Do you know what’s the biggest competitor to Facebook?
If you already have a strong interest for China, you might know the answer already: WeChat. But to a lot of people living outside China, the name of the ubiquitous messaging application might be very unfamiliar. However, in China, WeChat marketing is a shorthand for marketing in general.
So, let’s dig into the biggest phenomenon on the Chinese market, and see how you can leverage it to promote your own business.
What is WeChat marketing?
- The birth of WeChat
WeChat (微信 in Chinese for “micro-message”) was launched 5 years ago by Tencent as a messaging APP.
Back in the days, it stood out by using voice messaging as its core channel for communication, which was a disruptive move in a country where typing characters can sometimes be inconvenient.
Today, it boasts more than 700 million Monthly Active Users (MAU).
- What can you do with WeChat?
If WeChat started as a messaging APP, it is now much more than that. Here is a list of (some of) the things you can do with WeChat:
- Message your friends
- Share on your timeline (like you would on Facebook)
- Transfer money
- Top-up your phone
- Order a cab
- Buy movie tickets
- Order your dry cleaner
- Order food
- Invest money in a wealth management plan
- Book a train or plane ticket
In other words, WeChat is not just another messaging APP, it is a platform which enables to do anything and everything in China.
The question is: how can you leverage this integrated nature of WeChat in order to promote your business and brand in China?
- What is WeChat marketing?
WeChat enables companies and individuals to create “WeChat Official Accounts” in order to promote their company or brand. These accounts are to some extent similar to Facebook Pages: anybody can follow them and will then receive push notifications from them.
When accessing one of these accounts, you can usually click a bottom-menu linking to a HTML5 website which might sell products or services.
To a large extent, WeChat marketing is the art of gaining followers to your account, getting them actively engaged with it and eventually converting them to customers through the bottom-menu that they can use to purchase items or reach out to you.
How to create a WeChat Official Account
- Different types of accounts
There are three types of WeChat official accounts: Subscription accounts, Service accounts, and Enterprise accounts.
Enterprise accounts are used for internal management of companies, so I won’t talk much more about them here. I will focus on the Subscription and Service accounts, which are the ones used for WeChat marketing.
So what are Subscription and Service accounts?
- Unlike Facebook pages, they appear in the main “chat” feed of the user (in the “Facebook Messenger-style” section of WeChat)
- They have limited quota of messages they can send users
- Subscription accounts are stacked into a specific folder and can send 1 message per day
- Service accounts appear as friends and can send 4 messages per month (more visibility but smaller quantity of push messages)
- Creating a WeChat official account
For most businesses in China, two documents are required to create a WeChat Official Accouts:
- Chinese Business License (营业执照) obtained by a local company or WFOE
- Chinese ID (身份证) of a Chinesenational with a WeChat payment account
If you have a local company in China, you can start creating your account following this great guide.
There are however several ways for you to create a WeChat account even if you don’t have a Chinese business license:
- Option 1: Register a company (WFOE – Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise) in China. This is not the recommended approach as it is a costly and lengthy (at least 6 months) process. After you set-up the company, you’ll have the business license to create an account. But it is a large investment, and is only really worth it if you plan to hire people in China. If you want to go down this route, agencies such as Dezan Shira & Associates and LNP can help you out.
- Option 2: Use a third party business license. You can “borrow” a business license from another Chinese entity (each Chinese company can register 50 WeChat accounts). Companies like Twinova will create an account for you for roughly $500 USD management fee per year. However, the account will remain attached to the Chinese legal entity. You can still pick your own account name, logo and description, but the legal name of the company will also appear on the account.
- Option 3: Go through a special process from Tencent team. It is possible to create a WeChat account visible from China going through a special process from Tencent team. Tencent charges a $300 USD verification fee, but it is a case-by-case process. If you have more questions about it, feel free to reach out.
Selling on WeChat
Once you set-up your WeChat account, the next step will be to link it to a shop in order to start selling.
You have two broad alternatives to create a WeChat store:
- Build your own WeChat website: As we said, a WeChat store is just a website which is enhanced to work better on WeChat and use some of WeChat “superpowers” (login, payments, sharing, etc…). So one solution is to simply build your own website and integrate the WeChat API for some of the WeChat-specific functions. This can be great, but it requires a lot of money and developers with badass knowledge of the WeChat ecosystem.
- Use a WeChat shop platform: in the same way that there are a lot of platforms to quickly create online stores (Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, etc…) there are a lot of platforms to create WeChat shops. They enable you to get started fast, and for cheap. But of course, they come with their constraints: you can only do what the platform enables you to do, and customization is limited
Build your own WeChat website is more of a discussion for developers, and this course is about sales. So we’ll now focus on using an existing WeChat shop platform.
