For only it’s second year on the books, the CHina CHat Conference held in Shanghai last week proved once again it was the place to be for anyone even remotely interested in the ins and outs of WeChat marketing in China.
From trends, to tips, to boldly questioning the usefulness of the entire platform there were plenty of experts on hand to discuss Tencent’s prized messaging app. WeChat has been around for some time now (almost 7 years), and while there were no surprises, there were several presentations that highlighted some important messages for brands looking to get the most out of the WeChat;
1. Slowly but surely, WeChat is becoming better for marketers
- Moments Adverts – The options and analytics for moments adverts are improving, for example there are more options for targeting certain demographics and Tencent is allowing for more adverts to be shown throughout a users Moments feed. However, Moments Adverts are still quite expensive, coupled with the fact that the ROI is significantly low. If you are a large brand with lots of cash to burn, Moments adverts will certainly increase brand awareness among a targeted segment, but that’s about it.
- Search – WeChat is no longer a walled garden in terms of search. The Search function has made some big leaps this year. Users are now able to search for and view website articles and posts from accounts they may not be following. Just how articles are indexed, and even what WeChat SEO will look like remains uncertain.
- Linking between accounts – Official Accounts are now able to include clear links to other Official Accounts or posts from these accounts within a published article. This makes it easier for KOLs (influencers) to link directly to the accounts of brands they are working with.
2. KOLs (influencers) are most likely a better investment than WeChat Ads – As mentioned before, Moments adverts are extremely expensive, and while KOLs are charging higher prices as well, the ROI is likely to be much higher. KOLs have a captive and engaged audience. Unlike a Moments ad, KOL followers want to read the content they are putting out, they want to try the products and services the KOL is broadcasting. As a brand, if you are going to spend the big bucks, you are much better off spending it on a KOL marketing strategy.
3. WeChat is not going to make or break your brand – If you have seen the article titled “100 cars sold on WeChat in 5 minutes by a Fashion blogger!?” You may have become a little too optimistic about the power of WeChat. The truth is, to be successful in China your brand needs to know all the touchpoints of their target audience, and execute what will most likely be a multi-channel campaign with the right messaging and positioning. Do not expect or rely on WeChat to be the catalyst for your success.
4. Have a consistent strategy – From publishing articles to promotions, make sure your followers know what to expect from you so that they keep coming back to your account. Have a promotion every Tuesday morning at 7:30am, give previews the night before. Post your Top 5 Takeaways from the Week every Friday morning. Give your followers a reason to keep returning to your account and interacting with you.
5. Weibo should not be ignored – While WeChat remained the undisputed popular kid in the room, marketers were cautioned not put all their eggs in one basket and forget about the Twitter-like app Weibo. Data shows that Weibo penetration among younger users in 3rd and 4th tier cities is around 80%.
6. Brands should be measuring success differently – Gone are the days of counting how many followers your Official Account has, especially due to the high number of fake accounts and click farms that brands can now easily purchase. Your account may have thousands of followers, even thousands of views on each article, but is this translating into any conversions? Figure out key actions you want followers to be taking, develop a marketing strategy around these actions and track them.
Last but not least I found it almost refreshing to here more than speaker admit that yes, we as marketers may be getting a little to hyped up about WeChat, and it’s causing us marketers to do weird and ineffective things. As of now, WeChat is not an optimal tool for most brands, and while this may change, don’t expect it to anytime soon. Tencent has no strong incentive to make WeChat ad friendly. Unlike Weibo, which generates a significant amount of Sina’s revenue from advertisements, Tencent does not need WeChat to make money in this way. So brands should be budgeting time and money according to their answer to;
How much (if any) value is WeChat really adding to your China marketing strategy?