Tencent’s WeChat, one of the leading social networks worldwide, is being used by nearly every smartphone-owning group in China, and its rise to the top has shown no sign of slowing. It’s a crucial platform when you need to decide your marketing plan.
WeChat integrates into the everyday lives of its users in China. For these users, WeChat is not only an app, but a lifestyle, a new way to connect and interact with their world.
WeChat, the app the does everything, lets people chat, pay bills, play games, shop, access government services and much more – without ever leaving the app.
According to the “2018 WeChat Data Report”, WeChat is taking over China in both social and commercial aspects: in 2018 WeChat monthly active users reached 1.08 billion with a significant increase in the frequency of use of WeChat’s video and audio calls (570% more than in 2015), and with payments in retail stores and dining via WeChat rising 1.5times and 1.7 times, respectively.
Since WeChat has grown into the largest and the most influential social network in China, it is evident that marketing on WeChat offers a powerful way to connect with a large number of consumers. So how can you use WeChat to promote your own business?
Let’s together dig into WeChat marketing.
What is WeChat
WeChat is, at its core, a messaging app, but that is really only a fraction of what the service can do. It offers more traditional social networking functions like video and picture sharing, games, stickers, and the ability to share and connect with friends through WeChat Moments.
But it’s also a social commerce platform, incorporating WeChat Stores for online shopping and WeChat Pay and WeChat Wallet for payments to both online and street vendors. It even offers professional functions like expense tracking. It can be used to book a taxi, a flight, or to make medical appointments. It’s like Facebook, Skype, Instagram, Amazon, PayPal, and Apple Wallet all rolled up into one app. And this is what makes WeChat so useful, because it allows users to do virtually anything.
How does Wechat work
WeChat has been building an entire ecosystem of interrelated services and functions: WeChat users can shop online, book hotels, play games, purchase train tickets and do many other things without ever leaving the app. Let’s have a look at the most common functions:
Under the Discover tab, there is an Instagram-like feature called Moments where you can share photos and videos with your friends. “Shake” allows you to wave your phone to find new friends nearby but also to identify a song that’s playing around you, just like Shazam.
Mini Programs are small apps inside WeChat: Didi Chuxing has a Mini Program to call a cab, Mobike has one to rent a bicycle, with Ctrip you can book your travels, and Meituan helps you order food or buy a movie ticket.
The final tab on the right corner, Me, contains a Wallet that links to your bank account so you can shop online, order food, buy insurance and more. It also allows you to pay for things in the real world: mobile payments are everywhere in China, from restaurants to street vendors, and the vast majority of them accept WeChat Pay.
Marketing on WeChat
WeChat is an essential and outstanding marketing tool for business to enter the Chinese market. WeChat enables companies and individuals to create “WeChat Official Accounts” in order to promote their company or brand. These accounts allow brands to create and customize their own mini-site within the WeChat application, reaching out to a wide base of the target audience and raising brand awareness in an effective way. The official accounts are available to media, government organizations and businesses.
There are three types of WeChat official accounts: Subscription Accounts, Service Accounts, and Enterprise Accounts. Through these kind of accounts, companies can communicate with WeChat users, sell products, manage customer relationships, offer promotions and discounts and more.
Which WeChat account fits you best?
Different types of accounts
As mentioned before, there are three types of WeChat official accounts: Subscription accounts, Service accounts, and Enterprise accounts.
Enterprise Accounts are meant for internal company use but since this article is concerned with the corporate accounts your customers will follow, we will focus on the Subscription and Service accounts, which are the ones used for WeChat marketing.
What are the differences Subscription Accounts and Service Accounts?
- Subscription accounts: WeChat Subscription Accounts are used much like a daily news feed and they focus on information and brand communication. Subscription accounts appear in Subscription folder with no push notification. They can send 1 message per day to subscribers and publish 1-6 articles each time. Subscription accounts have many advanced features but no WeChat Pay, WeChat Shop, template messages or user-location sharing which are available in Service Accounts.
- Service Accounts: WeChat Service Accounts offer more robust functionality as they focus on customer service and CRM. Service accounts can publish up to 4 times per month, with 1-6 articles each time. When the posts are published, the updates appear as push notifications in the main chat feed of the user. Verified accounts have access to nine advanced APIs that enable the brands to create additional apps and functions and can apply for WeChat Pay and set up a WeChat Store.
