WeChat recently launched a short video feed called Channels… what do we think about it, and most importantly, what do Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) think about the new feature?
WeChat Video Channels
WeChat short video platform looks very similar to the Facebook timeline.
Surprisingly, this means its UX is also very different from other short-video platforms such as Douyin and Kuaishou
WeChat Video Channels is set up so that users can easily scroll through the video feed to find interesting ones. During the current beta test, content distribution is still far from optimized. Maybe WeChat chose this UX to help users find the content they like while it develops the right distribution algorithm.
WeChat Video Channels Algorithm
As of the current testing phase, most of the videos are not targeted based on users’ interests. This is a huge disappointment given WeChat holds the most complete data from users’ reading behavior to e-commerce purchasing data.
Instead, the algorithm is trying to leverage social signals in order to distribute content. Content pushed to users seems favor:
- The most liked video from your friends
- Content created in the same city
- Accounts followed by another friend
- Content created by a WeChat friend
This approach is similar to Kuaishou where content created by friends has a heavier weight, as opposed to the popularity of the video. Such a distribution method decentralizes the amount of traffic allocated to each individual user.
As an early product, this could encourage each individual to create content. But by taking this path, WeChat Channels is also sacrificing the quality of content users see on their feed.
In order to improve video quality while applying a decentralized traffic model, WeChat only invites professional video makers, photographers, and KOLs to use Channels at the moment.
(If you are one of the user groups above and are interested to use WeChat Channels, contact WalktheChat at firstname.lastname@example.org to fill an application.)
This is very different from Douyin’s algorithm which heavily focused on the distribution of high-quality content, which has been vouched for by the entire Douyin user base. Douyin shows the top viewed videos when users first open the App. This tactic aims to keep users in the App as long as possible. But it also results in driving a huge amount of traffic to the top KOLs, leaving less room for individual users.
WeChat Video Channels for Companies and Official Accounts
WeChat Channels does allow an account to be verified as an Official Account. This gives the potential for video content to be more aligned with users’ reading behavior down the road.
Companies like Tesla and Louis Vitton have created Channels accounts using their companies’ licenses.
Company Channel accounts needs to go through an internal application via the WeChat team. Contact WalktheChat to apply.
Viral content on WeChat Video Channels
Although most videos only have a few likes and comments, some content is getting viral. Note that during the current Beta phase, less than 10% of WeChat users have access to Channels.
The first video posted by celebrity Deng Lun got 37.3k comments and 41.3k likes. This might be the most viral video on Channels. Although it’s only a fraction of the traffic Deng is getting on Weibo. Deng can get an average of 500k likes on each Weibo post.
This is also insignificant compared to the engagement of top videos on Douyin, which easily reach millions of likes and hundreds of thousands of comments.
The top Taobao live-streaming host Viya also uploaded a few old videos on Channels, the best video got 1.5k comments and 12.7k likes. The same video got 124k likes and 3k comments on Kuaihsou.
Notice that the same video has a much better full-screen viewing experience on Kuaishou screen than on WeChat.
Interviews with KOLs
Who best to ask about a new social feature than Chinese Key Opinion Leaders? We interviewed a few of them to get their feedback.
- Professional makeup artist
- Weibo: 1.3 million followers
- Xiaohongshu: 105k followers
- Bilibili: 30k follower
What kind of videos do you think are more popular on Channels?
I’ve used Channels for 1 week, for now, I’ve pushed 5 videos. It’s hard to tell which ones are less popular. Traffic is relatively even. Videos gather between 7 to 25 likes.
What do you think about the traffic you get from Channels?
For now, the recommendation engine is not very relevant. I make professional makeup videos, but these videos are pushed to a male audience who does not care about makeup. I also get many funny videos on my feed that are not relevant to my personal preferences.
I notice WeChat will push my videos to secondary friends (friends of my friends). It’s more personal than other video platforms.
What are the limitations of the WeChat Channels?
I wish I could publish videos longer than 1 minute. Many of my videos are long-form tutorial videos that won’t fit here.
Will you consider making videos specifically for Channels in the future?
Yes, but I will have to think about how to create short content that targets the mass audience, and for both genders in order to create viral content. It seems like Channels is more like Douyin and Kuaishou, where only the content that targets mass audience, or controversial content gets the traffic.
As a professional makeup artist, I am only targeting a niche group of audience. I really like Xiaohongshu and Bilibili, where I can build a tight community with those who really appreciate my work.
It will be interesting to see whether WeChat Channels can help create such a niche community.
- A fashion blogger with male followers
- WeChat: 310k
- Weibo: 1.3 m
How is your Channels doing?
I’ve uploaded 3 videos that I made for other platforms. I got around 5 likes per video, and some video gets around 1,000 to 2,000 views. This is less traffic than I expected. I’m not sure how the video recommendation works, but most of the video followers are not my regular fans.
What is something you wish Channels can improve?
I wish WeChat Channels could add more filters to help with making good videos.
I wish more of my followers could see the videos I send. In other words, I wish the videos would be distributed to WeChat Official Account followers.
A fitness KOL (who wishes to remain anonymous)
- Produce both casual and professional fitness content, with active followers
- WeChat follower: 700k
- Channels: 40 followers
What do you think about Channels?
We have 49 followers, very few are my friends. It seems like WeChat is pushing the video content to many strangers. Most of our videos got 20 to 40 views. But one video got 1,300 views although the content is similar. We are not sure why one video received more views than others.
One thing I like about Channels is our video appears first to some of my friends.
What do you like about the WeChat Channels?
It supports horizontal videos.
What do you wish WeChat Channels can improve?
It seems like Channels is designed like the WeChat Moment, more for the individual users, but less friendly for us KOLs. It can only be managed by an individual. WeChat Channels should provide a content management system with multiple admin logins.
I also wish WeChat Channels to provide an analytics backend showing the day-to-day stats. Only the basic data is available such as the number of views, follower amount, comments… but no follower growth curve, % of video viewed, user demographics. The data is not transparent enough.
Despite the poor user experience and lack of targeting, WeChat Video Channels has huge potential creating a social-based video viewing experience. Such personal video engagement often has a much higher potential for e-commerce conversion.
Whether WeChat can act fast enough to improve the user experience and ties the video product back to its the overall environment of Official Account, payment and live-streaming could be the key to success or failure.