WeChat has become an incredibly popular platform for businesses of all sizes to reach and engage with customers in China. In this article, we will share some of the most effective WeChat marketing strategies that businesses can use to connect with Chinese consumers. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been using WeChat for a while, these tips will help you take your marketing efforts to the next level!
What Is WeChat?
WeChat, or WeiXin, is China’s biggest social media platform. While at its core it’s still an instant messaging app, WeChat has become a full-blown ecosystem of services where users can:
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- Book flights and taxi
- Set up medical appointments
- Track expenses
- Sell through a WeChat store
Of course, since WeChat is dubbed China’s largest social media app, the platform also offers traditional social media features. WeChat users can use features like sharing pictures and videos, playing games, and using stickers. WeChat is like all social media platforms and other essential services in just one application.
Because you can basically do anything with WeChat, its growth was practically inevitable, though few have anticipated how much. Founded by Tencent in 2011, WeChat has grown from just 11 million users in its first year to over 1.2 billion monthly active users in 2022.
For a WeChat user, the application is an essential companion for everyday life, but for a business, WeChat is a non-negotiable for any digital marketing strategy in China. Whether it’s to build brand awareness or strengthen your position through loyalty programs, WeChat is something that any business and marketing agency couldn’t afford to miss.
Why WeChat Is Essential for Growth
If you’re still not convinced why you should use WeChat for your brand, then the following reasons might convince you:
A WeChat Account Is a No-Brainer
Firstly, WeChat is used by most people in the world’s most populous nation. This means that you’ll miss out on a tremendous opportunity to tap into a large chunk of the Chinese demographics. Secondly, not only does WeChat have a lot of users — but they also have the most amount of active users on any social media platform in China. WeChat is the primary communication tool by Chinese consumers both for professional and non-professional purposes. Therefore, if you’re looking for a platform where the Chinese market is most accessible, then you should look no further and invest resources to create a WeChat official account.
It’s also a great alternative to email marketing and even emailing in general. Unlike in Western markets, where you have to invest heavily in email marketing, China’s online space heavily emphasizes WeChat marketing. Therefore, developing your WeChat marketing strategy can help you have a big head start in elevating your brand in China. With its tools and wide array of social commerce features like the WeChat stores and creating a WeChat payment account, WeChat enables companies to grow their brand in China.
There are also numerous options for WeChat advertising and WeChat marketing. So, it’s a good thing to create your brand’s own WeChat official account. Your official account can even function as a website since many features and services are packed within the WeChat ecosystem. In fact, many businesses choose to maintain their WeChat accounts instead of a traditional webpage since features like search engine optimization can also be achieved in the app.
Increases Your Brand Credibility
Another compelling reason to use WeChat is that it increases Chinese consumers’ sense of trust in a brand. Imagine looking for information about a legal service in China. Of course, you wouldn’t deal with someone that doesn’t have anything posted about what they do and if they can actually help you. A WeChat official account will be clear to users. This plays a vital role in your marketing strategy since Chinese consumers prefer to follow WeChat official accounts over other accounts. A good analogy would be Facebook’s verified page which displays a similar check icon.
Moreover, a WeChat official account is more trusted since there’s a process before having one. One of the requirements is a Chinese business license which means that your business should be registered with a Chinese legal entity. If you’re registered, then you’re a real business that someone can interact with safely.
Let’s say you won’t invest heavily in WeChat marketing. A WeChat official account will still help you build trust with consumers who search for or come across your brand. WeChat official accounts with all the necessary information will help you build trust among your consumers and even provide a quick and easy way to contact your business for customer support.
The WeChat Ecosystem
WeChat is more than just a messaging app. As China’s app for everything, the WeChat app is a package of different services weaved into one. All these services and functions can be used by WeChat users without exiting the application, which makes the experience seamless.