How to register a WeChat Official Account
To register an official account on the WeChat China Official Account platform you will need a Chinese Business License with relevant documentation, as well as a Chinese ID of a Chinese National with a WeChat payment account to register as the account administrator.
If you don’t have a Chinese Business License there are two alternatives for your business to register a WeChat account:
- Option 1: Register a WFOE (Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise) in China. After setting up the company, then you’ll have the business license to register an account. However, we don’t recommend this approach since it requires a large investment and a long time (usually takes at least 6 months).
- .Option 2: Use a third party business license. You can use a business license from another Chinese company which will create an account for you with approximately 500USD management fee per year. We don’t recommend this approach either, since the account will remain attached to the Chinese legal entity and the legal name of the company will also appear on the account.
It might cost a lot of trouble and money to set up a WeChat Official Account by yourself, so we recommend you to contact a chinese marketing agency! Asialink can help you out to smoothly register and run your WeChat Official Account.
How to use WeChat for Marketing
WeChat’s many functions give brands multiple ways of interacting and engaging with customers. After establishing a WeChat Official Account, you need to attract followers, since WeChat users can only see content posted if they are already subscribed to your account.
Here are some examples of how to engage with WeChat community and encourage users to follow your Official Account:
- Content Marketing: WeChat is an incredible place for you to share interesting content about your brand and your products. Producing good content is crucial because it becomes shareable content. Whether your audience shares it in targeted groups, by direct message or in their own moments, this all leads to great visibility for your company. The content can be also advertised on WeChat Moments and on the banners at the bottom of popular articles. The cost of the latter is cheaper and you can pay by engagement or actions.
- Geo-localized Marketing and Loyalty Programs: On WeChat geo-location services are often used for marketing purposes: based on a users’ location, content ads can be streamed at the bottom of pages that are specifically tailored to the users’ preferences. A business can also create loyalty programs using geo-location services to locate consumers and offer special discounts and promotions close to them. In this way followers can be converted into members. There are several ways to market to consumers on WeChat: 1) Offer a VIP card through the app.; 2) Send promotions; 3) Give e-coupons that can be exchanged in stores.
- WeChat e-commerce: It is quite popular now to develop a WeChat Store and sell products among Chinese consumers on WeChat. Users can buy straight from the brands’ official WeChat Stores to ensure the product is genuine and of high quality. WeChat Stores enable brands to sell their goods in special, mobile-enabled commerce venues within the app. Once you create a store, you simply upload photos and information about items, and then connect your financial account. Because WeChat Stores are fully integrated into the WeChat experience, it’s easy to for users to share the store content, purchases and other information.
- Influencer Marketing: Influencer marketing is one of the most popular marketing strategies on WeChat. KOLs are individuals who have already established significant online followings around them. They use their audience credibility to deliver recommendations and other sponsored messages to the people who look to them for ideas and guidance. Brands can work with KOLs to increase both customer acquisition and purchases. KOLs can share content or links to your official accounts and praise the quality of your product or service but can also use the power of QR codes to make it easier for people to transact with their unique offer codes.
- QR Codes: WeChat has built itself around the effective utilization of the QR code. Users scan each others codes to add one another but also to link to official, subscription accounts. When brands register for an account, they also get a QR code for that account. The companies looking to bring more followers and fans onto WeChat should feature their QR Code in as many places as they can, for example on their website or wall posts to grab attention. The moment someone scans the QR Code, they become a member and follows all the shared content.
There is also a significant opportunity for offline to online marketing with physical products featuring QR codes which can bring consumer leads online. Well placed QR codes drive traffic but also allow for cross promotion on different social media outlets and forums. Weibo is the second largest social network and often features images as posts embedded with QR codes linking to WeChat accounts.
WeChat is a super app that combines many of the best features of social media, creating a profoundly social and connected venue for marketing.
Why is Wechat so powerful? Because it’s more than a social platform—it’s a new lifestyle. It connects people with people, services, brands and things online and offline.
You might ask ‘’Should I run my Wechat by myself?”. Frankly speaking, we suggest you to rely on our experience, since the setup and the management of a WeChat official account requires a combination of design, technology, content and a deep understanding of the target market.
Furthermore, the app continues to gain more and more functionality and we can help you keep up with WeChat’s new tools and new options, providing you the best marketing strategy and the best results on China’s most popular mobile app.