Most marketers familiar with China’s market know about WeChat, China’s most popular social app. This year, the messaging app that is a social media platform, search engine, mobile payment tool, and more rolled into one, surpassed more than one billion active users per month. Yet, because of restrictions the Chinese government places on internet access, other prominent platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are blocked in China and unavailable for marketers to use to target their Chinese audience. These constraints make it more difficult for brands to build awareness, attract new customers, and engage with their current followers in China.
So, how can brands implement a successful marketing strategy to reach their online target audience in China? Most importantly, brands must play by the rules. Instagram is blocked in China, so a brand’s WeChat official account has become one of the most influential accounts. This is a great example of how it is possible to play by China’s rules and still be popular and successful.
It is important to incorporate localized messaging, social media, and other promotional tactics into every marketing strategy. With the absence of competitors like Facebook and Instagram, Tencent’s WeChat has become the dominant social media tool in China. With its integrated approach to social media, it has become a necessity for effective marketing strategies.
Using WeChat official accounts
There are several ways brands can establish themselves and promote their image on WeChat, but the most common way is with an official account. An official account allows a brand to publish content regularly that can be shared with their followers, with friends, in group messages, and on users’ Moments. There are two types of WeChat official accounts: Service and Subscription.
With a Service account, any time content is published it appears as a direct message among the followers’ personal messages, which means more visibility and a higher probability that it is opened, read, and shared. Although publishing content is limited to four times per month, brands can publish up to eight separate articles within each post. This should not be a hindrance for brands. With millions of accounts competing for attention, it is important to publish only high-value content. If customers find the content useful and engaging, they continue to follow and share the content, which helps build brand.
A Subscription account allows brands to publish content once per day. However, all Subscription accounts are in an account folder that users must actively check for new posts. Marketing strategies involve publishing at specific times of day to ensure the account is at the top of the pile and attracts more reads. Subscription accounts are particularly beneficial for brands that offer regular promotions as part of their marketing strategy.
Promotion via WeChat
With a WeChat official account, it is important to share content to get more followers and enhance brand. There are several ways to successfully promote content on WeChat:
WeChat now allows brands to advertise on users’ Moments. With a Moments feed, users can see friends’ shared photos, articles, and status updates. Since the platform allows for only one or two Moments ads per day, the price for WeChat Moments advertising as part of a marketing campaign is hefty. As a result, these spots are most often used by luxury or car brands. Not only is the cost pricey, segmentation and targeting options are limited. For brands that are not luxury or well-known, Moments ads may not be the most cost-effective for marketing campaigns.
Another option for brands is WeChat banner ads, which appear at the end of an article published by an official account. They are more diverse, since one article can have multiple ads alternating in the space. There is also an option for two-way banner ads. Brands can sell the space to an advertiser, set the price, and determine a guaranteed view rate since payment is based on performance. Only accounts with more than 20,000 followers are eligible. Like Moments ads, banner ads can be expensive and may not be cost-effective.
QR codes are extremely popular and effective in China. Consumers use their smartphones to buy everything from designer handbags to street snacks. They scan a product’s QR code and the money is deducted from mobile wallets that are linked to their bank accounts. For brands, QR codes are easy to create and can effortlessly boost sales. However, to be most effective, they must promote a reason for followers to scan their code. Successful examples include creating a contest in which participants win prizes or hosting relevant offline events in which products need to be scanned.
WeChat mini programs are apps within the WeChat platform. Users can easily access brands without having to download their apps. As a result, they can access the apps anytime and anywhere, making the process simpler, faster, and more efficient. They scan a QR code to launch, use the application, and never leave WeChat. Recent changes to mini programs now allow for searches for specific brand names or key terms. Any relevant or associated mini program appears at the top of the search results. Once a user clicks on the mini program, it is automatically added to their list of mini programs above their current messages. Mini programs are becoming a more valuable way to engage followers and stay connected with customers.
The Value of an Integrated Marketing Approach
For brands establishing an online presence in China and appealing to Chinese customers, they must implement a targeted marketing approach. Brands that want to build their image and credibility must have a strategy that spans across various marketing channels. A WeChat official account is a valuable platform for sharing content. This content, especially when it provides useful and current insights, can grow a strong following organically, enhance a brand’s reputation as a trusted source, and generate sales.
To maximize WeChat’s engagement and reputation-building capacity, brands must embrace Asia’s biggest social media platform. It is no longer a question of whether brands need a WeChat account, but a question of how they will use marketing approaches to differentiate themselves to impact their brand. With years of experience, we at Tolmao Group know exactly what WeChat tools will work for your company and which ones to avoid. Get in touch if you want to know more about how you can promote your brand through WeChat or have a question about anything else related to marketing in China.