Key Features Of WeChat China’s Social Media Giant

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If you are outside of China then you may well be unaware of the huge social media phenomenon that is WeChat. WeChat (微信 WeiXin in Chinese) was created in 2011 by the Chinese digital giant ‘Tencent’, also the creator of QQ (the largest email, music streaming and IM service in the middle kingdom). WeChat is mainly a mobile application but there is also an online version.

It is the leading social network in China with over 700 million active users. It offers a wide range of services that most significantly (from a digital marketing perspective) leads to users remaining within this single application to meet many of their daily needs. WeChat is an application which integrates digital features arguably more effectively than any western digital platform does. More time spent on WeChat results in greater exposure to content from savy brands and businesses who are already conducting campaigns on the platform.

WeChat currently has over 10,000 active advertisers and over 1,000 publishers and is connected to more than 67,000 different apps that run within WeChat.

Here are 6 key features of WeChat and how you can utilize them for marketing purposes.

Messaging: WeChat began life as a simple IM app. Users can now send text, voice messages, pictures and video ‘sights’ to each another. It also functions as a group chat service. This service can be compared with Whatsapp or SnapChat. The use of WeChat’s messenger has become the main method of communication in modern China, the traditional text message from a mobile is essentially redundant.

For brands and businesses it is important to promote content in WeChat groups where there are often hundreds of users. The most important thing to bear in mind is how you target specific groups with relevant interests linked to what your brand does. Posting content or a message in these groups alerts every member in the group. Group chats are a key site to disseminate content and manage e-reputation.

Moments: This is WeChat’s version of Facebook’s timeline and wall. You post a ‘moment’ via your profile, it can then be seen on your contacts’ Moments feed. When posting a moment an image or ‘sight’ (video) has to be included, text is optional. Other users can ‘love’ and comment on a post.

Content from official, brands is often shared via user’s moments. This can be through paid incentives, in this way users and their social groups belonging to specific demographics can be targeted. There is also official paid WeChat advertising that can boost your visibility, these are banner ads that run at the bottom of pages in group chats and below user’s feeds. This can be based not only on searching history but also via geo- location, for example if you walk into a store or restaurant certain offers can be presented via your WeChat.

The key here is to produce interesting, shareable content that followers will share on their moments feed to attract more followers to your WeChat page. This can be linked with promotional incentives which are very popular amongst the Chinese.

Official accounts with subscription. The most important feature for marketers and content creators. It allows a company to have a subscription account so they can share content with their audience. It is similar to a fan-page on Facebook. Companies and brands often develop promotional offers for WeChat followers that encourage users to share with their family and friends. To qualify they too must follow your official WeChat account.

Official accounts can be customized with a range of services offered within your official page. Information should be provided about the company, products and services you offer in both Mandarin Chinese and English. An e-store can also be embedded. Some companies such as China Air (a leading airline) now even run customer chat service to answer queries instantly. Be friendly and approachable with followers and potential consumers, Chinese consumers on social media desire interaction and conversation with brands, WeChat engagement is concerned with increasing your e-reputation as well as promotion.

Microsites and app-within-the-app. You can have your own website or app running within the application. This presents a significant opportunity for brands as well as online retailers with your micro-site being highly customizable. Micro e-stores are growing in popularity with brands selling products within WeChat itself, this is a growth area because of WeChat’s built in payment system, highly customizable microsites and the users propensity to remain within the app.

WeChat e-wallet: This gives users the opportunity to connect the platform to their bank. It allows them to use the app as a method of payment in many shops, simply by scanning a QR code. You can also buy directly online or in WeChat m-commerce platforms. Payment can be made by scanning QR codes or transferring payments to other users. Hongbao’s (red envelopes) can also be used to great effect, users can open mystery envelopes with prizes and cash incentives inside. Brands have done this to form large, targetable groups of consumers by offering such incentives.

E-wallet for marketing presents a great opportunity because of the ease of payment within the WeChat eco-system. Therefore quality posted contented, combined with attractive offers for followers and a well developed micro-store can directly lead to sales within the platform.

QR Codes (Offline to Online): The QR code is a phenomenon which has taken off in Asia. This is largely because WeChat have incorporated the QR code into its basic functionality. When users add friends they can scan their QR codes, when they log in on a different device they need to use their unique link and to follow official accounts users can also scan a code.

This leads to a growth in Offline to Online marketing, many brands now incorporate QR codes into their physical products with exclusive promotional offerings. It is also useful for cross promotion as fliers, posters and billboards can feature the QR code for your official account.

In China it is vital to develop an engaged following as users on WeChat can only see posts by those they are connected with, this includes brands and companies. Don’t be dissuaded by this as The Chinese are extremely active on social media and you need a digital presence on WeChat to grow.

Benji is a digital marketing specialist, based in Shanghai. For more information see his blog and website here.



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