Don’t be one of those brands with only 5 views on your posts! Read here for step by step instructions on creating a Successful WeChat marketing strategy!
We’ve been in this industry for a few years and have worked with companies from around the world helping them to enter the Chinese market. For each business, we work with we create a custom strategy to help them achieve success. However, for almost every business operating in China, WeChat marketing is a part of that strategy.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the methodologies used for creating a successful WeChat marketing strategy in terms of planning and implementation.
Why WeChat Is Essential for Business
For people living in China, WeChat simply does it all. It allows users to book taxis, pay bills, talk to their friends, read the news, and more. With the recent popularity of WeChat mini-programs as well, the list of things you can do on WeChat is growing at an incredible rate. As of Q2 2019, the app had 1.12 billion users, making it the fifth most popular social media platform worldwide. With its penetration rate at approximately 80% in China, it’s an app you cannot afford to ignore.
However, WeChat isn’t just an amazingly convenient app, it’s an entire ecosystem. WeChat has essentially developed into a second internet in China, with netizens spending huge swathes of time on the app every day.
It’s not just for personal use either. Thousands of companies use WeChat Work (or just regular WeChat groups) for internal corporate communications, Salespeople manage and work their leads through WeChat, and some companies even sell directly through their official accounts.
With the WeChat ecosystem becoming more and more powerful in China, having a presence on the platform isn’t just beneficial, it’s a necessity. No matter what type of company you are your audience in China is almost certainly on WeChat. Read on to determine how to create your WeChat marketing strategy.
WeChat Official Accounts, Your Chinese Website
Establishing a base presence on WeChat is a pretty straight-forward task that every business operating in China should invest in. However, that doesn’t mean every business should invest heavily in the platform or in WeChat marketing. For example, we certainly won’t advise companies selling B2B industrial equipment to spend millions of dollars advertising with KOLs or on flashy WeChat moments ads, but a basic WeChat presence? Yes, every business in China should have that!
Due to WeChat being its own ecosystem, WeChat official accounts act almost like a traditional website. They offer a place for businesses to post content, receive messages, and build a brand. In fact, many businesses in China invest minimal amounts into building their websites instead they to choose to focus their marketing dollars on WeChat. This is due to a range of factors including the declining usage of search engines and the fragmented nature of the Chinese internet.
With WeChat Mini-Programs becoming even more popular there are even fewer reasons to invest in promoting and building a traditional website or web-app. WeChat mini-programs are easy to code, cost-efficient, and have similar functionality to traditional apps or websites.
It’s due to these reasons that nearly every business operating in Mainland China should have a WeChat official account. While your business might not need to invest heavily in creating a WeChat marketing strategy, at the very least get an official account set-up! For instruction on how to get one set-up click here!
Fostering Trust Among Chinese Consumers
One of the most important reasons for using WeChat in China is the fact that it inspires a sense of trust in a company from Chinese netizens. It’s for this reason that nearly every company in China has at least a simple WeChat marketing strategy.
Imagine that you’re currently searching for a lawyer to handle some issues for your business. You receive a referral from an acquaintance and plan on contacting them. However, after a quick search on Google, you find literally nothing about them. No website, no Facebook, no LinkedIn, no reviews, nothing. At the very least you’d expect a basic website explaining their specialities and contact information, right?
Let’s be honest, this isn’t a good look. In many ways not having a WeChat Official Account for your business makes you appear the same way. With it being such a major ecosystem in China, not having a presence on there is just like having nothing about your business show up on Google Search.
How likely are you to work with this lawyer? For me personally, the chances wouldn’t be great unless that referral was from someone I really trusted. In China, Chinese consumers expect to at least be able to find a WeChat account explaining what a company does.
A WeChat official account makes a company look more legitimate as at the very least a business license is required to open one. It also serves as a place that users can message the company through, providing them with an avenue of customer support if necessary. Even if you don’t plan on engaging in WeChat marketing having an account set-up could go a long way towards building trust among your target consumers.