Here are some of the main players in the market:
- Youzan (有赞): Youzan is most likely the biggest player in the WeChat store market. They power million of stores, some of them selling millions of USD of goods every month. Their store supports, among others, WeChat payment, credit cards and debit cards. It also offers many functions for CRM, mini-games and coupons. Youzan recently started charging 4,800 RMB per year (about 720 USD) for their service
- Weidian (微店): similar to Youzan to a large extent. The service is a bit less popular and is still free (but likely not for long).
- JingDong (京东): JingDong (JD) is not per say a dedicated WeChat store, it is a large e-commerce platform competing against Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao. But because Tencent took a 15% stake in JingDong in 2014, JD and WeChat are very well integrated. Due to its scale, JD is a very trusted platform for Chinese users. But this trust comes at a price: 10% commission fee and several thousands RMB of management fee each month.
- LeWaiMai (乐外卖): this service has an interface which is completely customized for food delivery: enabling to quickly select many items and add them to your cart
- WalktheChat: Disclaimer, that’s us! WalktheChat is the cross-border version of Youzan or Weidian. In other words, the main difference between WalktheChat and other platforms is that users pay in RMB and money can be transferred to an oversea account. It also includes special features for foreign businesses to purchase translation or WeChat ads.
We wrote a more in-depth comparison of these stores here.
Creating content for WeChat
How to keep your users’ attention?
That’s the great goal of content marketing. We learned how to create a WeChat account, how togenerate a shop and how to drive traffic to it.
Now let’s learn how to keep users interested in your account by constantly creating quality content, tailored for WeChat.
What type of content works in WeChat?
1. Make it useful
One of the challenges of WeChat content marketing is that content must be consistently good.It is otherwise very common for users to unfollow service accounts or to stop opening subscription accounts.
Survey of WeChat users showed that “Useful” was the number one factor making users share articles, according to 49% of respondents.
Note that “Useful” comes before “Interesting” and “Trendy”. The whole ecosystem of WeChatrevolves around providing services (Tencent makes only 19% of its revenue from ads, as opposed to 95% for Facebook. The rest of Tencent’s revenues comes from “Value added services”), and your content should do just that. It should be useful and be a service provided tousers.
2. Video is the new content trend
One type of content is booming lately on social networks: video. WeChat users report videos tobe twice as popular as regular articles.
Video content might be expensive to create, but in the increasingly competitive WeChat content market, it should be your go-to choice if you want to stand out.
When to write on WeChat?
WeChat accounts can, at most, write one message per day. With such a small number of push messages at your disposal, you must be very strategic as to when exactly you post in order tomaximize efficiency.
As a rule of thumb, you should write when competition is the lowest. Luckily, there is data available about when other accounts post the most. Unsurprisingly, people write mostly from Monday to Friday (when they are paid to work) and just before leaving office (between 5pm and 6pm)
Conclusion: posting on a Sunday morning might be a great choice as competition will be low and you’ll get a greater chance to catch your readers’ attention
Finding free content for your account
Good copywritting on WeChat can be extremely, extremely expensive. If you don’t have the budget to pay a top PR agency to write content for you, what options are you left with?
It turns out there is a way, and it is called “Original content” on WeChat
#1. Using “Original content” articles to keep users engaged
If you are a WeChat user, you might have noticed some articles have a “原创” (Original) label just below their title.
#2. How to find good “Original content” articles to share on your account?
Newrank.cnWe mentioned this website during the class about KOL’s: Newrank.cn lists the most popular accounts in each industry. They’re a perfect place to start in order to find viral content which you can re-share on your own account.
This search engine received investment from Tencent (which acquired a 36.5% stake in it in 2013), and this tight partnership means that Sogou has a superpower: it can search through WeChat articles.
You can use this search tool to look for both articles and accounts related to specific keywords. This makes Sogou a wonderful tool to find content to re-share on your account.
Wrap up on WeChat content
- WeChat is a service ecosystem: your content should be useful before anything else
- Video content is the new trend on WeChat
- Best time to post your content is on week-ends and early morning
- Original accounts can enable you to re-share quality content for free and keep your followers engaged
- You can find quality content to re-share on newrank.cn and sogou.com platforms
Generating traffic on WeChat
WeChat marketing relies first on driving qualified traffic to your account.