Features for WeChat Users
WeChat users have tons of features to tinker with. Of course, the very first feature would be messaging and calling, which allows users to send a message and call each other for free. You can even do a conference call with WeChat. There are also other features like:
- Share location
- Scan QR Code
- Booking flights and taxi
- Purchasing groceries
- Access government services
Actually, there are many features that WeChat users can use to make their lives easier, and ones inside the WeChat ecosystem that brands can leverage to reach their audience.
Firstly, WeChat has a search engine that WeChat users rely on to explore the social media network. Content like articles, WeChat moments of your contacts, and even WeChat official accounts can be discovered using the WeChat search bar.
Moments are also a powerful social network feature where WeChat users can post, comment, and like images, texts, and music. This is where a user’s content is displayed. In fact, there’s even an option to connect a WeChat account to other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, so all content will be cross-posted on them. Finally, WeChat Pay is a handy tool to make payments easier on the platform where users can scan QR codes and quickly pay on other services like WeChat stores.
Features for Brands
There are a lot of features that brands can use for their WeChat marketing strategy. One of these features includes the WeChat official account. With one, you’ll have the option to choose between:
- Service accounts
- Subscription accounts
- Enterprise accounts
We’ll talk about all these types of official accounts in the next section. WeChat also has social commerce features like WeChat stores, WeChat Mini programs, and advertising options. We’ll explore all these features in the following sections. So, be sure to read further to know how you can leverage all of them for a successful WeChat marketing strategy.
WeChat Official Account Types for Marketing
The first step in any WeChat marketing strategy is to create an official WeChat account. Actually, there are three types of official accounts that brands can use. Choosing what’s best for you will play a crucial role in the future of your WeChat marketing campaigns.
Here are the three types of WeChat official accounts for your brand:
WeChat service accounts allow a brand to collect data, manage customer relationships, and deliver customer service. Once you get your account verified as an official account, you can:
- Set up a WeChat Store
- Publish four times with up to six articles per publication per month
While both subscription and service accounts allow the publication of WeChat articles, WeChat service accounts can publish far less content than the subscription type. In exchange, WeChat service accounts will send a push notification to users whenever an article is published on the account. This feature of service accounts will make your brand and publications more visible to WeChat users. Service accounts are best used by large businesses that aim to integrate eCommerce features and run a full-blown website and store in the WeChat app.
Suppose your goal is to communicate with your audience, build relationships, and engage your community. In that case, this WeChat account type is perfect for you. Unlike enterprise and service accounts, subscription accounts don’t need a Chinese business license to get you verified. However, WeChat subscription accounts don’t have as much visibility as service accounts. Users still have to navigate to a separate folder in their menu called “Subscriptions” to see the official accounts they’re subscribed to. Additionally, you can’t send a push notification for your published content.
Another key difference is that WeChat subscription accounts allow for more publication. More specifically, a brand can publish at least once a day. Up to six WeChat articles may be published at each publication.
Subscription accounts are most suitable for content-based brands like news firms and magazines. Also, if you’re a small business that wants to expand and advertise in China, then subscription accounts are the best way to go.
While service and subscription accounts are the two most common official accounts, there’s also one other type that may fit your needs as an organization. Enterprise accounts are primarily used for internal communications within your business. Unlike subscription accounts, enterprise accounts can’t send push notifications whenever they publish something. However, an enterprise account can still publish up to 4 times a month with six posts per publication time. Each post can contain a WeChat article. Furthermore, enterprise accounts are also displayed in a user’s session list, making them more visible than subscription accounts.
It’s important to note that subscription and service accounts are the account types that users follow on WeChat. So, you may be asking, “Why should I open an enterprise account?”
Enterprise accounts still play a crucial role in WeChat marketing since it’s where most of your company’s employees will communicate with each other.
How To Create Your Brand’s WeChat Official Account
Let’s say you finally decided which official WeChat account you will use for your brand. So, how exactly can you make one? You’ll need a Chinese business license, a Chinese ID with a WeChat Payment account, and other relevant documentation to open an official WeChat account.
