Chinese brands know something that many people in the West — especially those in the corporate world — are just starting to understand. A mobile platform shouldn’t be your website’s side project, but the other way around. The biggest shift in Chinese digital consumers right now is this: people work, shop and entertain themselves primarily on their cellphones.
WeChat’s new internal search feature and a recent wave of venture funding for the KOL industry makes this clearer than ever. It’s only a matter of time before e-commerce becomes mobile-first around the world too.
If your brand wants to reach Chinese digital consumers, we’d recommend a couple of crucial things to leverage this trend. (Skip to the bottom to see it, or first…) Let’s get a picture of how marketing might change with WeChat and KOLs becoming even more ubiquitous.
KOLs and live-streaming in China became as popular as they have because Chinese digital consumers consume content via mobile platforms voraciously. They go online while commuting, taking breaks at work, during lunch and definitely spend more free time in front of a phone than a computer. 26 hours per week on average, to be exact.
WeChat was instrumental in getting people attached to their phones. It’s more than just a messaging app, but the go-to social platform for Chinese digital consumers and the main point-of-payment platform for small businesses. With WeChat, people don’t need to get onto a computer to manage bank accounts, pay utilities, book tickets, or any other task usually managed via desktop.
WeChat’s new search feature will increase what’s possible on mobile phones by allowing users to find new content within the app’s browser. Two features make it very different from a a regular Baidu or Google search, and will grow social influencers’ reaches as a by-product.
1) WeChat search prioritizes social mentions for keywords. When making a search, the first thing you see is news related to that term, followed by mentions of the keyword by your WeChat friends. Because friends on Tencent’s app are more analogous to a Twitter network than Facebook friends (they include influencers and groups you follow for insights and entertainment, not only personal friends), the new feature will become a new gold-rush frontier for KOLs who predict and leverage trends effectively.
2) Many top articles you’ll see after a search will be popular content published directly on WeChat. This will reduce the barrier to create widely-shared stories, a la medium.com. Building an engaged audience will still require dedication and consistent, high-quality content, but WeChat’s data and social functions make publishing much easier than building a blog from scratch.
Right now brands use their website blogs as flagship content marketing tools. The most common pipeline: Publish content on site, push to other channels, refer social media and mobile readers back to website.
WeChat will upend this pipeline by becoming the primary platform for articles. While streamlining the sharing of text-based content, in-app publishing will mean your regular content won’t cut it on a web blog. Compelling readers to leave easy-to-use and increasingly targeted native publishing tools will require more visual elements, more data, and more in-depth pieces on your site. Mobile channels should be entertaining, useful and engaging, and website blogs should be authoritative.
KOLs are the perfect medium to share lighter mobile-first stories and thus will become bigger players in disseminating text-based content rather than just visual. If you haven't already, learn about WeChat Social Search Optimization (SSO) and how you can maximize your social channel’s potential. It’s no longer an add-on, but a crucial component to spread your content. But before you do, you don’t want the millions of people who see your amazing content to reach a dead-end. They need to be funneled to a mobile site, and definitely not a sub-par one. Now’s the time to build mini apps, integrated e-commerce shops, H5 mobile first landing pages, all connected to your WeChat subscription or service account.
Elijah Whaley is the Chief Marketing Officer at PARKLU. Elijah helps brands and key opinion leaders create content that compels audiences to view, share, and take action.
PARKLU is a digital platform pioneering how brands find, collaborate, and engage with China's social influencers for marketing initiative.