5 Steps for Creating a Successful WeChat Marketing Strategy
Step 1: Competitor Analysis
Every company just getting started should conduct some basic competitor research before creating their WeChat marketing strategy. Conducting proper research allows you to determine exactly where your marketing dollars should be going to get the leg up on your competition. It also allows you to see where your competitors made mistakes so you avoid any potential pitfalls! When conducting competitor research there are several areas you should focus on. Since we’re talking about WeChat marketing here, we’ll only go into the marketing aspects of competitor research and how to get started, but if you’re new to the market you should definitely consider other factors like pricing, positioning, market fit, etc.
Your Competitor’s Social Media Marketing Strategy
Given the importance of social media in China, this should be one of the first areas you check when conducting competitor research. After identifying a few key competitors, you should be able to identify the channels that your competitors are investing in through just a cursory search.
While every business should incorporate WeChat into their marketing strategy it often isn’t the primary driver of traffic due to its relatively closed nature. While WeChat can be an effective point of conversion, generating quality traffic through WeChat alone can get very expensive. Many brands work with other social media platforms where they can find cheaper more targeted traffic.
So much social media so little time! Cross-Platform promotion is incredibly common in China even though each platform attempts to stop it. For example, Weibo doesn’t allow links to WeChat and vice-versa resulting in a very fragmented social media landscape.
It’s common to see brands actively managing their WeChat account but focusing the majority of their marketing spend on other more open platforms like Weibo, Zhihu, Xiaohongshu, TikTok, etc. In these cases, WeChat acts more like a website or central hub for brand information where the company can distribute content, accrue followers, and convert.
When researching your competitions social media presence be sure to answer a few of the following questions:
What social media platforms are they most active on?
What is their posting frequency on these platforms?
What are the reactions to their posts on each of the platforms they are working with?
Is there one platform the competitor seems to be prioritizing over others?
How are they converting their social media traffic? Is there a specific conversion point that they seem to be prioritizing over others?
We did a quick check on Siemen’s Chinese social media presence as an example. As something less flashy and visually attractive than other brands, we thought this might make a good example.
- Weibo: We Can see their Weibo account is active and consistently posts content. They have quite a lot of fans, but engagement levels are quite low. This seems like a channel the company is likely using for branding purposes as opposed to generating engagement.
- WeChat: The Siemens WeChat Account is very active. The account has different styles of content, with video performing markedly better in terms of engagement than its standard text content. Both forms of content consistently get over 10k views per post, which shows that their strategy seems to be working.
- RED: Not much to say here. The account has been opened but is inactive. There’s quite a lot of UGC related to the brand on the platform, which should be encouraging for the brand.
- Zhihu: This seems like a platform that Siemens is doing well on. The brand has its own topic with over 5000 followers. There are both users posts and company posts talking about the brand with plenty of engagement, likes, and views.
Check out the standard social media metrics (likes, clicks, etc.) on each platform that your competition is active on to determine where they’re likely investing their marketing budget. Take an in-depth look at each of the social media channels that your competition is leveraging to determine where they are seeing the most ROI.
However, WeChat is likely not the only place that users can convert. Be sure to scour the competitions social media accounts and website to find other potential conversion points as well. All of this information can be incredibly useful for forming your WeChat marketing strategy.
Your Competitor’s Content Strategy
Just like in the rest of the world, in China “Content is King.” Creating quality content should be an important part of every company’s WeChat marketing strategy.
One of the easiest ways to get started creating a killer content strategy is to check out your competition. When taking a look at their content, ask yourself a few questions.
What kind of image are they projecting through their content?
Who is the audience they are targeting with their content? Professionals? Beginners?
What types of content are generating the most views? Likes? Shares? Engagement?
What are they missing? How can we go above and beyond what they are doing?
What is the goal of their content? To build trust? Awareness? Conversion? Or just Traffic?
Is the content linking anywhere? To a conversion page? Additional resources?
A quick look at one of cosmetics brand, Shiseido’s WeChat articles. The article is a promotional offer telling users that any purchases they make during a certain period will allow them to accrue loyalty points. They can also scan the QR code to access the Shiseido Mini-Program where they can input their information in exchange for a product sample!