However, there are two alternatives that you can take if you don’t have either a Chinese ID or a Chinese business license. These alternatives are:
- As a wholly foreign-owned enterprise
- Using a third-party business license
- Work with a Wechat Agency
Furthermore, there are conditions that you have to meet, such as having an account age of no less than two months, high investments in WeChat advertising, and registering on the Chinese version of WeChat to be visible to Chinese users.
As a Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise (WFOE)
This method requires a significant investment from the brand, primarily because it doesn’t need another Chinese business involved, unlike joint ventures. Because of the sheer cost of registering a WFOE, most brands prefer the second alternative when registering an official account. The whole process can also be prolonged and may take around 6 months to complete. Of course, suppose you prefer not to have any Chinese partners and can afford a WFOE which typically costs around ¥100,000 (RMB). In that case, this method is an excellent option for you.
Using a Third-Party Business License
The second option for brands that want to enter the Chinese market would be creating an account through a third-party business license which can cost around $500 per year. While cheaper compared to a WFOE, the name of the Chinese legal entity and legal name will still appear on the account, which can affect the brand perception of your WeChat official accounts.
These three options for opening an official account have pros and cons. If you’re new to the Chinese market, it’s best to look at all these options thoroughly before making a decision.
Work with a Wechat Agency
Hire a Wechat agency that will take care of everything from registration to strategy and implementation of your strategy.
Features To Enhance Your WeChat Marketing
So, you’ve created your official account and are finally ready to launch your first marketing campaign on WeChat. What features on your WeChat official account can you use to start? Here are some of the handy tools in your arsenal to be a visible digital agency in the Chinese market:
WeChat Mini Programs
WeChat Mini Programs are the core of the WeChat app’s multi-functional features. Third-party businesses such as yours can set up their own Mini Programs to build customer engagement and other WeChat marketing campaigns. You can create Mini Programs for many purposes, including:
- Gift-sharing events
- Exclusive memberships
In fact, other eCommerce platforms are using a WeChat mini program for their WeChat marketing strategy. Platforms like Pinduoduo have a WeChat mini program that is easy to use and functions similarly to a website, so users like to use them.
One of the most prominent features of Facebook is its timeline, where you can see all the posts of your friends. WeChat Moments have a similar feature. In fact, it’s a vital component of this social media platform. This is where users will spend most of their time browsing the app. Therefore, there are a lot of opportunities for businesses to maximize their WeChat marketing here.
For instance, you can create a WeChat Moments advertisement displayed on the Moments feeds of your target audience. A user will then be redirected to your landing page once they click your advertisement.
Additionally, you can customize your landing page’s content, including texts, pictures, videos, and even adaptive content. WeChat Moments ads also yield great engagement rates because of their less intrusive nature. A lot of people are likely to like, comment, and share your ads because they’re targeted. Moreover, they can share these Moments ads with their WeChat groups. If you’re looking for a WeChat marketing feature to produce organic traffic, then WeChat Moment is a great option.
Short-form videos are now rising in popularity. TikTok, known as Douyin in China, now has around 600 million monthly active users in China. Because of this, WeChat created a similar feature where users can just scroll through limitless short-form videos inside the app. Just like Moments, Channels also allow you to advertise. This makes Channels a crucial component of any brand’s WeChat marketing strategy.
In addition, WeChat Channels are also excellent vehicles for viral WeChat marketing, which you can use to improve your WeChat advertising campaigns. Users can also share your Channels ads with their friends in WeChat groups, generating organic traffic for your brand.
WeChat Pay is one of China’s most used payment solutions, alongside Alibaba’s Alipay. While this isn’t precisely a WeChat marketing feature, it’s essential to ensure that your brand supports this payment method. Otherwise, you risk turning off potential customers, especially if they’re using WeChat online for their everyday life. This is especially the case considering that Chinese users now prefer to use these digital payment methods instead of using cash or credit card.
WeChat Pay is also used across different eCommerce platforms in the Chinese market. But more importantly, you’ll want to have this feature since most people buy their products and services on WeChat.
