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China Marketing

China marketing and promotion through WeChat Key Opinion Leaders - the platform, and the law, is not on your side

In China, brands are constantly trying to promote their content, and what better way to reach millions of users than through WeChat? However, the laws surrounding the way you promote your products and services are becoming tighter. Make sure you are using your WeChat account correctly.


We all know WeChat is the hottest personal messaging and micro-blogging platform in China. Every day dazed Chinese stumble through the streets, their eyes glued on their screens to:

  • see the latest in gossip from their friends and any news they have forwarded
  • post “praise-bait” selfies
  • come up with catty responses to friends’ posts
  • play head games with their frenemies (“I can’t believe she didn't give me a like on my cat post! I’m de-friending!”)

All of this is standard social media fare, but they also:

  • pay for groceries
  • check their company news
  • participate in surveys
  • comment on articles and win “hongbao” money

...and the list goes on and on. As the New York Times said, Wechat is the swiss-army knife of social media apps, combining all kinds of functionality into a new paradigm.

Meanwhile, businesses are scrambling to get a piece of the action. Tencent is still working out the advertising, but currently users are served with display ads once in a while in their moment feeds. This can get pretty expensive for businesses, and is not very suitable either.

Others try to use bloggers, or “Key Opinion Leaders” (KOL’s) to forward news about their brand or product. If we analyze KOLs, there are a few types:

  • Celebrity KOLs – big names with lots of fans
  • Commercial KOLs – usually a group of people working under one account.
  • Grassroots KOLs – individuals with influence and a large fan base

If the Grassroots KOL is listed on one of the several WeChat KOL platforms – meaning they are for hire – then it is easy to find them. However, this raises the question, are they really influential? As with all KOL, are their fans actually real or just purchased off of Taobao? It’s hard to say.

We recently saw one B2B account that hit 10,000 fans and posted a celebratory post to brag of their success – from the quality of the content and number of post reads, it seems to be to be an inflated number. The bottom line is, you have to be really careful about fan growth –which for WeChat it is extraordinarily difficult, and even harder for B2B brands.

Recent notices from the internet censorship body have made using KOLs even trickier. First, any news published without proper verification can land the publisher in hot water. Also, promoting products and services commercially, without clearly stating it is an advertisement, can now potentially get you into trouble as well. Even further, if an individual forwards some content that is false or harmful, he or she can actually be held liable.

This all follows China’s “New Advertising Law” launched in September 2015, which tightened restrictions on the use of celebrity endorsements, as well as increasing regulation of marketing of health care, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and health food.

What does all of it mean? You’ll have to dig pretty hard to find some suitable KOLs and also make sure that your content is either appropriately marked, or is a piece of non-commercial content. This makes your content strategy even more critical – at the end of the day good content will be shared if it is correctly targeted.


WeChat Guide for B2B Marketing

Brandigo created a range of story-telling assets that included video, supporting client stories, graphics and icons and ultimately a new website and presentation to create the new brand experiences."

- Max Mustermann

Director at GE Healthcare

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