Of course, just checking out the competition isn’t enough to create a truly outstanding content strategy, but it’s definitely an easy way to take a step in the right direction. Having a well-researched and thought out a content plan is one of the most important steps to creating a successful WeChat marketing strategy.
Step Two: Define Your Target Audience
I meet plenty of businesses that think they have their target consumer well-defined, but it’s often not the case. Working with a market research or consulting firm to conduct consumer research can be very expensive, which is why you’d be surprised how many businesses simply wing it.
Every other week, we have very niche companies contacting Dragon Social asking to target extremely broad audiences. As most marketers know this isn’t an effective strategy.
However, it’s also due to the fact that China is absolutely massive in terms of population. For example, one audience we get asked to target quite frequently is just those in first and second-tier Chinese cities. Now, this might seem relatively specific, but even if we’re talking about first-tier cities alone, we’re looking at an audience of over 75,000,000. Add in second-tier cities and we’ll quickly be in the hundreds of millions.
While demographics are important, psychographics is equally important in narrowing down your audience and creating your WeChat marketing strategy. Create detailed personas for your target audience including what types of content they read, what kind of websites they visit, what do they like to buy, etc. to create advertisements and content that fit your target audience’s needs.
Having a well-defined audience makes everything in marketing easier. Of course, your audience can change or expand but starting with a strong foundation can provide huge benefits for your marketing efforts.
Step 3: Choose Your WeChat Official Account Type
If you don’t know already WeChat offers three types of official accounts: Service Accounts, Subscription Accounts, and Enterprise Accounts (WeChat Work).
Before you get started with WeChat marketing you should analyze and understand each account type to ensure it aligns with your marketing strategy. These accounts differ greatly in terms of functionality, so choosing the wrong one can be costly. I’ll go into the two main types used for marketing briefly, but for more information check out our earlier post at the link below:
WeChat Service Accounts
Most businesses in China choose to operate WeChat Service Accounts. These accounts have access to nearly all of the features available to official accounts, making them more attractive for businesses that require more advanced functionality.
These accounts are highly visible and are placed amongst a user’s WeChat connections. Content published by these accounts will also generate their own push notification. However, in exchange for this high level of visibility WeChat service accounts are only allowed to post 4 times per month. Each of those 4 posts can contain up to 6 pieces of content.
WeChat Subscription Accounts
WeChat Subscription Accounts are typically used by media organizations and publishers. These accounts are capable of posting once per day, unlike service accounts which are more limited.
In exchange for the ability to post more frequently, these accounts are placed into a user’s subscriptions folder, reducing their visibility. Media companies and publishers require this increased posting frequency which is why they typically work with subscription accounts.
However, many brands also choose to use WeChat subscription accounts. For brands that post a lot of content, run frequent sales, or simply don’t require the advanced functions provided by service accounts choose to work with subscription accounts.
Step 4: Use the Right WeChat Marketing Tools
Now we’ve come a long way already! Keep it up and you’ll have a winning WeChat marketing strategy in no time!
With your account set-up, you need to define the goals for your WeChat official account. Is it going to be a simple content hub for users to learn more about your business? Or do you want to create an in-depth marketing funnel to nurture and convert followers? To do that you’ll need the right tools.
WeChat Customer Relationship Management (CRMs)
Depending on what you want to accomplish with your WeChat marketing strategy, a CRM might be necessary.
While the WeChat backend provides a lot of features, it can be difficult to truly set-up an effective marketing funnel with this alone. Given increased competition on WeChat, many brands are looking for ways to personalize content and increase their reading rate. That’s where WeChat CRMs come into play.
Given that email and SMS aren’t incredibly popular in China, WeChat acts as the main hub for customer relationship management for most brands.
Most of the available CRMs offer similar functions, including customer data storage, marketing automation, communications campaigns, and analytics. Many also include functions like campaign management, H5 page generators, loyalty programs, lead management, customer service, live streaming, and more.