Another excellent feature that you should use is WeChat Stores which allows brands to set up shop within WeChat. You can sell your products directly from WeChat, enabling Chinese consumers to buy products without switching applications. For instance, a user can just browse through social media, sees your WeChat advertising, clicks it, and decides to buy. They can achieve all these steps within WeChat, providing a more seamless experience of buying products.
There are two options for brands to build a WeChat store:
First, you can build your own WeChat website optimized to work on WeChat by integrating the WeChat API. This integration allows you to fully utilize WeChat features such as login, payments and even sharing. The WeChat API can even allow brands to generate QR codes that Chinese consumers can scan to quickly buy a product. Building your own website is excellent. However, this option can cost you a lot of money and effort since you’ll hire developers who can work with WeChat.
Second, you can just utilize popular eCommerce builders to create your own WeChat store. Some examples include Wix, Shopify, and Squarespace. While this option can help you get started with WeChat stores fast, there are comparably limited options to customize your shop due to constraints by each platform. Therefore, you have to thoroughly research your platforms before paying for their services.
Best Practices for WeChat Marketing Strategies
Knowing what features you can use isn’t enough to succeed. Social media marketing in WeChat also has its own set of best practices that you need to know to craft winning marketing strategies for your brand. If you want to be China’s most visible digital agency, then you must follow these tips to effectively engage with WeChat’s social media users.
Content, Content, Content
If there’s a surefire way to set yourself apart from the rest of the competition, then it will be your content. You have to ensure that you’re generating exciting and quality content for your target market. If you keep doing this, users will keep engaging with your brand, which leads to free WeChat marketing for your business.
How can you create quality content for your target audience? The answer lies in researching their interests and what kind of posts they are likely to respond to positively. You can create quality content using videos, articles, pictures, or a combination of these elements.
These contents can also be used for your WeChat advertising in Moments and Channels. The quality of your content plays a huge role in its virality. If you want users to share them in their circles, such as WeChat groups, then keep on pumping quality content for them.
Interacting With WeChat Users
Another marketing strategy you can use in WeChat is to constantly engage with your target audience. It’s not enough that you’re posting good content on your wall. You also have to ensure that your audience feels that they’re interacting with an authentic brand that sees and hears them.
Your interactions with your audience will improve your brand’s customer support perception. Moreover, you can also use these interactions to get feedback from your audience to enhance your WeChat marketing strategy.
One good example of quality interaction would be sending a welcome message to a new follower of your official account. Loyalty programs are also a great way to keep your audience engaged and convert them from mere followers to full-fledged customers of your brand.
You have to take note, though, that user interactions don’t mean that you’ll take all day long to respond to your followers’ queries. WeChat gives you an option to craft answers based on keywords. In fact, your answers can also be in audio or video form, which makes the interactions more dynamic and lifelike.
Promote Your Products Offline Through QR Codes
QR codes play an essential role in the lives of Chinese consumers. If they want to buy a product or know more about something, then they’ll just scan its QR code to access more information. A QR code can be used for various sources and is a great way to increase your followers and sales in WeChat. You can even print QR codes and place them on your sale and marketing collateral that can be used offline. If your materials are interesting enough, it’s only a matter of time before someone scans your QR code and discovers how great your brand is.
Paid Advertising on WeChat
While organic traffic and engagements are significant, paid marketing can also be a viable investment for brands that seek to grow in no time. There are two ways of WeChat advertising that you can use for your brand, namely:
Earlier, we talked slightly about paid advertising using WeChat features. However, we haven’t talked about the two main types of WeChat ads.
The first type is, of course, the WeChat Moments ads. As we said before, these advertisements appear on a user’s Moments feed, just like how ads appear on a Facebook Newsfeed. Moments ads can be customizable in several ways:
Firstly, you can customize the text of your ads. The longer your content is, the better results you’re likely to yield from it. Secondly, you can add images and videos to your Moments ads. Specifically, you can add up to six photos. Videos should be 15 seconds long at most.
You can also customize the link that the ad will redirect to if a user clicks it. For instance, you can turn them into your WeChat store, a Mini Program, or even your own WeChat newsletter.
