WeChat content produced by public accounts is the bread-and-butter of social content in China.
In mid-2015, the number of views of WeChat subscription accounts started to decline. Some popular accounts saw a decline of more than 50% in readership.
What is the extent of the issue, and what’s causing it?
Performance of top-500 WeChat articles
The study is focusing on the 500 most popular WeChat accounts, and the picture looks bleak
- 64.8% of accounts had their publishing frequency increase or remain stable
- Only half of them saw an increase in their average reading numbers
- More than a third of the account (36.6%) saw both an increase of frequency and a decrease in reading numbers
In absolute number, the top-500 WeChat content accounts also saw a steep decline in reader numbers while their posting frequency remained relatively stable.
Performance of other WeChat accounts:
The performance is a bit better for other WeChat articles:
- 52.2% of accounts increased their publishing frequency and 34.2% saw their number of readers increase
- 17% of accounts saw both their posting frequency and average reading rate increase
- While 30.8% saw their posting frequency increase while average reading rate decreased.
A bit better than the top-500 accounts, but still not perfect.
What are the reasons for the decline in WeChat content readership?
1. Most of WeChat accounts share non-original content.
The content is often simply copy-pasted from competing accounts or from the web. The increase in posting frequency is therefore purely quantitative and not qualitative.
As others accounts post more often, everyone is slowly pushed into a spiral of accelerating speed, ultimately leading most influential accounts to plagiarism.
This is also a reason why the most influential accounts suffer most, as they are the first victims of copycats.
2. Increasing competition
The amount of accounts publishing on WeChat keeps growing. As users start following more and more accounts, they don’t necessarily check them more often, and the overall readership is getting diluted
3. Little effort done to better target users
Although WeChat enables to target users splitting them into groups, most accounts make no use of such features. Competing platforms such as Today’s Headline（今日头条）and Baidu Baijia（百度百家）are doing a much better job at targeting content to readers’ specific interests.
WeChat is dead, long live WeChat!
Does it mean that WeChat is dying as a content platform? Certainly not.
Because of its ubiquitous position in Chinese users life, WeChat has become the number one target for all marketers and advertisers. The numbers above are a natural consequence of such a rush on WeChat content marketing.
What can you do to stay relevant in such a competitive environment?
- Identify the main influencers among your readers and give them access to special VIP groups. You will thereby engage them and encourage them to share further
- Remember WeChat is a service platform first: provide loyalty cards, ordering systems and other services which will keep your followers engaged. ShunFeng for instance enables users to track their package via their service account: a great way to make sure followers don’t leave them!
- Improve targeting. Start by targeting users based on their geography or gender, and then improve your focus by clustering users based on their reading preferences
- Leverage website such as xiumi.us to improve the design of your articles
- Increase interaction with services such as hudong.ba in order to create interactive surveys and engage users
- Look beyond WeChat. Other, less competitive platforms, might offer a much better opportunity to grow a following that you can then convert to WeChat. We previously wrote about the account HiBetterMe, which first grew a following of 200,000 on Zhihu, which then quickly converted to more than 100,000 followers on WeChat. The whole process took only a few months and was done without spending advertising money.
And if you follow the above advice, you will stand a chance in the WeChat war.