The more advanced data collection that most WeChat CRMs provide allows brands to more accurately segment their audience and create targeted campaigns for each segment. Some of the larger CRMs even integrate with popular Western CRMs like the tie-up between Parllay.cn & Hubspot.
If you intend to go beyond just the basics of WeChat Marketing than a WeChat CRM is likely the right choice for your company.
Social Media Listening (SML) & Social Media Monitoring
Social media listening & monitoring tools have been popular for nearly a decade in the West. These tools typically provide analytics and other data for receiving feedback on social media campaigns and data for future campaign planning.
Tools for social media listening have been hard to come by in China due to data restrictions and privacy, however, in recent years some companies have made steps toward providing a true solution. Using these solutions can provide a few key benefits for developing & improving your WeChat marketing strategy.
First off, Most of these tools allow brands to set-up alerts for keywords when social media users mention them. This allows brands to understand perceptions and attitude towards their brand without painstakingly searching through post after post manually. Most importantly, it allows brands to know when they’re being mentioned and respond accordingly.
Engagement with users has been a core strategy of social media marketing for years, and social media listening tools allow brands to take this to the next level. Brands can “listen” for relevant keywords to their business and comment directly on a user’s posts.
While being able to monitor what’s happening on WeChat is great. Most of these tools allow users to monitor a huge number of platforms in China. This can help brands identify new marketing channels that they previously wouldn’t have found.
Finally, brands can also use these tools to monitor their competition to make sure they’re not being outdone and ensure they’re getting a higher share of voice (SoV). Social Media Listening tools can be incredibly powerful, but can typically be pretty expensive so make sure your brand chooses the right one!
The WeChat Index
The WeChat Index is a pretty basic tool but can be helpful in guiding your marketing strategy and measuring the effectiveness of your WeChat marketing strategy. The WeChat Index is completely free and is available to any WeChat user. It acts in a way similar to Google Trends, by showing the popularity of any entered keyword.
Brands can use the WeChat Index to see if they are getting more mentions or if their brand is becoming more popular on the WeChat platform. They can also lookup topics to determine if including it in their content strategy makes sense. A successful content strategy takes advantage of the latest popular trends and the WeChat index provides brands with a way to determine trends for them to latch onto.
To access the WeChat Index you simply need to type the Chinese name of the tool, “微信指数,” in the WeChat search bar. While the tool is pretty basic it can be helpful for monitoring a brand’s popularity on WeChat, their competitors’ popularity, and key trends to incorporate into their content strategies.
Step 5: WeChat Promotion & Advertising
We won’t be going into the nitty-gritty here, but we’ll provide some tips incorporating some of these promotions strategies into your WeChat marketing efforts. This is the part where most brands fail in their WeChat Marketing strategy, so be sure to think it through, do some testing, and conduct research before engaging in any paid promotion.
KOL Marketing – Research & Execution
KOL marketing is one of the most effective methods for promotion in China. Whether it’s on WeChat, Weibo or more obscure platforms like Mafengwo, KOLs are the quickest way to reach out to your target audience.
KOLs in China isn’t always like the Influencers we’re familiar within the West. You can find KOLs popular in nearly every industry or interest group willing to work with brands for compensation. This is especially true on WeChat, where there are thousands of “WeMedia” accounts. These WeMedia accounts typically focus on very specific topics, and act as a form of industry-specific media or trade websites.
Sounds great right? However, choosing the right KOL isn’t easy. There are tons of KOLs out there with fake followers that will happily take your money and generate very little results for your brand. To avoid this you’ll need to do your research.
So how do you do your research then? Fortunately, there’s are a few ways that brands can check out potential KOL partners before engaging them.
The most reliable free tool we’ve seen is Newrank.cn. This platform provides some great data for those looking to start KOL campaigns, and for free to boot! Brands can type in the WeChat Official Account IDs of potential KOL partners to check out their engagement rates, average likes per post, posting frequency and more!