The second ad type is a banner ad which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a WeChat advertisement displayed at the bottom of a WeChat official account’s article or in a Mini program. These ads are PPC ads (pay-per-click) which basically means that you pay for the ad each time a user clicks on it.
Choosing the best ad type really just depends on your preference. If you want to have a more predictable growth for your brand, then banner ads are the way to go. However, if you prefer a higher degree of customizability and visual appeal, then Moments ads are more suitable for your brand.
While ads are great, WeChat limits only two to three ads a user will see each day, so you have to target your audience carefully to fully use this WeChat advertising.
The second general type of WeChat advertising is the promotion of Key Opinion Leaders (KOL). This marketing is very similar to influencer marketing done in Western markets. The critical difference lies in how Key Opinion Leaders operate since they’re established industry experts, which makes them an authority on their respective subject matters.
Like ads, KOL promotions also have two types:
First, you can collaborate with a KOL through product placements. This collaboration will feature your product in an article made by the said KOL. Product placement is the most common way a brand will promote itself using a KOL.
Second, you can also choose a KOL to do a product review. This marketing strategy is excellent for brands that aim to increase the credibility and reach of their products. KOLs will provide insightful comments on the product, which will motivate their audience to buy the product. This type of KOL promotion can be maximized through events like giveaways which can also generate additional traffic for your brand.
Handy Tools To Improve Your WeChat Marketing
There are also tools out there that can improve your WeChat marketing strategy by lifting the heavy load and providing valuable insights for your campaigns.
Use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
If you’re a business that wants to scale even further, then a WeChat service account may not be enough for you. You may be familiar with Western CRMs like Hubspot and Salesforce, which functions similarly to Chinese CRMs for WeChat marketing. These CRMs offer a wide array of functions such as:
- Create loyalty programs
- Collecting data like WeChat trends
- Marketing campaigns management
While WeChat undoubtedly offers a robust set of features for marketing, CRMs like JING and Convertlab will help you penetrate more specific market niches.
Social Media Listening Tools
Since WeChat is a social media platform, it’s also crucial to ensure that you monitor the activities of your accounts, audience, and competitors. You’ll need social media listening tools in your arsenal to do this. You can search WeChat trends on keywords, strategies, and other activities that can impact your marketing strategies.
There are a lot of tools that you can use to listen on social media, such as Aladdin, NewRank, and Xiguaji. WeChat also has its own social media listening tool called the WeChat Index. WeChat Index is a free tool that allows you to gain insight into how your brand performs.
You can also use this to search for topics and keywords that you can use for your next marketing campaign.
Third-Party WeChat Marketing Tools
There are also other tools that you can use to enhance your WeChat marketing strategy.
First on our list is Jinshuju, a powerful data collection tool for surveys and other activities. It can also instantly respond to your participants after taking the survey, generate instant reports for your team, and even accept payments and bookings.
Another tool we like is CaoLiao which is a QR code generating tool. QR codes are really great for promoting your brand, even beyond WeChat, which is why CaoLiao is great for your business.
Finally, if you’re someone that likes to host events as part of your marketing strategy, then you should definitely try out QuXianChang, a tool that can host activities, chats, group games, and live demos for your new products and Mini Programs. If you want to draw more attention to your brand through in-person engagement, then you should try out this tool for your next event.
There are also other third-party tools that you can use to supplement your marketing strategy, such as Baidu Search, which can also help you with your keyword research. Huodongxing is a tremendous social media launch and campaign tool with many features, including lead generation. There’s also Chuangkit which can help you create visual designs in seconds.
Want to get started with WeChat Marketing but need help?
If you’re looking to break into the Chinese market or want to expand your current business in China, WeChat is a platform you can’t afford to ignore. With over one billion active users, there’s no better way to reach out and connect with potential customers than through Wechat.
Our team of experts at GMA is experienced in helping foreign companies grow their business in China, and we would be happy to help you get started on WeChat. Contact us today for more information about our Wechat Marketing Solutions!