores’ are for the presentation and sale of products and facilitate ease of payment through WeChat’s wallet service. At the swipe of a screen payment can be made.
WeChat stores and it’s payment infrastructure were made famous through ‘Mr Bags’, a top tier KOL in high-end fashion & accessories. He partnered with Givenchy and launched a ‘flash sale’ for their limited edition pink bags, selling over a $1 million in 30 minutes.
As a new business you can sell, market your products offer customer services and engage in promotions all on this one single platform. This is why it’s so important to develop the right strategy in order to leverage these opportunities.
OFFERING CUSTOMER SERVICES.. ADOPTING A ‘SOCIAL’ APPROACH
It sounds like such an obvious point but communications, even from official company accounts, need to be highly conversational and active. Customer services can be offered on WeChat through individual and group chats.
This is another benefit, you have a strong feedback loop from prospective customers. Offering chat services will greatly improve your reputation as it is the most convenient method for customers to contact you.
OFFLINE TO ONLINE OPPORTUNITIES
Offline to online marketing is one of the major benefits of using WeChat. The ‘QR code’ has exploded in much of Asia and China is no exception. QR codes can simply be featured on physical products and scanned to link to content or an official account, it is a great way of driving traffic online from physical ads, promotional teams or from the products themselves.
WeChat is built around the scanning of QR codes to access content and for users to add one another so tap into this with intelligent placement in your advertising.
QUALITY DATA ANALYSIS FOR COMPANIES
When it comes to data analysis and metrics there is a wealth of data to draw on to sharpen up your marketing activities with customer insights, traffic figures, click through rates and impressions.
You can even use different QR Links with a service account to assess and quantify what sources traffic is coming from, for example if visitors reach you through a published article, your official website or another platform. This helps you access the most effective methods for driving your WeChat growth over time.
INFLUENCERS ON WECHAT
Influencers or KOL’s (key opinion leaders) are very prominent on WeChat. These are individuals with large established followings who are highly impressionable, the KOL is deemed to be an expert and authority on a particular subject.
Recruiting these influencers to represent your brand is a powerful way to tap into large, engaged communities focused around targeted area’s of interest. A large KOL may have over 200 000 followers, a mid-range over 50 000 and even smaller players boast followings of over 10 000 users.
The key here is to develop the right content for a KOL, manage the promotion of the post and up-rank it for increased visibility. Users will often comment on the post asking for more information, you cannot expect a KOL to also be your customer service arm so monitoring the comments carefully is vital.
As we have explored, WeChat is a very powerful tool for growing your business in China but it is also a complex and very different digital eco-system to be working in. Partnering with a local specialist is key.
By_ Benji Lamb
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