Brands can use this to benchmark the performance of a KOL or WeMedia against their competitors before choosing to work with them. While you won’t be able to get conversion data from tools like this, it’s helpful for doing an initial screening of KOLs to see if there are any red flags. Brands can then reach out to KOLs directly to organize potential campaigns. Managing these campaigns can quickly get difficult though, hence why many brands choose to work with agencies.
While there has been a growing trend of companies around the world bringing their marketing teams in-house, KOL marketing is still heavily dependent on agencies.
KOLs in China typically sign deals with agencies to lock in pricing and find consistent work. A large amount of KOLs in China operate under these types of arrangements. In many cases, the easiest way to get started with KOL marketing is to work with an agency.
In reality, though it’s often better to work through an agency than to try and go it alone. Brands can actively communicate to the agency their unique KPIs and Goals and allow the agency to find the best KOL for the job. They also will manage the campaigns to ensure it goes smoothly, potentially saving brands from some major headaches in the execution process.
WeChat Groups & WeMedia Content Syndication
As any content marketer will tell you, content syndication is one of the key elements to a successful content marketing strategy. I’ve seen countless WeChat Official Accounts posting content that gets as little as 5 views due to a lack of syndication and promotion.
WeChat groups are one of the easiest solutions for this problem. Like other social media platforms, WeChat allows users to form groups. Since these groups are limited to 500 members, they tend to be more active than the LinkedIn & Facebook groups you are more familiar with.
Posting in WeChat groups is a great way to syndicate your content at little to no cost (some group operators charge a small fee to post in the group). This can help with getting some quick feedback on an article or product while simultaneously helping to build awareness.
Brands also can collaborate with WeMedia Accounts in a method similar to that of working with KOLs. Collaborating with WeMedia will likely have costs, but you can also offer to exchange content with the account operators to potentially get your content syndicated to the accounts thousands of viewers.
While posting in general groups likely won’t have any significant results, there are focused groups that are created for discussing a single topic. If your content matches the topic of the group it will be much more effective and you’ll likely be allowed to continue posting in these groups, providing you with an easy source of future traffic.
Given the limited size of these groups don’t expect massive numbers from every single post, but if you build up relationships and engage in meaningful conversation in these groups you’ll likely see a drastically higher read rate.
Next up we’ll talk about WeChat advertising from a marketing strategy point of view. I’m not going to go to into detail on WeChat advertising as we have an entire post dedicated to that one topic at the link below.
Frankly speaking, not every brand should include advertising in its WeChat marketing strategy. First off, it’s very expensive compared to other social media platforms. In fact, a budget of RMB 50,000 spent on WeChat Moments ads usually will only last from between 12 hours to 5 days depending on your targeting.
WeChat is also very restrictive in determining what types of business can and cannot advertise on their platform. While all platforms have their restrictions, WeChat is more restrictive than most.
Finally, due to its high costs, WeChat advertising should primarily be used to drive conversions that happen within WeChat rather than somewhere else, as any additional steps are likely to lower the chance of a conversion. This is why WeChat Moments ads were typically used for things like event registrations, coupon distribution, etc. (all things that could be done within the WeChat platform resulting in a higher conversion rate).
However, WeChat recently released a new ad format, the E-Commerce Ad. This could potentially be a higher driver of measurable ROI as it will be able to direct users directly to a point of purchase within WeChat. This type of ad is only capable of driving users to WeChat stores though, so no luck for you T-Mall & JD.com sellers out there.
So, if you’re in a sensitive industry, have a small budget, or want to drive users to some other place outside of the WeChat ecosystem, WeChat advertising is likely not right for you.
Creating a successful WeChat marketing strategy takes a huge amount of effort & research. However, as you get more experience in working with Chinese tools and social media you’ll likely improve. While it might seem daunting the only way to succeed is to try!
Sounds like too much work and want help creating your WeChat marketing strategy? That’s what Dragon Social is here for! Give us a call or send us an email and we’ll create a custom strategy just for your business!
Dragon Social is a China Digital Marketing Agency dedicated to providing expert solutions to businesses around the world! Our team of professionals will take a deep dive into your business and determine the optimal channels and strategies for promoting your business in China, so be sure to contact us for a free consultation!
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