There are: 3 main strategies to generate traffic to your WeChat store:
- Cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-mille (CPM) advertising refers to placing banner ads and pay each time an user clicks on the banner (in the case of CPC) or each time an user sees the banner (in the case of CPM. CPM refers to the cost for 1,000 users seeing your banner, no matter of whether or not they interact with it)
- Viral campaigns are creative campaigns which are shared among users, either driven by a social impulse or by some financial incentive.
- Key Opinion Leader advertising (KOL ads) means paying a WeChat blogger to promote your brand. The KOL can either write an article about your brand, or write about an another topic and put a banner linking to your WeChat account somewhere in the article
CPC ads are a very predictable way to drive traffic. However, on WeChat, the quality of this traffic is extremely questionable due to the poor targeting capabilities of the platform’s ads.
Key Opinion Leaders turn out to be the most efficient type of WeChat marketing. It can be affordable, it is targeted and provides social-validation for new sellers. There are a few platforms which enable to find Key Opinion Leaders on WeChat:
- Newrank.cn is a big platform and data repository for WeChat Key Opinion Leaders
- WeMedia has a database of KOL they manage or represent in various industries
- Parklu is a bilingual platform with KOL on WeChat, Weibo, Instagram, Youku and Meipai
1. Luojisiwei (逻辑思维)
Any discussion on WeChat marketing wouldn’t be complete without speaking about Luojisiwei. He’s a WeChat marketing superstar who managed to gather more than 5 million followers and his company is valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Let’s see what he did right.
Using audio messages
Luojisiwei might be the one and only account which successfully leveraged audio messages on WeChat. Audio can’t be shared on WeChat, so it seems counter-intuitive to use it. But it really stands out, and it helped Luojisiwei set itself apart from the crowd.
In order to solve the problem of these messages not being sharable. Luojisiwei gives a keyword in each message which can be sent to trigger an automatic answer. The user then receives an article related to the audio message which can be shared on moments.
Perfect posting time
I talked about the necessity of posting at the right time on WeChat. Most specifically, we talked about the benefits of posting when competition was the lowest.
That’s exactly what Luojisiwei does! He pushes his messages every morning around 6:30am, so that they are the first message you receive when you get out of bed!
Great WeChat shop integration
Luojisiwei leverages Youzan, the largest WeChat shop platformin China which we already introduced during Lesson #2.
This makes Luojisiwei one of the high-performing WeChat shops on Youzan, selling millions of items each year.
Manukora is a premium New Zealand honey brand which recently entered the Chinese market via WeChat.
Within 4 weeks, Manukora managed to:
- Set up a WeChat account visible from China
- Create a Cross-border Payment account between China and New Zealand
- Identify the relevant New Zealand-related KOL to run a first campaign
- Localize a piece of video content
- Generate an impressive amount of orders on their WeChat store in less than a week, leading to 500% return on investment
This campaign was managed by the agency Stone Drums. And disclaimer: it used WalktheChat’s cross-border WeChat store.
The beauty of it is that Stone Drums and Manukora managed to use WeChat marketing as a way to do a flash test of the Chinese market. By using KOL and cross-border payment, they could get the store operational in a matter of weeks and successfully prove the appeal of the Manukora’s product for a Chinese audience.
3. Kidsbookmama (童书妈妈市集)
Kidsbookmama is a store initially operated by a mom, which leveraged Weidian, the other leading WeChat platform in order to establish their store.
Within a matter of month and beside very limited financial and human resources, Kidsbookmama rose to fame and managed to sell over 500k RMB of merchandise monthly.
There are a few clever things that the account operator did in order reach this level of success:
- The account is content driven: the operator is a mom, and she writes to moms about topics moms care about. There’s no promotion: useful and touching articles written by an author who knows her public
- The account gives a strong feeling of scarcity: many of the products are limited edition and have “almost out of stock” tags on them to increase impulsive purchases
- Even better, the store is only opened 1 week every month: this further induces the idea that if you want to buy, it is now or never: the store might close down anytime and its beautiful children books will never be on sale again!
4. Xiaoxiaobao Mama
Xiaoxiaobao Mama is a WeChat article belonging to a gigantic niche of the Chinese e-commerce market: childcare products targeting mothers.
The account boasts impressive statistics:
- More than 2 million followers
- 30 million RMB of sales each month
- 90% female followers with children under 6 years old
How did the account managed to achieve this impressive result?
- Limited edition products
- Flash sales every morning at a set time (7:30am)
- Preview of the products from the next sale
This combination of tactics enabled to create a feeling of both expectation and scarcity which drives the outstanding sales results.
Where to take it from here?
If you want to get started selling on WeChat from abroad, you can create a shop with WalktheChat in a matter of minutes. Just follow this link to create your store.